"They're dying. I can't see anything. I can't even go in there and get them," Tata told the 911 operator. "The kids are dying."
Four minutes before the fire started, security cameras caught Tata shopping at a nearby Target store. The video was shown to jurors.
Manager Ray Menzies testified Friday that he asked her to fill out a survey form, but was told, "She told me that she had grease on the stove. And she told me that it was on low, and that her sister was there with the kids. And would it be OK?"
"I told her by no means would it be OK," Menzies said.
He testified that Tata did not have any children with her.
Menzies said she left within 10 seconds, but did not appear to be frantic or hurried. Store cameras showed that she didn't go directly to her car, but stopped and lingered on the way out at a Starbucks counter in the store. When she arrived home, the day care was on fire.
Tata has been charged with four counts of murder, three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child.
Prosecutors said Tata put the children in harm's way by leaving them alone and going shopping. While she was at Target, a fire broke out in the kitchen when oil in a frying pan on a stovetop burner ignited. Three children were also seriously injured in the blaze.
Tata's attorneys said she didn't intend to hurt the children. Defense attorneys said murder charges are excessive and that when the fire broke out, she tried to save the children, who ranged in age from 16 months to 3 years old.
Tata initially told authorities she was in the home's bathroom when the fire happened. Mike DeGeurin, Tata's attorney, attributed her lie to immaturity.
Legal experts said that if prosecutors can prove the deaths occurred because she abandoned the children to go shopping, they don't need to prove intent to harm to secure a murder conviction. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of felony murder if he or she committed an underlying felony and that action led to the death.
After the fire, Tata fled to Nigeria but was captured after about a month, returned to the U.S. in March 2011 and has remained jailed. She was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.
Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, and Elias Castillo, 16 months, died in the fire at Jackie's Child Care on Crest Park at Waypark Drive shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2011. Three other children were injured. Tata is standing trial for felony murder first for the youngest of the victims -- Elias Castillo.
Tata's trial is expected to last about a month.