Tata Accused Of Stealing Food Stamps

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Jessica Tata

HOUSTON - A day care owner charged in the deaths of four children during a fire is facing a theft charge.

Jessica Tata has been accused of stealing food stamps.

According to court documents, Tata stole food stamps from December 2007 through the end of February 2011.

Tata was being held in jail when she was charged. She is being held on four counts of felony murder, four counts of abandoning a child and one count of reckless injury to a child, all unrelated to the theft charge.

Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, and Elias Castillo, 16 months, died in the fire at Tata's home in the 2800 block of Crestpark at Waypark shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24. The house served as a day care facility called Jackie's Child Care.

Three other children were injured in the blaze.

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 Target store nearby when the fire started. Detectives said security video showed her arriving at the store at 1:09 p.m. and driving away from the store at 1:24 p.m. The children had been left home alone, investigators said.

Witnesses said Tata returned as smoke began billowing out of the home. The first call to 911 was made by someone other than Tata at 1:29 p.m., investigators said.

A few days after the fire, Tata left the country for Nigeria.

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