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Jessica Tata jury selection begins, Houston day care owner charged with murder for fatal fire

FILE - In this March 23, 2012, file photo, former day care operator Jessica Tata leaves court after her arraignment in Houston. Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in the trial of Tata, the Houston day care owner who fled to Nigeria after a February 2011 fire killed four young children and injured three others. She faces four felony murder charges as well as five other counts, including abandoning a child. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
Pat Sullivan
Former day care operator Jessica Tata leaves court after her arraignment in Houston on March 23, 2012
File, AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

(CBS/AP) HOUSTON - Jury selection has begun in the trial of Jessica Tata, who is charged with murder stemming from a fire at a Houston day care center that left four children dead and three injured.

Tata, 24, faces a felony murder charge in the death of one of the children, 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.

Prosecutors say that on Feb. 24, 2011, Tata left the children alone while she went to a nearby store, and that she left oil in a frying pan over a stove top burner that ignited the blaze while she was at the store.

Her attorneys said the murder charge is excessive because she never intended to harm the children.

More on Crimesider
March 22, 2011 - Jessica Tata, Houston day care owner, returns from Nigeria to face charges in fatal fire
Feb. 28, 2011 - Jessica Tata flees to Nigeria after day care fire kills four, says Houston fire dept.