Judge drops remaining cases against Jessica Tata

Tata to begin serving prison sentence

HOUSTON - A judge cleared the way for Jessica Tata to begin serving her prison sentence after she was convicted of murder following a fatal day-care fire.

Tata was scheduled to appear in court Friday to face three other counts of murder, three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child. However, the judge dropped the remaining eight cases against her in order for Tata to begin her prison sentence now.

"The eight remaining cases needed to be done so she could be sent from the Harris County Jail to prison. She doesn't get sent to TDCJ until there's no cases pending on the docket," said Steve Baldassano, with the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "She's not eligible for parole for another 30 years so there's no point in dragging the families through another trial for no gain if she's going to be in prison."

The District Attorney's Office has the option to re-file on the murder charges at a later time.

The former day-care owner was sentenced to 80 years in prison in November after she was found guilty of felony murder. She has been in the Harris County Jail since then, awaiting trial on the other charges. Tata's transfer to prison is expected to take between two and three weeks.

Tata, 24, left a group of children in a home on Crest Park near Waypark alone with a pan of grease heating on a stove while she went shopping on Feb. 24, 2011. When she got home, the house was on fire. Elias Castillo, 16 months, Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, and Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, all died in the fire. Three other children were hurt. Tata was convicted of Elias' murder.

Surveillance cameras at a Target captured images of Tata shopping at the store when the fire started.

Tata is appealing her conviction.

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