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Charges dropped for day care provider convicted in baby death

Prosecutors say there is no way to extend her 80-year sentence even with more trials

Associated Press

HOUSTON — Prosecutors on Friday dismissed remaining murder charges against a Houston day care provider who has already been sentenced to 80 years in prison for the death of one of the children she left alone while she went shopping.

A jury convicted Jessica Tata of murder in the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. She was indicted on nine charges, including four counts of murder, connected to the February 2011 fire in which four toddlers died and three others were injured. Authorities say hot oil Tata left on the stove caught fire while she was out shopping at a nearby Target and the seven children were home alone.

Jurors "heard about all of the kids. All seven were mentioned from beginning to end," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Steve Baldassano told the Houston Chronicle ( http://bit.ly/Y46HyK). "I think the 80-year sentence reflected that."

There is no way for her to get a longer sentence even if all the trials are held, he added.

"There's really no reason to drag the families through all of that again," Baldassano said, adding that there is no statute of limitations on murder so prosecutors could always refile the charges later.

Now that State District Judge Marc Brown has approved dismissing the remaining charges, Tata can be transferred from the Harris County jail to prison.

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