Thursday 18 January 2018

Woman surrenders over fatal day-care centre fire

Matt Curry in Houston

A woman accused of fleeing the US after a fire at her Texas day-care centre killed four children has turned herself in to authorities in Nigeria.

Her brother Ron Tata said that relatives in Africa informed him that his sister, Jessica Tata, went to the US consulate.

"She just felt really, really, really bad about the whole situation, especially for the families. It would be the right thing to do," he said during an interview at his home in Houston.

US Marshals Service spokesman Jeff Carter said the 22-year-old woman was not in the agency's custody, and Harris County district attorney spokeswoman Donna Hawkins said she had received no information that Ms Tata was being held.

Peter Claussen, spokesman for the US embassy in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, said that he had no information about Ms Tata's possible surrender.

Authorities believe she fled to Nigeria two days after a fire erupted at her home day-care centre in Houston on February 24. Four children were killed and three were injured.

Ms Tata has been charged with manslaughter, injury to a child and child abandonment amid accusations that she left the youngsters alone at her home day-care centre while she shopped at a nearby store. Authorities believe the fire was ignited by a stove top burner that had been left on.

Fire investigators have said they received a tip that Ms Tata had relatives in Nigeria and might flee.

Family members of the young victims told the 'Houston Chronicle' that they were relieved to hear she had turned herself in.

"I cried, but the tears were of joy," said Keisha Brown, whose 16-month old son Elias died in the fire. "All I wanted was justice and closure."

Elias' grandmother Jodie Brown said she was excited that Ms Tata had "taken the responsibility she needed to take".

The US Marshals Service, which was leading the search for Ms Tata, had put the woman on its list of the 15 most wanted fugitives and offered a reward of $25,000 (€17,600). International police agency Interpol also put out an alert.

Irish Independent

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