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Children alone prior to deadly day-care fire

Associated Press / March 1, 2011

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HOUSTON — A Houston home day-care operator left the children she was caring for without adult supervision while a stovetop burner was on before a blaze that killed four youngsters and injured three, according to an arrest affidavit made public yesterday.

Investigators believe the burner was the source of last week’s fire.

Hours after the new details about the blaze were released, Houston Fire Department officials announced that day-care operator Jessica Tata had fled the Unites States and they had asked the US Marshals Service in Houston to help track her down.

Officials believe Tata has fled to Nigeria, where she is originally from.

Tata, 22, was charged Sunday with reckless injury to a child involving serious bodily injury involving the death of 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson. The charge carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to file additional charges against Tata.

It was not immediately known whether Tata had an attorney.

Houston Fire Department investigators said in the affidavit that two of Tata’s neighbors described seeing her drive up on Thursday and go into the home where the day-care center was located, then hearing her screaming seconds after she went in the front door. They saw smoke coming from inside.

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