HOUSTON – A news website is reporting that wanted fugitive Jessica Tata may be in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Tata is originally from the oil city, according to USAfricaonline.com.
The website says Tata’s father, Godfrey, still spends a lot of time in Nigeria. He is reportedly there now even though he was originally expected back in Houston this past weekend, according to USAfrica publisher Chido Nwangwu.
Godfrey Tata, according to Nwangwu, owns a successful healthcare business in Houston.
Nwangwu said Houston's Nigerian community believes Tata made a mistake by fleeing.
"The entire community describes the situation as one that requires standing up and saying 'this is what happened, this is what needs to be done,'" said Nwangwu. "If she is responsible for any part, she should have owned up to it, rather than take off and run."
USAfrica is the largest African news source in the United States.
Jessica Tata, 22, was charged with reckless injury of a child after a fire killed four children and injured three others at her day care last week, the Harris County District Attorney’s office confirmed Sunday.
"Nine more charges are being drafted as we speak," said Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos in a news conference late Tuesday afternoon.
Tata left the children unattended while she went shopping at a Target on Eldridge Parkway, according to a probable cause affidavit released Tuesday.
Here is the timeline, according to that document:
1:09 p.m.: Surveillance camera shows Tata arriving at Target
1:24 p.m.: Tata is seen on camera leaving Target
1:29 p.m. First 911 call reporting the fire at Tata’s day care
Neighbors told investigators they saw Tata drive up and when she opened the front door, smoke poured out and she began screaming.
A warrant was issued for Tata’s arrest Sunday and bond was set at $500,000, but she was already long gone. Tata left Houston Saturday afternoon and authorities are convinced she’s in Nigeria.
U.S. Marshals have been asked to help bring Tata back to Houston, but that could take weeks or even months. They are working with the FBI and Interpol, according to the USAfrica website.
11 News Legal Analysis Gerald Treece said Nigeria will most likely cooperate.
"The federal government will request her return," he said. "This will happen; this is not a country that in the past has been unfriendly. We know it will happen."
Treece said once Tata returns she will have some serious questions to answer.
"If you’re fleeing, knowing you’re about to be charged, you have some explaining to do about why you left, rather than stay here and deal with the charges," he said.
Betty Ukera, the mother of 20-month-old Elizabeth Kajoh, one of the children who died in the blaze, said she was still processing the news that Tata had fled the country.
"I don’t really know what to say about that," Ukera said. "There is nothing that I can say or do to (Tata) that would resurrect my daughter. I have forgiven her and will leave it up to the god of justice."
Jessica Tata graduated from Katy Taylor High School and lived in west Houston.
Sources: USAfrica and Associated Press contributed to this report