HOUSTON — Investigators say a home day-care operator who left the children she was watching alone was shopping when a fire that killed four children began, according to a court document made public yesterday.
Surveillance video shows Jessica Tata was shopping at a Target store about a mile away from the facility when the fire started last Thursday, investigators said in a probable-cause affidavit.
Investigators believe the fire, in which three other children were injured, was started by a stove-top burner that had been left on.
Tata, 22, has fled to her native Nigeria since being charged in the fire. Authorities said yesterday that they are still trying to locate her. She has been charged with reckless injury to a child and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
It was not immediately known whether Tata had an attorney. Attempts to contact her family in person and by phone at multiple addresses and telephone listings have been unsuccessful.
The video shows Tata entering the store at 1:09 p.m. and driving away at 1:24 p.m. The first 911 call about the fire was made at 1:29 p.m., according to the affidavit.
Tata had told neighbors immediately after the fire that it started in the kitchen while she was in the bathroom.