Great-Grandmother Of Elias Castillo Discusses Tata Case

A Houston day care owner convicted of felony murder now faces decades in prison after a fire that left four children dead. Gail Delaughter was in the courtroom for the verdict.


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Three-year-old Makayla Richardson shows a scar on her tiny right arm, one of the injuries she sustained in last year’s day care fire that left her brother and three other toddlers dead. Makayla was one of three kids who survived. 

A Houston jury has now decided on 80 years in prison for day care owner Jessica Tata. The children were alone when that fire broke out. Tata was out shopping.

Patty Sparks is the great-grandmother of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. He was one of the children who died in the fire.

“My heart goes out for the Tata family, and of course, all the precious mothers and fathers that have lost their babies. Nobody wins.”

During an emotional closing argument, prosecutor Connie Spence showed the jury a video of the children playing together not long before the fire.

“We as human beings look forward in life, and they’ve been looking at Jessica Tata for the last four weeks and they can humanize her. Because we are human and because we look to the future, we tend to forget the past too quickly, particularly when all you have left is a flat piece of paper.”

Tata was tried for only one of the deaths. That was the case of little Elias. Three other murder cases are still pending. 

Meanwhile Tata’s attorney Mike DeGeurin is planning an appeal. DeGeurin maintains the fire was started by a malfunctioning appliance, and not by a pan of hot grease that was left on the stove.

“I have not agreed with the law that says an accident can be stretched to a murder charge. The law is what it ought to be, and if not, it ought to be changed. So you do that on an appeal. This judge has to follow the law like anyone else.”

If the conviction stands, Tata will have to serve 30 years before she’s eligible for parole.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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