HOUSTON -- The U.S. Marshals Service added a Houston day-care operator to its 15 Most Wanted fugitive list Friday and offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information that leads to her arrest.
On Thursday, a Harris County grand jury indicted Jessica Tata, 22, on four counts of manslaughter in the deaths of four children in a fire at her home Feb. 24.
And federal prosecutors have now charged her with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. She had been charged with six counts of reckless injury to a child and three counts of child abandonment.
Investigators say Tata was shopping and had left the children she was taking care of alone when the fire began.
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Authorities believe that Tata, a U.S. citizen, fled to Nigeria, where she has relatives, before she could be charged.
On Thursday, Glenn Price, the grandfather of 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson, who died in the fire, paused during the funeral to beg Tata to return to the United States.
"You can run but you can't hide," Price said with the 100 or so mourners listening. "God knows where you are. What you need to do is ... take up your responsibility. Come forward. If not, God will dispose you and it won't be long before you be right back in this country and you're going to have to face everything that you have to deal with."
Houston Fire Department investigators accuse Tata of leaving without adult supervision all seven children who were in the west Houston home at the time of the fire. Investigators said surveillance video shows that she was shopping at a nearby Target.
Investigators believe that the fire was started by a stove-top burner that had been left on. Tata told investigators that the fire started in the kitchen while she was in the bathroom.
The blaze also injured three other children. Two, including Shomari's 2-year-old sister Makayla, remain hospitalized in good condition at Shiners Hospital for Children in Galveston.
After an hourlong funeral in which Shomari's relatives recalled him as a "little gentleman" who was very protective of his mother and grandmother, his family buried him in north Houston.
At his grave, Shomari's mother, Tiffany Dickerson, knelt beside the small white coffin. His other sister, 5-year-old Kiyanna, kissed the top of the coffin.
"I love you. I'm sorry," Tiffany Dickerson tearfully said after the coffin was put in the ground.
Shomari was laid to rest in a section of the cemetery known as Babyland because only children are buried there. Nearby grave sites had stuffed animals, figurines, pinwheels and other toys on them.
Funerals for the other three children were set for Friday and today.
Authorities are still searching for Tata. Interpol, the international police agency, has issued a red notice to its member countries, including Nigeria, telling them that Tata is being sought by the United States, said Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman LaTonya Miller.