More Charges Filed in Houston Day Care Fire

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Prosecutors have filed more charges against a Houston day care operator who left the kids she was caring for alone before a deadly fire that killed four children at the facility, according to court documents released Wednesday.

    Three new charges of abandoning a child were filed late Tuesday against Jessica Tata, 22, who had been charged with reckless injury to a child earlier this week. Prosecutors say they also plan to file six additional charges of reckless injury to a child.

    Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said she still was checking to see whether the six other charges had been filed Wednesday afternoon.

    The Feb. 24 blaze at the day care facility, run out of a west Houston home, also injured three other children.

    Authorities say Tata has fled to Nigeria and they are working to locate her. Attempts by The Associated Press to contact her family in person and by phone at multiple addresses and telephone listings have been unsuccessful.

    Houston Fire Department investigators accuse Tata of leaving all seven children who were in the home at the time of the fire without adult supervision. Investigators said surveillance video shows she was shopping at a nearby Target store when the fire started.

    Investigators have said two of Tata's neighbors saw her drive up to the home and then come out screaming seconds later asking for help because of the fire.

    Tata told neighbors after the fire that it started in the kitchen while she was in the bathroom.

    Investigators believe the fire was started by a stove top burner that had been left on.

    Prosecutors have faced some questions about how they've handled the investigation.

    Houston Fire Department investigators have said they went to prosecutors six times before they agreed to file charges and that they told prosecutors Friday about a tip that Tata might flee to Nigeria, but that prosecutors didn't think the tip was valid.

    Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos on defended her office Tuesday, saying prosecutors did not unreasonably delay the filing of charges against Tata.

    Two of the injured children, a 22-month-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, remained hospitalized in good condition at Shiners Hospital for Children in Galveston, hospital spokeswoman Jo Ann Zuniga said Wednesday.

    The court documents made public Wednesday said the boy suffered burns to 18 percent of his body, while the girl suffered burns to 26 percent of her body.