Testimony ends in Texas day care fire murder trial

Associated Press Modified: November 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm •  Published: November 8, 2012
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Tata had initially told investigators she was at home when the fire began, but video surveillance played for jurors showed Tata was at the Target store when the fire began. A former Target manager previously testified that she remembered during a conversation with Tata at the store that she'd left the stove burner on.

Prosecutors' second rebuttal witness was David Reiter, a forensic electrical engineer who reiterated for jurors — using photographs of the fire scene and a diagram of the stove's circuitry — that the fire started on the stove and spread to the refrigerator and other parts of the kitchen.

Prosecutor Steve Baldassano asked him if he had any doubt that the stove was on. Reiter answered: "Not in my mind."

Convincing jurors that Tata was responsible for leaving the burner on before leaving the children alone could be important for prosecutors in getting a felony murder conviction. Prosecutors do not need to show that Tata intended to harm the children, only that the deaths occurred because her actions put them in danger.

Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of felony murder if he or she committed an underlying felony that led to the death.

During the two week trial, prosecutors presented about 30 witnesses, including neighbors who testified about hearing the children crying during their unsuccessful attempts to reach them during the blaze. Parents of the children who died or were injured testified that they had trusted Tata, believing she was qualified.

Tata's attorneys focused their defense on whether Tata's actions led to the fire, rather than trying to counter claims that she had left the children alone.

Along with the murder counts, Tata was indicted on three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child.

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