HOUSTON Jessica Tata, the 22-year-old woman accused in a fatal fire that killed four children at a home day care center in Houston last month, was denied bond in a probable cause hearing Tuesday morning and will remain in the Harris County Jail.
Tata, who was captured in Nigeria and extradited to Texas early Tuesday morning, wasn t present for the morning hearing. Officials said she was still being medically evaluated, which is standard procedure for incoming inmates.
But even without her, the hearing went on. The judge read more than 14 counts against her, including charges of manslaughter, child abandonment, reckless injury to a child and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Tata s arraignment was scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday. Court records did not show that Tata had an attorney.
The charges all stem from a Feb. 24 fire at a day care center operated by Tata.
Initially, Tata told police she was in the bathroom when the fire started, but investigators said she had left seven children unattended in the home to go shopping at Target.
When she returned, the fire was raging and the children were trapped inside.
Four of them died, and three others were injured.
Investigators said a pot of oil left on a burning stove sparked the blaze.
Two days after the fire, Tata who has both U.S. and Nigerian citizenship fled to Nigeria.
Agents from Interpol, Nigerian officials and U.S. Marshals searched for her until her capture on Saturday in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Her brother in Houston said Tata turned herself in, but U.S. Marshals said that wasn t the case.
We were feeding them some information as to Jessica Tata s possible whereabouts. With that information, Interpol agents in Nigeria and Nigerian officials took Jessica Tata into custody and we brought her back, Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez said Tuesday.
Tata was accompanied by U.S. Marshals on the flight from Nigeria to Atlanta, where she was booked into the Fulton County Jail until her extradition to Texas.
U.S. Marshals brought her back on a private flight that landed at Hooks Airport at 12:41 a.m. Tuesday, and then drove her to the Harris County Jail s inmate processing center in downtown Houston.
Two dozen law enforcement officers surrounded the Harris County Jail as three vehicles pulled up carrying Tata and the marshals.
Tata held her head down as she exited an SUV with officers at her side. She offered no comments as reporters asked her if she had anything to say to the victims families.@
Christina Garza, a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff s Office, said Tata will have extra security while in jail and will be isolated for her protection.
Ms. Tata will be housed in a single cell, and that is for her safety and her protection, she will be accompanied at all times as she makes movements throughout the jail, Garza said.
Before her capture, the U.S. Marshals Service had placed Tata on the 15 most wanted fugitives list with a reward of up to $25,000.
They said capturing her was a top priority.
When Jessica Tata chose to flee from the consequences of her actions that left four innocent children dead, we made her capture a top priority said Geoffrey Shank, U.S. Marshals Service Acting Assistant Director of Investigative Operations Division. I thank our deputies, and domestic and international partners, for their tireless persistence in bringing this fugitive to justice.
The Houston Fire Department also offered thanks Tuesday for the efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service and of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force.
They have proven indeed that the arm of the law is long, said HFD spokesman Patrick Trahan. We live in a free country, there are laws we have to follow when we arrest people, Ms. Tata took advantage of that freedom. We are grateful that she is back so that we can continue to pursue justice.
The fire department said the investigation into the day care fire is ongoing.