Woman at shops as fire killed four
Published 02/03/2011 | 08:52
Investigators have discovered that the operator of a Texas home day care centre where a fire killed four children had left the youngsters in her care alone to go shopping.
Surveillance video shows Jessica Tata shopping at a store about a mile from the property in Houston when the fire started on Thursday, investigators said in a probable cause court document.
Investigators believe the fire, in which three other children were injured, was started by an oven top burner that had been left on. The children ranged in age from 18 months to three years.
Tata, 22, is believed to have fled to Nigeria since being charged over the fire, and US authorities are still trying to locate her. She has been charged with reckless injury to a child and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said her office plans on filing nine more charges against Tata. They will include six more charges of reckless injury to a child and three charges of child endangerment.
"I would urge the Tata family ... that they have Ms Tata return to Harris County and face justice," Ms Lykos said.
Authorities earlier this week had said that Tata was a native of Nigeria, but Ms Lykos said Tata is a US citizen who was born in Harris County and apparently has family in Nigeria.
The video shows Tata entering the store at 1.09pm and driving away at 1.24pm. The first emergency call about the fire was made at 1.29pm, according to the court document.
Tata had told neighbours immediately after the fire that it started in the kitchen while she was in the bathroom.
Two of the injured children remain in Shiners Hospital for Children in Galveston. Their conditions have been upgraded to stable and improving, hospital spokeswoman Jo Ann Zuniga said.