* I have been asked by so many to give an update on this tragic story so here is the latest that I know:

11/20/2012:  UPDATE!!  Raise your hands to the Lord above and thank him for entering the Jurors hearts and minds.  Jessica Tata received 80 years with no chance of parole this morning!!! Basically, LIFE IN PRISON!!!  Those babies will never come back but at least she will PAY!

11/16/2012:  I wanted to bring this update.  Maybe if we bring enough attention to this, our states will be more thorough on who they award home day care licenses to.  Not only did a 10 year old girl testify yesterday that Jessica Tata, the convicted, left little babies home alone while she took older kids to McDonald’s, but it has also come out that she has a juvenile record for arson.

No, I am not kidding.  I get more and more sick the more I learn.  PLEASE make sure you check on your child care provider.  These 4 babies died for NO REASON.  There were so many failures on so many levels.

11/12/2012:  Thank the Good Lord above, Jessica Tata, the woman who left 7 children under the age of 4 alone in her home day care while she went shopping at Target and to Starbucks, was found GUILTY of Felony Murder on one of the deaths!

I have watched this case very closely, still stunned that a woman caring for children would leave them alone in a house.  Not only that, she would do so leaving a pot of hot oil on a stove that was on.  The case brings tears to my eyes as I think of those seven little babies struggling to breath while she was out and about.  The Good Lord answered the prayers of her being charged with Murder as opposed to a lesser charge of child neglect.  More on the case is below.

Original Post

Yesterday was a big news day in Houston.  Discovery made its final, historic lift off to space, a police officer was shot while serving a warrant, and the weather was perfect.

And, breaking news at 2pm CST, a home daycare center was on fire and children were dead.  Details were sketchy but by the time I could sit down, with none of my own children around to listen, more were filling in.

3 babies were dead.  4 babies rushed to the hospital in critical condition. **Update – a 4th baby has died as a result of the injuries sustained in this fire – 2/27/2011**

As I watched the devastation, I automatically started questioning the fire and the woman in charge of 7 children, ages 15 months to 3 years old.

She was shown by the news cameras, talking to neighbors, seeming calm and collected, like someone who was simply discussing the details of a house fire, glad to have escaped with her life, not mourning 3 children who had died in her home.  And as I listened to her story, relayed by the newscaster, that she had come out of a bedroom to see her home on fire and dashed to the door, unable to see any of the 7 children to save them, I immediately had doubts.

As the camera panned out and I saw the firefighters on the roof, cutting holes to let out the smoke, and emergency personnel obviously fighting to hold it together after what they had seen, I wondered how the fire had gotten so intense so fast.  And I wondered, if she were right there with those children, or just one room away while they napped, why didn’t she smell smoke before it engulfed the house?  And then it hit me – right in the gut…  she was not home!

It explained everything.  How, even though she should know where the 7 children were, she managed to grab not one single one on her way out, or bust a window and start throwing children from the house, knowing a parent would want a child with a broken bone more than not one at all.  And it explained how she was standing in the street, chatting up neighbors, while emergency crews were performing CPR on her front lawn to lifeless, smoke residue covered children, and her vibrant, red shirt did not have a spot on it.

And the anger started.  Building from my womb that had born three and rising to my brain who knew things were suspicious and just not right.  It passed my heart, bleeding tears for the scared, screaming babies, stuck in that house, and wiped away my tears that were falling freely.

And with every report, update, and mention of this story, I felt it grow, fueling my need to know more.

When the news reported today that there were eyewitness reports from neighbors that they saw the daycare provider pull into her driveway, hands full of groceries, minutes before coming out screaming, “My babies!  My babies! Somebody save my babies!”, I knew my suspicions were right.

And then I was really angry.

When I found out that one of the dead children was on day 2 at that daycare, I was angrier.  And when the news interviewed one of the neighbors, who had broken a window and tried to save a little boy he saw, arms outstretched, crying for his mother, but was too overcome by smoke and could not see him to grab him, I was seriously mad.  Because that meant the fire had been going for  a while… and no one was there to get them out when they could have.

I know bad things happen.  Children are killed, murdered, and abused every single day.  But for some reason,  I can not let the anger of this one go.  I want to go find the irresponsible woman who decided that heading to the grocery store and leaving 7 children, ages 15 months to 3 years old to tend to themselves, was a perfectly good childcare practice, and shake her until my rage is gone.

I think this one is too much.  Too close to home.  Too unnecessary.    Too scary.

Katie was in a home childcare center her first year and though I knew the woman who was watching her, I prayed that this kind of thing did not happen every single time I dropped her off.  And I know these mothers did too.

Whether we stay home with our kids or we trudge off to work everyday, all parents have to leave their precious children with someone else at times.  We can not be with them 24 hours a day.  We do it every day when they go to school, a friend’s house to play, or Grandma’s for a sleepover.  We all do so with an understanding that we will pick them up when we want them back.  And that they will be as healthy as when we left them.

None of us expects a phone call screaming at us to get there as soon as possible – something horrible has happened.  And if we get one, we don’t expect for our child to be dead.  Especially not at the hands of the one we pay to take care of them.   I do consider this murder if it is proven that the “caregiver” was not home.

So here I sit, typing out this post, my fingers flying on the keyboard, only stopping to wipe my damp eyes, wondering if I should even post it.  Is my anger for a woman I do not know, my mourning for children I don’t know, and my heartache for the parents whose lives have been altered permanently even justified?  Or am I being selfish and internalizing this tragedy too much.

Or is this all I can do.  Just write about it.  Hope that it resonates with people and that they take it in and use it as an opportunity to really, seriously, diligently check out their childcare provider.  Do drop ins and spot checks like I used to, without warning, and at odd times, just to make sure everything is on the up and up.  And pray that if every one does it, these deaths, in the home of an apparently negligent woman, were not for naught.

Or maybe I am just looking to find a place to transfer my smoldering anger.

Link Update – She has fled to Nigeria!!!!  A burner was left on with a pot of oil on the stove while she grocery shopped!


3/30/2011:  YES!  The daycare owner has been charged with 4 counts of Murder – along with her other charges!


3/20/2011 – FINALLY!!!  The daycare operator is currently on her way back to Houston to face her crime!!

– The daycare owner fled the country the Friday after the fire.  She is in Nigeria.  The Houston Fire Department asked 6 times to have her secured because they believed her a flight risk, and all 6 times, the DA said no.   She is now on the US Marshall’s Most Wanted list.

–  Funerals for 4 babies were held this week.  The most devastating account I heard – and this will break your heart so be warned – a 3 year old boy that died was one of 2 siblings at the daycare.  His 2 year old sister survived with burns on the lower part of her body.  They say that the 3 year old boy laid over his sister during the fire.  He was burned beyond identification.

– There is video of the woman shopping at Target while the fire was happening and she was charged 2 times as a juvenile for arson.

There are more details here: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=7996338