Fire Chief "frustrated" daycare owner fled to Nigeria

The Houston Fire Department and the State Department are still working to get daycare owner Jessica Tata back to the United States. Tata fled to Nigeria after a fire at her daycare center killed four children last week. She faces ten charges so far related to the fire. But the legal ramifications of bringing her back to this country are tricky. David Pitman reports.

The U.S. and Nigeria have an extradition treaty that dates back to the 1930s. It outlines a number of crimes that are eligible for extradition between the two countries. Reckless endangerment to a child, which is the charge against Tata, is not one of them.

"Article One of that treaty declares that an accused can be extradited for offenses that are listed in Article Three, and Article Three lists only one relevant defense, and that is manslaughter." 

That's Professor Jordan Paust with the University of Houston Law Center. He says Tata isn't charged with manslaughter, but officials may still consider doing that.

"So I suspect that one of the things that the local prosecutors might want to look into is whether or not they think there are enough facts that allow a charge of manslaughter so that the United States then can request extradition of Nigeria."  

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland at the podium

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says arson investigators are working with multiple agencies to examine the evidence.

"You know, the State Department, our Marshals. We have officers that are on those federal taskforces that may assist. We've offered the fire department all of our assistance, technology, anything that we can do to bring this lady back to justice." 
 
The District Attorney's office has defended its actions that included at least four attempts by arson investigators to have charges filed against Tata last weekend. DA Pat Lykos hasn't said whether manslaughter charges may be filed. 

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...