Tata Enters Plea

Jessica Tata, owner of a west Houston home daycare where four toddlers died in a fire, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges. She is being represented by prominent local defense attorney Mike DeGeurin. Pat Hernandez has more.

Jessica Tata
Jessica Tata mug shot
The Harris County Sheriff's office

22 year old Jessica Tata was shackled and wearing a canary yellow jail jumpsuit when she appeared before State District Marc Brown. It was the first time she appeared in court in connection to a fire at a home daycare last month that killed four children and injured three others.

Prosecutor Steve Baldassano read the charges against her: four counts of manslaughter, two counts of child abandonment and six counts of reckless injury to a child.

She pleaded not guilty through her attorney Mike DeGeurin. After Tata's arraignment, DeGeurin told reporters that there is more to the story, what he called a terrible accident that even claimed the life of her goddaughter.

"She broke windows with her hands, bloodied her arms. She crawled in twice. A third time in is when she passed out, before the firemen got there. So, it was just a horror movie going on."

Two days after the fatal fire, Tata boarded a plane to Nigeria, where she has family. In addition to the state felonies, Tata faces a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. DeGeurin says he plans to argue that charge in trying to convince the judge to set bail.

"She got charged while she was there in Nigeria. Now, that's not flight that would cause a bond not to be made. But the idea that you could go to Nigeria if you wanted to is something that's consideration for judges when they set bail."  

DeGeurin hopes for a bond hearing within a week, but Tata could be held in jail until her case goes to trial. The manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20-years in prison.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...