PARIS, Ark. — Authorities have charged a western Arkansas man with murder in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, saying he set fire to their home in an attempt to cover up how the toddler really died.
Ricky Lee Carter, 27, is charged with first-degree murder and arson in the death Ryatt Reese. Carter’s bail is set at $1 million in Logan County Circuit Court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . Online court records don’t list an attorney for him.
Paris police officer Thomas Hobbs responded to a call about an explosion at the home on Dec. 21. Carter came through the front door with three of his girlfriend’s four children, according to the affidavit. Hobbs pulled Ryatt from a bed in the house after Carter told him one more child is still inside.
Carter originally told investigators that Ryatt had thrown up twice and that he had let the boy sleep in his bed. He said the explosion happened after he lit a cigarette while watching TV in another room.
The State Police allege in an affidavit that after investigators told Carter his story didn’t fit with their findings and that Ryatt’s death was not caused by fire, smoke inhalation or an explosion, he told them that he had pulled the boy’s feet from under him, causing him to hit his head.
Carter told investigators he tried to resuscitate Ryatt “for a long time,” but then turned on the gas for about 45 minutes and ignited a lighter that caused the explosion.
Ryatt was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The state medical examiner’s office concluded Ryatt died from “traumatic head and abdomen injuries,” according to the affidavit. His funeral is Thursday.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com