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Day care operator surrenders in fire

A woman accused of fleeing the country after a fire at her Texas day care center killed four children has turned herself in to authorities in Nigeria, her brother said Saturday, though U.S. officials said they still don't have her in custody.

Ron Tata said that relatives in Nigeria informed him early Saturday that his sister, Jessica Tata, went to the U.S. consulate.

"She just felt really, really, really bad about the whole situation, especially for the families. It would be the right thing to do," he said during a phone interview from his home in Houston.

Jeff Carter, spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said Jessica Tata wasn't in the agency's custody, and Donna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Harris County district attorney, said she had received no information that the woman was being held.

Peter Claussen, spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, said he had no information about her possible surrender.

Authorities say they believe that Jessica Tata, 22, fled to Nigeria two days after a fire erupted Feb. 24 at her home day care center in Houston. Four children were killed, and three were injured.

Jessica Tata has been charged with manslaughter, injury to a child and child abandonment amid accusations that she left the youngsters alone at her home while she shopped at a nearby store. Authorities say they believe the fire was ignited by a stove top burner that had been left on.

Fire investigators have said they received a tip that Jessica Tata had relatives in Nigeria and might flee.

Family members of the young victims told the Houston Chronicle that they were relieved to hear she had turned herself in.

"I cried, but the tears were of joy," said Keisha Brown, whose 16-month-old son, Elias, died in the fire. "All I wanted was justice and closure."

The U.S. Marshals Service, which was leading the search, had put Tata on its list of the 15 most wanted fugitives and offered a reward of up to $25,000. Interpol, the international police agency, alerted its member countries, including Nigeria.

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