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Day care owner told investigator pan sparked fire

Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, Jessica Tata, accused in the deaths of four children at her west Houston daycare, stands at the conclusion of opening statements at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, in Houston. A  refrigerator, not a stove, might be to blame for causing a fire at the Texas home day care that killed four children and injured three others, an engineering expert told jurors Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 during the owner's murder trial. Tata, 24, is charged with four counts of felony murder but is currently being tried in the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. She faces up to life in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle,  Mayra Beltran, File)
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FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, Jessica Tata, accused in the deaths of four children at her west Houston daycare, stands at the conclusion of opening statements at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, in Houston. A refrigerator, not a stove, might be to blame for causing a fire at the Texas home day care that killed four children and injured three others, an engineering expert told jurors Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 during the owner's murder trial. Tata, 24, is charged with four counts of felony murder but is currently being tried in the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. She faces up to life in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — A state investigator has told jurors that a woman charged with murder after four children died in a blaze at her Houston home day care admitted that the fire began because she left a pan of oil cooking on the stove.

The testimony Thursday by Kristi Malrey of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services aims to counter defense expert statements suggesting the February 2011 fire could have been sparked by a faulty stove or refrigerator.

Malrey says Jessica Tata told her on the day of the tragedy that she left an oil-filled pan over a flame and that this caused the deadly fire. Three other children were hurt in the blaze.

Twenty-four-year-old Tata is charged with four counts of felony murder.

Defense attorneys rested their case earlier Thursday.

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