Jessica Tata gets tentative trial date

Day care owner charged in 4 children's deaths

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Jessica Tata

HOUSTON - A tentative trial date has been set for a woman charged in the deaths of four children.

Jessica Tata is being held in the Harris County Jail on four counts of felony murder, three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child.

On Friday, a judge set a tentative trial date for March 23.

Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, and Elias Castillo, 16 months, died in the fire at Tata's home on Crestpark at Waypark shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2011.

Three other children were also hurt in the fire.

The house was used as a day care facility called Jackie's Child Care.

Arson investigators said the fire started in the kitchen after a pot of oil was left on a hot burner.

Tata was supposed to be watching the children, but Houston Fire Department officials said she was grocery shopping at a nearby Target store when the fire started.

Witnesses said Tata returned as smoke began billowing out of the home.

A few days after the fire, Tata left the country for Nigeria. She was later arrested and returned to Houston.

Tata has also been accused of stealing between $1,500 and $20,000 worth of food stamps between September 2007 and February 2011. She has pleaded not guilty to that charge.

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