Search for Tata moving in 'positive direction'

March 2, 2011 1:08:44 PM PST
Jessica Tata, the woman who owned the west Houston home day care where a fire killed four children, is still on the run, believed to be in Nigeria. She is now charged with six counts of reckless injury to a child and three counts of abandoning a child. Tata fled the country over the weekend before charges were filed. The district attorney says that couldn't happen until they determined she did leave the children alone.

Once that was sorted out, Tata was gone. Now, the families of those children are worried they might never get justice.

A spokesman with the U.S. Marshal's Office says they are actively and aggressively tracking down Tata, that they're working around the clock and checking out a list of things that they could not tell us about because they're part of the investigation.

But he did say they are moving in a "positive direction."

That U.S. Marshal spokesperson said they were asked Monday at around 2pm to start their search after authorities announced Tata fled to Nigeria, the country where her parents are from.

Witnesses tell investigators the children were home alone when the fire started.

Family members of the deceased and injured children say they're now dealing with another blow, knowing that Tata was able to sneak out of the country without answering their questions or investigators' questions.

Kenya Stratford, who lost her infant daughter, says she's distraught. We spoke with her attorney Wednesday.

"It's just bad that that happened," said attorney Christopher Leonard. "We don't know how the lady got away. We thought everybody knew she was Nigerian and had that potential when we were trying to get charges. We thought that someone would, if nothing else, watch her so that she could answer for this. That's what people want right now."

Stratford's attorney says Tata's brother has called his client. Leonard says he plans to make contact with the Tata family to see if the family day care was insured, and to see how to move forward with civil proceedings.

As U.S. Marshals continue their search, memorials have been planned for two of the children. Shomari Dickerson's memorial is planned for tonight. As for Kendall Stratford, hers is set for Friday.

Tata's brother says his family had no idea she would flee. In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Ronald Tata says the whole ordeal has split the family. He says they want her to do the right thing and come back to turn herself in.

Tata says they are working to establish a fund to help cover the costs of the children's funerals and medical expenses. But District Attorney Pat Lykos spoke out against it, saying it was inappropriate and the family needs to focus on returning Jessica to Houston.

"We collaborated in my church, job, other friends and families, and we tried to put together a benefit to try to cover the costs of the funerals and other expenses, any way we can help out at all," he said. "The DA made some comments that definitely derailed what we're trying to do, so it's pretty much a dead cause."

Tata tells us his family still wants to help the victims' parents in any way possible.