ABC13 continues search for Tata in Nigeria

March 12, 2011 8:31:15 PM PST
We left our compound early Saturday morning and hit the streets in our search for Jessica Tata. We've spoken with dozens of people and received a handful of leads from residents in Port Harcourt.

We followed one resident and learned how close to Tata, a Harris County woman who fled after a fatal home daycare fire, we could possibly be.

"There's a family called Eberechi ... as living in that place," one man said.

Her middle name of Eberechi is easily recognized by locals.

"You're convinced that she's right around in this vicinity, this area?" we asked a private investigator.

"Yes," he replied.

And according to him, he said her last name, Tata, may in fact have an "A" in front of it.

"It's a family name, Atata, so we will still get to this family name," he said.

Several sources have told us, and they refuse to go on camera because of possible reprisals, that we were in the same neighborhood where Tata now lives.

The problem is actually going door to door because there are too many militants, we were told.

"Extremely dangerous because when you come in like this, each one tells one," one Port Harcourt resident said.

So we canvassed the neighborhood for any possible sightings, hoping beyond hope that Tata will eventually show her face.

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The consul general of the Nigerian consulate in Atlanta attended the vigil to express his condolences.

The fire has shaken the Nigerian community, because one of the victims and the daycare operator, Jessica Tata, are of Nigerian descent.

Police say Tata fled to Nigeria to avoid arrest, and the community is concerned the negative attention could lead to stereotyping.

"They said that they wanted to get a chance to bring all the families that were affected together to tell them how Nigeria feels about this and to condemn what Jessica did," said Betty Ukera, the mother of one of the victims.

Tata is charged with manslaughter for allegedly leaving seven children home alone when the fire broke out. Four of them died.

There are still many questions about how Tata was able to leave the U.S while she was being investigated for the deadly fire.

Nigerian officials say Tata did not receive a passport or visa from the local office, but they do not know if she might have received it from an office in Nigeria.

Sources tell us Tata's father runs a business in Port Harcourt and may be harboring her in a secret location.