Jessica Tata on way back to Houston from Georgia

March 21, 2011 8:21:18 PM PDT
The day care operator who fled after a fire that killed four children is on her way back to Houston after she turned herself in to authorities and was flown to Atlanta from Nigeria. It's taken an international effort to get Jessica Tata in custody. Even we went to Nigeria to try to find her. Right now, she sits in a jail in Fulton County, Georgia. She was flown there early Monday after being captured in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on Saturday.

Tata left Nigeria and arrived in Georgia, where she was taken in front of a state judge and waived extradition back to Texas.

Before dawn Monday, Tata was booked at the Fulton County jail, a stop-over on the way back to Houston. Her more than three-week flight from home to Nigeria, where she holds dual citizenship, ended Saturday, when her family says she voluntarily surrendered to authorities.

But on Monday, a statement from the U.S. Marshal's Office said, "Tata was captured Saturday in Port Harcourt, Nigeria by Interpol and U.S. Department of State security agents."

Capture and voluntary surrender are two opposing terms. When contacted by phone, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who called on the State Department to locate Tata and return her to the U.S. to face trial, said, "It was a collaborative effort. The U.S. Marshal's office was very involved. The only person to explain their situation is Ms. Tata."

By force or deliberate decision, the Houston publisher of a Nigerian online paper, says the Nigerian community is relieved.

"More important, the wheels of justice are much more swifter in the United States than Nigeria," said Chido Nwangwu of

We're told an investigator attempted to speak with Tata when she arrived in Atlanta, but we're told she had nothing to say. So far, we've not been able to talk to anyone at the U.S. Marshal's Office in Houston. But we're told they're going to Georgia to accompany Tata back to Houston.

Tata was listed as one of the U.S. Marshal's 15 most wanted fugitives. On Monday, the word "captured" was put over her photo on their website. The 22-year-old Tata faces a list of charges, four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child, three counts of abandoning a child under 15 and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

With all the attention focused on Jessica Tata and bringing her back to the U.S., we can't forget about the young victims in this tragedy -- the four children killed. One of them was 20-month-old Kendyll Stradford. She started going to the daycare, just two days before the fire. Two of the other victims were 18-month-old Elias Castillo and 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson. The fourth victim was 19-month-old Elizabeth Kajoh. Family members told us she always had a smile on her face and gave hugs to everyone.

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