Man sets house on fire to cover up toddler’s death after he jerked the boy by his legs, causing traumatic injuries: Police

An Arkansas man is behind bars after police say he intentionally set his home on fire to cover up the death of a toddler boy.

New York Daily News reports that Ricky Carter, 27, is facing charges of first-degree murder and arson in connection with the death of a 2-year-old little boy, Ryatt Reese, who was pronounced dead in a local hospital after a house fire. The incident occurred at home off of the 1700 block of South Elm Street in Paris on Dec. 21. Police contend that the boy was already dead when the fire occurred, and Carter started the fire on purpose.

When authorities arrived to the home a little after 4:30 a.m., they saw Carter carrying three kids outside from the back door. The suspect reportedly told police that the toddler was still inside. Authorities pulled Ryatt out and rushed him to Mercy Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within 23 minutes of arrival, according to 5News.

Logan County Coroner, Blake Schluterman, indicated that when he arrived to the hospital, the toddler was already in “rigor mortis,” meaning his limbs and muscles had already started to stiffen. Rigor mortis sets in around two to six hours after death, meaning the little boy was likely already dead when the fire occurred. Ryatt’s official death was caused from “traumatic head and abdomen injuries.”

When confronted, Carter initially denied harming the boy, but according to the arrest affidavit, he admitted upon further questioning that he yanked Ryatt up by his legs after the toddler threw up. Carter allegedly said the boy hit his head in the process and started shaking, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Carter said Ryatt was injured at around 12:30 a.m. to 12:40 a.m.

Further, investigators said that the fire started in an area where no igniting source existed and that the gas in the home had to be turned on manually. The suspect reportedly admitted that he purposely turned on the gas and started an explosion to cover up the child’s death, 40/29 News reports.

During a probable cause hearing, a judge set Carter’s bail at $1 million. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional information becomes available.

[Feature Photo: Ryatt Reese/Family Handout]