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$1M bond for day care owner in fatal fire

Friday, April 01, 2011

A judge set bond Thursday at $1 million for a Houston woman charged with murder after a fire at her home day care center killed four children and injured three others.

A day earlier, prosecutors had upgraded the charges against Jessica Tata to murder from manslaughter. Authorities believe Tata, 22, left all seven children alone while she went shopping on Feb. 24, and the fire was ignited by a stove-top burner that was left on at her Houston home. She caught a flight to Nigeria two days later, as investigators scrambled to convince prosecutors to file charges.

She returned to the U.S. on March 21, and her arraignment on the new charges was set for May 12./p>

Tata, who also charged with reckless injury to a child and abandoning a child, wasn't in court Thursday when State District Judge Marc Brown set bail at $200,000 on each of the four murder charges. She remains in the Harris County Jail./p>

According to the court complaint, Tata "committed the offense ... by using and exhibiting a deadly weapon, namely fire, and by using a deadly weapon, namely a heated stove."/p>

Tata's attorney, Mike DeGeurin of Houston, did not return calls Thursday from The Associated Press./p>

DeGeurin previously has called the fire a tragic accident and said there was more to the story, though he declined to elaborate./p>

He also has denied allegations his client fled to Nigeria to escape the charges. He said Tata, who was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship, met with a judge and two attorneys in Nigeria after she learned of the charges in Texas, and with the help of her father made arrangements to turn herself in./p>

The mother of one of the four children who died in the fire has sued Tata, accusing her of negligence.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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nigeria, georgia, local
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