Jurors found Jessica Tata (pictured) guilty of one count of felony murder in connection to the February 2011 deadly fire that occurred at her daycare, which killed four toddlers, reports KENS 5 TV.
It took four hours for the jurors to deliberate Tatas’s fate on Tuesday morning. The 24-year-old now faces up to life in prison for the deaths of the toddlers.
Tata left six young children at her Houston home-based daycare to go shopping. She returned to see a blaze at her home, which left four children dead and two critically injured. According to investigators, the fire was caused by a pot of oil that was left unattended on the kitchen stove.
The four young children who were killed were 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson, 20-month-old Elizabeth Kojah, 20-month-old Kendyll Stradford, and 18-month-old Elias Castillo.
Watch news coverage of Tata’s case here:
After an investigation was conducted and police detectives issued a warrant for Tata, who was born in the United States but has Nigerian citizenship, she fled the country two days after the tragic incident. Friends and family claimed to not know her whereabouts, but the parents of the children who were left under Tata’s care were understandely up in arms and demanded justice be served for their little ones.
Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee prioritized the Tata case meeting with State Department officials to request assistance in capturing the fugitive. She also enlisted the help of the Nigerian government in finding Tata. Lee contacted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well and Attorney General Eric Holder in order to pinpoint Tata’s whereabouts and bringing her to justice. U.S. Marshals also joined the search for the young woman who had joined the list of the “15 Most Wanted Fugitives” and a reward was offered for Tata’s capture to the tune of $25,000.
Tata was finally discovered after being on-the-run for a month. She was put on a plane in Lagos and was returned to the United States in March 2011, where she has remained incarcerated until now.
During the trial, which began on October 24th, a surveillance camera showed the young woman strolling through Target even though she had left the stove on at her daycare.
The jury will now hear evidence in the punishment phase of Tata’s trial. She still faces three more counts of felony murder, three counts of abandoning a child, and two counts of reckless injury to a child.