Jessica Tate was emotionless as she listened to a judge announce she was guilty of felony murder in a fire that killed four toddlers last year, but members of the children’s families slumped in their seats in the courtroom gallery, softly sobbing.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we’re thankful for today’s verdict and we’re happy,” said Nancy Villanueva, an aunt of 16-month-old Elias Castillo, who died in the Feb. 24, 2011 fire. “Thank you for everybody who’s been keeping up with everything.”
Tuesday’s verdict, after six hours of deliberations, was a disappointment to Tata and her defense team, but not a surprise.
“The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict and move on to the next phase of the trial,” said Mike DeGeurin, Tata’s lawyer. He declined to say how Tata, who remains in custody, took the verdict except to say that she remains concerned about the victims’ families.
“She’s never lost sight of the real victims. The real people to have concern for are the families that lost their children,” DeGeurin told a pack of reporters after the verdict. “It’s not all about her. It’s about a lot more than her.”
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