A Houston prosecutor denied today that it botched the investigation into a day care fire that killed four toddlers, but conceded the woman charged in the fire had left the country and urged her return to the U.S. and face charges.
"If you cared at all about those children, then return," Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos said in an appeal to Jessica Tata.
Tata, who ran Jackie's Child Care in Houston, was charged Monday with one count of reckless bodily injury to a child and bond was set at $500,000. But prosecutors realized that Tata, who is 22, had already fled to Nigeria.
Lykos said at a news conference today that nine additional charges will be filed against Tata including six more charges of reckless bodily injury to a child and three charges of child endangerment.
The DA also issued an alert that Tata's brother, Ron Tata, was attempting to create a business called "Houston Benefit of Daycare Victims" to solicit money.
"I would urge the Tata family instead of... raising money and who knows where that money is going to and how it's going to be accounted for, that they have Miss Tata return to Harris County and face justice," Lykos said.
The prosecutor called Ron Tata's fund raising plans "reprehensible."
Lykos news conference was held amid criticism that investigators had not acted more quickly after last Thursday's fire and allowed Tata to leave the country.
Tiffany Dickerson is furious that prosecutors never questioned or arrested Tata who ran the day care where seven children were left alone and four-- including Dickerson's young son -- died in a fire that started on the woman's stove.
"I don't understand how that could possibly happen. You see the damage to the house. You see the kids? Four passed away. How could you not just interview her and hear her side of the story at least. I'm at a loss for words, I don't understand," Dickerson said.
Lykos defended her team's investigation into the case. It took four days to charge Tata and prosecutors never questioned the Texas born woman.
"Suggestions that anyone in the District Attorney's office had reasonably delayed the filing of criminal charges against Ms. Tata or that she could have been arrested or held in custody during the pendency of this investigation. These allegations are outrageous," Lykos said.
The Harris County District Attorney's office told ABC News affiliate KTRK that they did not know Tata was a flight risk and were unaware that she had left the country until Monday.
The Houston Fire Department refutes that claim. Houston Fire Marshal Richard Galvan told the Houston Chronicle that an arson investigator told prosecutors on Friday they had learned Tata may be preparing to leave the country.
The U.S. Marshals have been enlisted by the Houston Fire Department and Harris County District Attorneys to assist in the search for Tata, Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez said. Tata is now considered a fugitive.
"We're trying to locate her," Perez said. "It depends on what country and what state she's in whether we can or can't extradite her."
Perez said that the Marshals have not verified that Tata is in Nigeria.
Dickerson, whose 2-year-old daughter Makayla is fighting for her life at Shriner's Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, is enraged with Tata.