The owner of the home, Jessica Tata, lived in the home and also owned and operated the daycare center. The fire broke out at about 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon. When firefighters arrived, they found two injured children outside the home and learned there were five more children trapped inside the burning house. Firefighters were able to rescue the children who were trapped inside and took all seven to the hospital. Three of the children died the following day in the hospital, and a fourth child died in the hospital a day later. The victims of this horrific accident ranged in age from 18 months to three years old.
Alone? What was she smoking? Who in their right mind would leave a house full of young, sleeping children alone to go shopping? No one seems to know exactly how long she was gone, but store security cameras show she was inside Target for at least 13 minutes. Apparently, it was long enough for a pan of oil left on a hot burner on the stove to catch fire. By the time Tata returned home, smoke had engulfed her home and was billowing out of the windows.
After the fire was extinguished, Tata refused to talk to the police, referring them to her attorney. Shortly after, Tata fled Houston. She got on an airplane for Nigeria before the district attorney’s office could file charges against her. Some were very upset that the district attorney's office was slow in getting her charged, arrested and into police custody.
Jessica Tata remained in Nigeria until yesterday, March 22. Apparently, some family members who live there and other people in Houston helped the U.S. Marshals Service, Interpol, and Nigerian officials track her down and bring her back to Texas to face the 14n state criminal charges that have been filed against her. The charges include manslaughter, six charges of reckless injury to a child, three charges of abandoning a child under age 15, and a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. She has a lot of defending to do, that’s for sure.
Jackie’s Child Care was been inspected twice over the past three years by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. Two violations were found last year: The facility was missing required carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Reports show that these issues were fixed immediately after being reported. However, faulty equipment was not to blame in this tragedy. Had a responsible adult been present at the home when the fire started, it is more likely than not that all of the children could have been saved before the fire got out of control.
Minimum standards set forth by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services say that Jackie's Child Care was authorized to have up to six children in her facility full time, with the allowance of six additional children for after-school care only. These same regulation standards maintain that registered child-care facilities are only inspected once every two years, unless reports of neglect or abuse are made. Who would leave their babies with a 22-year-old woman who could legally watch up to 12 children at one time? Not to mention that this fire started during school hours, meaning that Tata should have had only six children in her care to be in compliance with state regulations.