2 Day Care Fire Victims Laid To Rest

Jessica Tata, 22, Believed To Be In Nigeria

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Jessica Tata

HOUSTON - Two of the four children killed in a day care fire were laid to rest Friday, and the day care owner who, investigators said, left the country before being charged still has not been arrested.

Family and friends said their last goodbyes to Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, at Forest Park Funeral Home, 12880 Westheimer Road, Friday morning.

Elias Castillo's family laid him to rest at Memorial Oaks Funeral Home, 13001 Katy Freeway, at 3 p.m.

Kendyll, Elias, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, and Shomari Dickerson, 3, died from a fire at a home in the 2800 block of Crestpark at Waypark shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24. The house served as a day care facility called Jackie's Child Care.

A prayer service for Elizabeth will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 6646 Addicks Satsuma Road, at 6 p.m. Friday. Her funeral will be held at the same church at 1 p.m. Saturday. She will be buried at Memorial Oaks Cemetery on the Katy Freeway.

Shomari's funeral was held on Thursday.

Three other children were injured in the fire. Shomari's sister, Makayla, and another child were taken to Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston with severe burns. A third child has been treated and released.

Arson investigators said the fire started in the kitchen after someone left a pot of oil sitting on a hot burner.

Jessica Tata, 22, was the owner of the day care. Houston Fire Department officials said she was grocery shopping at a Target store nearby when the fire started. Detectives said security video showed her arriving at the store at 1:09 p.m. and driving away from the store at 1:24 p.m. The children had been left home alone, investigators said.

Witnesses said Tata returned as smoke began billowing out of the home day care. The first call to 911 was made by someone other than Tata at 1:29 p.m., investigators said.

Tata was charged Monday with one count of reckless injury to a child in connection with Shomari's death. Nine more charges were filed against Tata on Tuesday, prosecutors said. She will face a total of seven counts of reckless injury to a child and three additional charges of child endangerment, they said.

Before she could be arrested, Tata left the country, investigators said. Houston Fire Department officials said she flew from Dallas to Atlanta and then took a flight to Nigeria on Saturday. She left before charges were filed against her, so there was no reason for airport officials to stop her.

Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison said Tata was not arrested immediately because she appeared to be a victim.

Garrison said Tata originally told investigators that she was in the bathroom when the fire occurred. He said that Tata later claimed to have amnesia and did not recognize anyone.

U.S. marshals have filed federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and HFD said it issued a Red Notice to Interpol in hopes that Tata can be arrested in Nigeria.

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said Tata is a U.S. citizen who was born in Harris County. She attended Katy's Taylor High School.

Anyone with information on Tata's whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. marshal's office at 713-718-4259. Crime Stoppers has issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to her arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

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