Woman Convicted Of Murder In Deadly Texas Daycare Fire

Jessica Tata (File)

HOUSTON (November 13, 2012)—Jessica Tata, 24, was found guilty of murder Tuesday in the death of one of four children killed in a fire at her home daycare in Houston.

Tata was convicted of murder in the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo.

She could be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors say Tata left seven children alone in her home with a pan of oil atop a stove top burner while she went shopping.

Three of the children survived the fire, but were injured.

Tata's attorneys argued that she had tried to save the children and produced an expert witness who said faulty kitchen equipment could have sparked the fire.

Tata is also charged with felony murder in the other three deaths.

Tata fled to her native Nigeria after the fire, but was taken into custody there and returned to the U.S. in March 2011.

Authorities believe Tata fled to Nigeria two days after the fire that broke out on Feb. 24, 2011.

Investigators said surveillance video showed she was at a nearby Target store at the time of the fire, although she told investigators the fire started in the kitchen while she was in the bathroom.

She’s was initially charged with manslaughter in the deaths of four of the children.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which led the search for Tata, put the daycare operator on its list of the 15 most wanted fugitives and offered a reward of as much as $25,000.

Interpol, the international police agency, alerted its member countries, including Nigeria, that Tata is being sought by the United States.