The operator of a home day care center in Houston who was charged earlier today with reckless injury to a child involving serious bodily injury has fled the country for Nigeria. The U.S. Marshall’s Office has been asked by local officials to step in and help bring Jessica Rene Tata back to Texas.
Twenty-two-year-old Tata was charged today after a fire killed four children and injured another three at her home-based day care last Thursday. She is accused of leaving the seven toddlers alone while she went to the supermarket.
Tata is said to have taken flight hours on a Delta flight from Atlanta after a warrant was issued for her arrest yesterday and bond was set at half a million dollars. The Houston Fire Department, which was leading the arson investigation, turned over her case earlier this afternoon to U.S. Marshals.
If convicted of the charge that is linked with the death of 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson, Tata could face up to 20 years in prison.
Tata’s mother spoke to CBS News today, saying, “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.” She claims she has not spoken to her daughter since Friday.
Investigators believe the fire was started by a pot of oil left on a stove that was turned on. Neighbors told police they saw Tata drive up to the day care, open the front door and scream as smoke poured out. According to witnesses, no other adults were present at the day care when Tata left the children alone. A surveillance camera from the supermarket has footage of her shopping at around the time the fire is thought to have started. The toddlers who died were 20, 18 and 16 months old. Two of the survivors are listed in critical but stable condition at an area-hospital, with doctors saying they are optimistic about their recovery.
Tata’s brother has said his sister was at the house and passed out when the fire started.
Whatever the case may be, hopefully Tata will return to the United States to answer the charges against her so that the families of the children can get some answers about what killed or injured their babies. Regardless of Tata’s fate, however, the tragedy is unspeakable and gut-wrenching, as is any that involves children who are left with a supposedly trusted adult.