Jessica Tata, Nigerian-American Childcare Centre Owner in USA Jailed for 80 Years over Death of a Toddler in Fire Breakout

A 24 year-old Nigerian woman, Jessica Tata, has been sentenced to 80 years in prison after being found guilty of the death of a toddler in a fire at her home child-care centre in Texas, USA.

The child, along with three others, were killed when a fire broke out after she left them alone to go shopping. Three other toddlers were injured in the fire.

According to BBC, investigators said the blaze began when a pan of oil she had left cooking ignited while she was out. Although she did not intend to kill the child, under Texas law, a person can be convicted of murder if he or she committed an underlying offence and that action led to the death. The toddlers at the  Jackie’s Day Care in Houston, ranged in age from 16 months to 3 years old.

The jury described her actions which led to the death of the children in February 2011 as “careless”. After the fire, Tata fled to Nigeria. The U.S. Marshals Service named her one of its most wanted fugitives and worked with international investigative resource, leading to her arrest in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She was brought back to the US in March 2011 and has remained jailed since then.

Tata was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship. Her brother, Ronald Tata, told jurors it was his idea for his sister to go to Nigeria to get advice from their father, who lived there. He said their mother didn’t want his sister to go because “it would look bad.”

During the trial, Tata’s defence lawyers argued that she was a good person who loved children but had made a terrible mistake. However, prosecutors argued that she was an irresponsible day-care owner who had repeatedly left the children in her care.

She was being paid to watch these children. She knew better. It’s nobody’s fault but her own,”  Prosecutor Steve Baldassano said.

Tata still faces charges for the three other deaths. She is eligible for parole after 30 years and had no visible reaction after the sentence was announced.

68 Comments on Jessica Tata, Nigerian-American Childcare Centre Owner in USA Jailed for 80 Years over Death of a Toddler in Fire Breakout
  • jen November 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    oh my goodness…80 years…smh this is really really sad!!!!

  • i no send November 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm


  • ao November 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Ms. Tata was actually born and raised in the US. I feel sad for her because her future is pretty much a done deal and she is a fairly young woman. I also feel horrible for the children that died in her care and their families. I pray for all.

  • Wow November 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    This was a very unfortunate incident [for all parties involved]. I totally agree Jessica Tata shouldn’t have left those kids unattended (under any circumstance). But she didn’t intentionally set out to kill them. She made a terrible and careless mistake. However, the punishment of 80 yrs (just on this 1 case) is a bit too harsh in my opinion. She still has to stand trial for the other kids that were killed in that terrible fire.

    • Talk the Talk November 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Maybe if you were a parent to any of these kids, God forbid you wouldn’t have thought so. How would you leave kids and go shopping?? For real??? So sad

      • Poshla November 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        You spoke my mind! Anyone who writes that kind of comment she wrote, believe me has NEVER been through the pangs of pregnancy. IF you have done so, even if you didnt carry the pregancy to full term, you will rage over where a child is ill treated even if its by negligence or carelessness let alone losing life

      • Wow November 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        I am a mother and I most definitely understand the pains of all the mothers involved in the case but I honestly feel this girl didn’t mean any harm. oh yes, she was absolutely irresponsible. And it’s sad for all involved. I’m not sure what I would do in that position but I know God would want me to forgive and know everything happens for a reason! Easier said than done, i know; but what can we do about the situation. May God grant peace to all those involved.
        Again, this is my opinion and I’m entitled to it just like you are entitled to yours.

      • Poshla November 27, 2012 at 2:43 pm

        Well on another thought I think I can agree with you that 80 years is alot of time. If the killer of Micheal Jackson could be given only 4years, Micheal is even a full blown man, well not saying that a baby is irrelevant but it takes God to forgive this kind of negligence.
        I guess it’s because she ran away. Had she stayed back in the US for trials, her term could have be shorter…….i guess

      • eme ndu February 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

        Watever the jury decision is harsh for first offender

  • she look 50 thou November 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Leaving those kid unattended is not the main issue,leaving a pan on fire????seriously? I pity her,but then law must take it course

    • F November 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      Leaving children aged 16months to 3 years old unattended is a big deal in any country around the world.

    • Soraya November 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      Leaving those kids alone is a VERY serious issue but even worse was the fact that she left a frying pan with oil on fire and went out. Apparently, it not the first time she had done this- one witness alleged that she was in the habit of leaving kids to their own devices and going shopping on the job

    • Ogechukwu November 27, 2012 at 5:50 am

      You are so right about that,leaving the kids is not the issue here.for God sake what what she thinking leaving oil on the fire,and knowing that was on the fire,she left for God knows how long. If not for the oil she left nothing would have happened to those kids

  • Beverly November 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    She deserves all the time they can throw at her. This B#$%ch right here. Anything could have happened to those kids. Anything. Nothing is sooo important for you to go SHOPPING while you are getting paid to watch children.

  • John November 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    There are no winners in here. I feel for the families that lost their loved ones. And for Jessica, her life is pretty much wrecked. But 80 years for accidental deaths?? Isn’t that a bit much? Something is horribly wrong with Texas justice system.

  • ima November 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Its well.

  • Idak November 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Tata was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.

    The girl is American, i beg!
    If she won Nobel prize they would not be willing to share her with us.
    Meanwhile my thoughts go out to her family and those of the lost kids.

    • Vee November 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      God bless u Idak!!!

    • Iris November 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      Abi? If she were a serious athlete she’d be described as American and born to Nigerian parents.

    • Dayo November 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      @ Idak. Thank you jare!

    • Riri November 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      i know right….always quick to pin bad stuff on Nigerians *rme

  • Jedi November 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    you gots to love yankee folks sha…they still managed to sneak in her ties to Nigeria…if to say she win gold medal for London olympics, them go jabo the Nigerian ties completely

  • faith November 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    She shouldn’t have run to Nigeria after d incident…I pity her…n I feel for d parents of d late kids…smh

  • Sarah November 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    hat! she went shopping and left something on fire would she have done d same thing with her kids..U cant even put anything on fire and go and shower while children are there…80 yrs is too small abeg…If you have gone through labour before u wld understand, let alone if u only av a child…….mehn its more than carelessness….who does dat…..U PUT SOMETHING ON FIRE N WENT SHOPPING….CURSE NI YEN EEDI NI YEN MEHN

  • i no send November 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    @ Idak….thanks for that observation ..why should they emphasise on her nigerian citizenship she is american full stop

  • Vee November 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    God bless u Idak!

  • T Baba aka Pres OBAMA is my cousin on my sister’s husband’s Uncle’s Aunt’s GrandMas side 4 times removed… O_o November 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm


    • Kate November 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      This your name is rather too boring!…………After reading the long thing and then seeing your comment is just one word, makes it even more annoying

      • liily November 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        HAHAHAHA…kate you just made my day and took the words out of my mouth…LMAO!!!

      • T Baba aka Pres OBAMA is my cousin on my sister’s husband’s Uncle’s Aunt’s GrandMas side 4 times removed… O_o November 27, 2012 at 6:45 am

        Stop hating on my boring name Kate…. Go that way ———->

      • T Baba aka Pres OBAMA is my cousin on my sister’s husband’s Uncle’s Aunt’s GrandMas side 4 times removed… O_o November 27, 2012 at 6:47 am

        And take Lilly with you.

  • Style@Atl November 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    See all these materilistic minded judgemental folks!..u here she went shopping and totally presume fashion shopping.. May God have mercy on u’all as u judge her; that is if God will hv mercy on u’all since you’re not merciful twds her mistake.. In home childcare owners run out of supplies or food they need for d kids and step out to shop for them all d time,her only mistake was not having someone(her daughter or any adult at all) b there while she went to d store. AS FOR YOU BEVERLY CALLING HER A B****,run ur mouth until you face hell that God himself will not save you from! this life b merciful hmmmmm.. Enough!

    • brittany November 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      sweetheart u need to calm down!
      even if there were no kids, leaving oil on fire and leaving the house is……NOT A GOOD IDEA!!
      and kids getting killed, it wasnt her intention well enough but she still has to face the law anyway…

    • MyView November 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      This is my problem with people like you who use the word God in every sentence. Notice how there is no word of prayer or sympathy for the children, their families or that of the accused. The ony thing you want from him is hell for people on Bella who think she got exactly what she deserves. Using the word does not make you a better person or hide what is in you, it just call attention to it.

  • MyView November 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    She left oil cooking on the stove and went shopping leaving minor children she was being paid to care for alone and she knew better. Four children yes FOUR died and others hurt in her little “mistake” as some of you call it. I don’t have kids yet, but I think she got a pretty good deal considering what she put those children and their parent through. As an adult, can you imagine the agony of burning to death? In a civilized society, you are held accountable for your actions and that is why Nigeria is in the gutter, excuses, excuses. The Nigerian refrence is because she ran to Nigeria after the incident.

    • Ovadje November 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Why don’t you try telling the Central Park Five (and numerous other victims of the miscarriage of selective justice) that “a civilized society, you are held accountable for your actions”? I am all for accountability (and personally I think Ms. Tata got what was coming to her) but please drinking that Kool-Aid and thinking that her classification as Nigerian is an innocent happenstance.

      PS: And btw, the press has never mentioned that it her relatives in Nigeria that persuaded her to contact the US embassy to turn herself into law enforcement.

  • Shy diva November 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    No words…..

  • didikan November 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    whats all dis rubbish na? i was just reading another story of a nigerian woman on daily mail. Four-week-old baby boy bled to death ‘after botched home circumcision by nurse using scissors, forceps, olive oil and no anaesthetic’

  • iamfascinating November 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm
  • aky November 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Very sad, when u tell em there are wicked. Powers in their foundation to be dealt with, they boo shite u. Hw else do u. Call this kind of mistake if not d activities of evil powers of her father and mothers house. This poor lady was programmed to commit this terrible error. She is not new on the job, I mean hw can u leave fire on where babies ar if not evil programming.

    • Na-U-biko November 27, 2012 at 3:39 am

      They don carry come… So people like you still dey exist… I hope to never cross paths with the likes of you.

    • notaplayerhater November 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

      EH????? U say wetin???

  • olorile November 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    people have shot others in america and gotten 25years talk less of a mistake fire. this is crazy. but in her next life she would know better than to leave cooking oil on the stove to go shopping.

  • shanday November 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    It’s quite unfortunate. She made an expensive mistake. It’s possible that she forgot that she put something on fire. My heart goes out to the family that lost their kids. Well, at least there is hope for her in 30 years. I pity her though cus she is so young but I feel even worse for the parents of the departed. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I’m sure they are even regretting dropping of their kids there. May God help us all.

  • mfon November 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    it’s a sad story but it’s been clarified by many news outlets that there was evidence to suggest quite clearly that she didn’t leave the oil on fire. There was something wrong with the stove that caused it to reignite. Also, from what I read, she went to Target. You can buy food there. Those facts may give her a decent chance on appeal…only time will tell. But it was just bad decision making ALL around. I wish all the families involved the comfort only God can give. In situations like this, it’s the families of the victims and the accused that suffer the most……..

  • debdara November 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    This is the way i see the story, its not the 1st time she would leave the children and go out. someone somewhere realized this and set her up to call attention of fire fighters before it gets to the kids. toooo sad.

  • TheLearningCraft November 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Seriously, I am a teacher and I totally understand the scenario. This should set an example in Nigeria on how these great nations have evolved in Education by standards that must be maintained. Is it because we are fond of belting out the “it is well” and “nothing will happen” words out so easily? It is not well when you are careless with children, they are vulnerable for darn’s sake! No child should be left unattended to! It is a very serious job! You either have a passion for it or stay a million miles away from such job! This is exactly how to set the standards clear cut. It happens a lot in Nigeria……we just don’t have the statistics to show for it. A jail sentence does send the right message!

  • mdoomspeaks November 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    my family friend lost her daughter in this incident and she is yet to recover from it. jessica’s case is a case of 99 days for the thief , 1day for the owner, it takes alot to run a creche/ childcare. leaving a pan on fire was a totally unacceptable,even if she didnt have kids in the just shows her negligence towards the kids.Besides most of her clients were nigerians who patronised her simply because they were from same country as hers,my family friend’s daughter actually died from suffocation.she sould have tried to save the kids she could instead of picking her passport and heading to nigeria,where she shaved her hair in disguise. well….May God see her through her ordeal and help her find peace as well.

  • Uchechi November 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    She was careless. On the other hand, how come she was the only one attending to the kids ehn. I hope the years can be reduced.

  • Jo November 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    The fact that she ran away to Nigeria definitely made her case worse. People over there take child negligence seriously. Children are usually taken to foster homes when their mothers/ parents neglect them. She neglected the children(1), and they died as a result(2), you don’t run away when you’ve committed a crime(3). She had a lot of against her and I feel bad for her and children’s families. it is very sad.
    I don’t know how relevant her Nigerian citizenship is to this story. The chick is Nigerian-American. Americans are so full of shit!

  • igbo canadian November 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

    negligence of the highest degree…the white man don’t play when it comes to that

  • iCrossMyheart November 27, 2012 at 12:35 am

    This is a very sad situation. But I just could not help laughing….WHEN ALL IS GOOD, YOU STAY IN AMERICA AND EAT BURGER AND FRIES, FORGETTING YOUR NIGERIAN CITIZENSHIP NEEDS YOU IN NIGERIA. But when KATAKATA starts, NAH PORT HARCOURT, YOU LAND? hahahhahahahahahaha…..Nigerians! Oh my! You remember your country when civilization wants to deal with you, but it is the likes of Tata that make Nigeria bad. Mistake mistake mistake….when you repeatedly do something wrong and FAIL TO CHANGE, you end up with four dead children and a country like Nigeria….NONESENSE…

    Instead of your senators to implement standards, they are there chasing HOMOSEXUALS who are not LEAVING FRYING PAN TO BURN DOWN A HOUSE.


  • destined for greatness November 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Why are SOME Nigerians so bitter about Nigerian children born or raised outside the country? the point is beyond nationality. this is a tragic story about the loss of young lives including this lady’s. Many families have been devastated and all many commentators are worried about is which country she is affiliated to? that’s a pity.

    • iCrossMyheart November 27, 2012 at 2:07 am

      NO ONE IS BITTER….BUT WHY RUN TO THE COUNTRY (NIGERIA) YOU (OR YOUR PARENTS) RAN AWAY FROM TO SEEK REFUGE. It is only when the SHIT hits the fan, that they remember there is a SHITTY country called Nigeria. Just like the prodigal son.

  • NNENNE November 27, 2012 at 3:15 am

    Sad story but Ms. Tatar should have known better. In this country you even work off hours to make sure things work. The issue was not that the children died but the circumstances under which they died.

  • Akindele @ Bulk SMS Nigeria November 27, 2012 at 7:43 am

    It is unfortunate that those children lost their dear lives. May their souls rest in peace.

  • pynk November 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    She has extremely poor sense of judgement. Didnt she go for training? even common baby sitting, you dont leave a child unattended or in a seperate vicinity. She got all that she deserves and more.

  • Nana November 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

    i will advise the family members of Jessica to go to Prophet TB Joshua for prayers. i know by so doing the case would be a different thing altogether.

  • OLA November 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

    omg it pity all this nigeria broad ooo..

  • mama deejay November 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

    This is a case of outright wickedness, I don’t leave my son in d same room wit his cereal alone let alone leave him home alone worse of all with a fry pan dt has oil in it on d stove. Whether she’s Nigerian, American , from mars or jupiter shdnt even b metioned in dis case, then after killing those poor kids she runs out of d country ?! Dt’s devilish o!! May d souls of d faithful departed rest in peace, Amen. If u can’t handle d heat, stay out of d kitchen, baby sitting is serious bizness if u can’t handle it, leave it alone. My opinion – she got wat she deserves.

  • abby November 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    i stay here in houston where the incodent happened, i read some of the coments and some are untrue.. what happened was she left the kids unattended and went to target to get things, she didnt leave anything on fire neither was she cooking anything, something happened with the stove and it caught fire, which was how the house caught fireand just the lil kids where they they cant walk talk etc !! she got home and realised it was already too late.. In america before they convict you and all that, they llok back at your history, apparent jessica tata’s wasnt the best, back in high school she was a bad student, starting fire in school, threatening the school and all that, moreso she lied on her application to obtain a childcare license.. so if we had everything up thats why she is really serving 80years…… WHETHER SHE DESERVES IT OR NOT ITS UP TO GOD.. WH ARE WE TOP JUDGE..

  • Stella Kashmoney November 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    So so sad. Wonder what she was thinking.

    • eme ndu February 7, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Watever the jury decision is harsh for first offender

  • Karo O November 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    It’s quite unfortunate how irresponsible some persons can be. You’re paid to take care of toddlers and you had to leave them to go shopping….Really! Other than that, you left stuff you were cooking unattended. The way I see it, she’s very irresponsible and lacks good time management, and such personal failings may cause irreversible damage like the one she’s caused. I don’t think she was well suited for the kind of business she was into. It’s sad she has to spend a long time in prison, but it should serve as a lesson to other individuals with responsibilities. Besides the fact that she even had to run away to avoid justice. Doesn’t sound like someone who was sorry for the tragic consequences of her disgruntled action. I hope she learns her lessons. At least she’s entitled to a possible parole after 30 years. Not too bad afterall.

  • chichi December 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    My neighbour in Port Harcourt was actually with Jessica for days before she was taken by Interpol Niger, Throughout her stay in Port Harcourt, she was actually crying …..everyday she screams for her baby(dead kids) she calls them her children, she weeps , all we do was to console her, she was wrongly advised to run away, and take refuge in Nigeria. Its really a sad and difficult case for her, it was an act of negligence on her side, but she was sorry and i know that no amount of apology will bring back d dead kids.. but may God in his infinte mercy grant d parents of the lost kids fortitude to bear the lost of their lovely kids.

  • Pendo February 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    The deeds has been done, we cannot bring back the kids and no level of punishment given could stand the place of the kids. Therefore, let`s console the parents of the kids and the Child care center be close than given 80 years in prison. Am so`s a tragedy. Only God understand why such happened.

  • Yinka March 4, 2013 at 4:56 am

    I feel bad for the parents of lost kids,and Tata should not have left those kids alone unattended;I believe all targets around us here (east coast)close @10.00pm,and as a chain–same in Texas.Jessica should have waited to go target after kids parents picked their children.Secondly,she not have fled to Nigeria after this incident–80 years is a bit,but i feel so bad for the lost kids,and my prayer goes to their family for God guidance on this circumstances .

  • Nosa July 3, 2013 at 2:53 am

    O y are right my mfm bro

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