Victims' families await Tata's court appearance

After nearly three weeks as a fugitive, Tata was booked in Harris County Jail overnight Monday

March 23, 2011 3:25:08 AM PDT
The day care owner charged in the deaths of four children was flown back to Houston overnight Monday under heavy escort. We saw a very different young woman from the one we saw the day of the fire last month. This day has been nearly three weeks and more than 6,000 miles in the making. Authorities said Jessica Tata was being kept by herself for her own safety in a Harris County jail cell.

Family members of the victims say this is the day they have been waiting for and they are glad to hear she is behind bars.

Maurice Castillo says his intense sadness has turned to anger. "Me I think she needs to get not more than life you know what I'm sayin' death penalty, I think -- execution that's what I think," he said.

He believes Jessica Tata's return to Houston means he's one step closer to justice for his son, Elias.

"Like I said, she's gonna pay for what she did," he said. "I'm going to be right there."

Castillo's son was one of four children who died last month at a fire at a west Houston day care, owned and operated by Tata. She allegedly left seven small chidlren home alone while she went shopping.

After nearly three weeks as a fugitive, Tata was booked in Harris County Jail overnight Monday. She'd gone to her homeland in Nigeria and was taken into custody Saturday. Escorted by U.S. Marshals, Tata was flown to Atlanta then to Houston. Authorities say they placed a bullet-proof vest on Tata for her safety.

As she was escorted in front of our cameras, she kept her head down. Authorities would not clarify if Tata turned herself in, only saying she was arrested.

"Interpol agents in Nigeria and Nigerian officials took Jessica Tata into custody," Alfredo Perez with the U.S. Marshals Office said.

How Tata was captured is a distinction Castillo says is not important to him. He says he plans to be in court Wednesday to see Tata in person.

"I don't know what I'm gonna react to seeing her face," he said. "I'm gonna try to stay calm."

Tata remained in Harris County Jail Tuesday where she was being held without bond. Her next scheduled court appearance is Wednesday afternoon.

The victims of the fire

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 day care 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.