Skip to main content

Woman charged in deadly day care fire returns to Texas

By the CNN Wire Staff

Jessica Tata was charged in a deadly day care fire that killed four children in February.
Jessica Tata was charged in a deadly day care fire that killed four children in February.
  • NEW: Jessica Tata is currently at a Houston area jail
  • Four children died at her Houston day care in February
  • Tata faces manslaughter and unlawful flight charges

(CNN) -- The woman charged in a deadly day care fire that killed four small children is back in Texas, an official said Tuesday.

Jessica Tata, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Nigeria, fled to Lagos shortly after the fatal fire at her Houston home in February.

She was transported to the Harris County Jail early Tuesday morning, said Christina Garza, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Tata arrived in Atlanta Monday morning and was booked into the Fulton County Jail, officials said in a statement. She made an appearance in magistrate court, where she waived her extradition rights.

Investigators allege that Tata, a 22-year-old day care owner, left seven children alone at her Houston day care center with the stove on while she went to a store. Four children died, and three others were injured in the blaze.

Tata was taken into custody Saturday in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, by Interpol and U.S. diplomatic security agents, officials said.

At a news conference Monday, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee said Tata turned herself in to authorities after a "monumental" effort between the U.S. and Nigerian governments, along with Tata's family in Lagos.

"We now have the opportunity to move forward," Lee said, adding that she worked closely with the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and spoke with the Nigerian ambassador to the United Statesto make sure Tata's return was a "top priority."

On Sunday, Lee gathered with Houston's Nigerian community for a memorial service in honor of the four children lost in the fire, where ministers "pleaded" for Tata to return home.

U.S. marshals were asked to join the search by Harris County authorities after Tata left the Houston area. They added the missing woman to their 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list in March.

Tata has been indicted on felony charges in the fatal fire, including four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child, three counts of abandoning a child under 15 and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

CNN's Antoinette Campbell contributed to this report.