HOUSTON - The woman at the center of a day care fire that killed four children is facing new charges as she becomes the focus of an international manhunt.
Nine new charges were being filed Tuesday against Jessica Tata, 22, who is believed to have fled to Nigeria.
Tata was the day care provider at a home in the 2800 block of Crestpark at Waypark when a fire broke out Thursday at 1:40 p.m. The house served as a day care facility called Jackie's Child Care. Seven children were at the home at the time of the fire.
Three of the children, Elizabeth Kojah, of Cypress, and Kendyll Stradford, of Katy, both 20 months old; and Shomari Dickerson, 3, died on Thursday. A fourth child, Elias Castillo, died on Saturday.
Two of the surviving children are at Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston in critical condition. The third surviving child has been released from the hospital.
Tata was charged with one count of reckless injury to a child in connection with Dickerson's death on Sunday.
She will face a total of seven counts of reckless injury to a child and three additional charges of child endangerment.
The Harris County District Attorney said she is outraged that anyone would blame her office for a delay in filing charges.
"These allegations are outrageous. There have been other suggestions that we could have authorized an investigatory hold. There is no such thing under the law as an investigative hold. We do not live in a police state," District Attorney Pat Lykos said.
But arson investigators said the District Attorney's Office is at fault and said charges could have been accepted more quickly.
Investigators said they presented evidence and witnesses on Thursday to prosecutors and said they received a Crime Stoppers tip on Friday that Tata was planning on fleeing the country.
Tata boarded a plane for Nigeria on Saturday, the day before she was charged, officials said.
"We are definitely looking into flight records. We're definitely looking into her family history in Nigeria," Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez said.
The U.S. Marshals office said it is doing all it can to have the 22-year-old fugitive extradited back to Houston.
"Right now, we're trying to establish a base line of who she is. Where she is. Where she's been," said Perez.
Perez said he could not release specific details about how close they are to finding her.
"Once we find out where she's at, it's really important to be discreet about it so we can start the treaty process," said Perez.
Tata is from Nigeria.
Arson investigators said the fire started in the kitchen after someone left a pot of oil sitting on a hot burner.
Tata left the children alone while she went to the grocery store, according to sources who said security video shows she was in the store for at least 13 minutes. Witnesses said she returned just as smoke began billowing out of the home day care.
Anyone with information on Tata's whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. Marshals Office at 713-718-4259.
District Attorney Skeptical Of Tata's Brother
The district attorney also said Tuesday that she was skeptical of Ron Tata, Jessica Tata's brother, and what he plans to do with a benefit fund he created to help the child victims of the fire.
Ronald Tata was charged with theft and assault in two separate cases in 2002, according to Local 2 Investigates. The theft charge was dismissed and the assault charge ended with deferred adjudication.
Lykos issued a strongly worded suggestion to the Tata family.
"Instead of filing a DBA and raising money, and who knows who that money is going to or how it's going to be accounted for, that they have Ms. Tata return to Harris County and face justice," Lykos said.
The official name of the benefit is Houston Benefit Of Day Care Victims.
Lykos advised Houstonians to stay away from the fund and be wary if someone contacts you to contribute to it.
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