Daycare Owner To Return

The Houston community was shocked when a daycare fire claimed the lives of four toddlers, and the owner fled to Nigeria before charges could be filed. Pat Hernandez tells us that Jessica Tata has waived extradition back to Texas.

22 year old Jessica Tata stands accused of leaving seven children alone in her daycare February 24, while she ran to a Target store. Cooking oil left on a stove ignited a fire while she was gone and killed four of those children and left the three survivors with severe burns.

Tata fled to Nigeria two days after that fatal fire. On the run for more than 20 days, Tata became one of the U.S. Marshal's 15-most wanted fugitives. Interpol and agents from the State Department tracked her down in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on Saturday.

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee spoke to reporters via conference phone in Washington.

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee via "Right after the incident occurred, I spoke directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who began the wheels turning that actually involved my communication directly with the embassy in Nigeria. The family has worked with her and she is returning."

According to U.S. Marshals, Tata was taken into custody by international police after family members said she voluntarily turned herself in. She has waived extradition, which means she agreed to return to Texas and to Harris County investigators. Professor Gerald Treece teaches at the South Texas College of Law. He says Tata faces a laundry list of local, state and federal charges:

"You have four manslaughter counts in Texas, plus you have ten other charges ranging from child endangerment to abandoning a child, and on top of that you have the federal issue of avoiding flight to to avoid prosecution."

Professor Treece says Tata made the situation far worse for herself, and now must answer to very serious charges:

"Not just with injury to a child, but with manslaughter. These are serious charges and if these sentences are stacked. She's talking about possible prison time in excess of 25 years ."

On the other hand, Treece says maybe Tata has an explanation that all of us have missed, something for her attorneys to tackle.

"In cases where it seems like where everybody has rushed to judgment — those are the cases that need to most constitutional protection. You've gotta be certain that you don't just go with what people think. You've gotta go with what the law requires and satisfy every bit of the letter of the law."

Treece says the right to a fair trial is how we can achieve an end result that we call justice.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez


Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...