Woman Charged in Deadly Houston Day Care Fire Flees United States to Nigeria

HOUSTON -- A home day care operator charged in connection with a deadly fire that killed four children has fled the United States, the Houston Fire Department said Monday.

Fire Department Assistant Chief Michelle McLeod said Monday that officials have found out that 22-year-old Jessica Tata has fled to Nigeria, where she is originally from.

McLeod declined to comment on how investigators determined Tata fled.

The U.S. Marshals Service in Houston has been asked to help track down Tata, said spokesman Alfredo Perez.

"Right now we are trying to confirm everything," Perez said. "Just because someone who is wanted flees to another country doesn't mean the United States isn't going to get them back and have them face justice."

Perez said if his agency confirms Tata is in Nigeria, it will ask that country to arrest her on behalf of the U.S.

Tata was charged late Sunday evening with reckless injury to a child involving serious bodily injury. The charge carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison.

Investigators, in an arrest affidavit made public Monday, said that before the fire, Tata left the kids she was caring for without adult supervision, while a stovetop burner was on.

It was not immediately known if Tata had an attorney. Attempts by The Associated Press to contact her family in person or by phone at multiple addresses and telephone listings have been unsuccessful.