The operator of a Houston home day care center who was charged Monday with reckless injury to a child has fled to Nigeria, the Houston Fire Department confirmed.
Authorities said the department has asked the U.S. Marshal’s Office to intervene to have Jessica Tata extradited back to Houston.
Tata, 22, was charged after the fire killed four children and injured three others at the westside day care last week, the Harris County district attorney’s office confirmed Sunday.
A warrant was issued for Tata’s arrest Sunday and bond was set at $500,000. She apparently fled hours later.
Tata is charged in connection with the death of 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson.
If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison.
It’s not clear if Tata will face additional charges.
Tata is accused of leaving Shomari and six other toddlers alone at the day care while she went to the grocery store, according to the charging document.
“I’m sorry, no there’s no forgiveness for anyone who makes an income watching children and has an audacity to leave them for one second,” Shomari’s grandmother, Tracy Storms said Saturday.
Storms believes Tata should face capital murder charges in the case.
Meanwhile, Tata’s family spoke publicly for the first time on Monday.
“Since the accident, my family has never been the same and I don’t think we’ll be the same because it’s very horrible,” said Josie Tata, Jessica’s mother.
Josie said she hasn’t talked to her daughter since Friday.
Her brother wouldn’t comment on her whereabouts, but said he felt sympathy for the victims.
“We feel very, very bad for what happened to the families,” said Ron Tata. “We love them and we pray for them every single day. We are opening up a benefit account.”
Investigators believe the fire started in a pot of oil left unattended on the kitchen stove.
Two neighbors told investigators they saw Tata drive up to the day care around 2 p.m.. When she opened the front door, smoke poured out and she began screaming for help.
The neighbors also said they saw groceries on the lawn and inside the van.
A source with the Houston Police Department said they have surveillance video of Tata at a Target store around the time the fire broke out.
Seven toddlers were pulled from the burning building and rushed to area hospitals. Doctors weren’t able to save Shomari, 20-month-old Elizabeth Kojah, 20-month-old Elizabeth Kojah, 20-month-old Kendyll Stratford or 18-month-old Elias Castillo.
Shomari’s 2-year-old sister, MaKayla, is one of two children still hospitalized at Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston. Both remain in critical but stable condition but are showing signs of improvement , a hospital spokeswoman JoAnn Zuniga said Sunday.
No specific information on the children’s injuries was released. However, Dr. David Herndon, the Shriners Hospital chief of staff, said in a statement that “we are very hopeful for full recovery of patients who have these types of injuries.”
We don’t have the names of the other two injured children, including the one who has been released from the hospital.