Man charged with murder, arson tells investigators he ignited gas explosion to cover up child's death.

Ricky Carter, 27, of Logan County, told Arkansas State Police investigators that a two-year-old boy who was found to be unresponsive following a gas explosion in Paris died hours before the explosion took place and was reported to the Paris Police Department at 4:26 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21, according to a document filed Friday with the 15th Judicial District Circuit Clerk's office in Paris. 

Carter told investigators he ignited the gas explosion in an attempt to cover up the death of Ryatt Reese, according to an affidavit for arrest. Carter told investigators that Reese died between "12:30 a.m. and 12:40 a.m." on Thursday, according to the affidavit. According to the affidavit, an autopsy was performed on Reese's body at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 22 at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory. The doctor performing the autopsy told investigators that the child's death was a "homicide" caused by "traumatic head and abdomen" injuries, according to the affidavit.

Carter was charged Friday with first degree murder and arson and is being held at the Logan County Detention Center in Paris on a $1 million bond, which was set Friday by 15th Judicial District Circuit Judge Jerry Don Ramey.

Carter told investigators "that Ryatt arrived in his room and threw up. Carter said he cleaned Ryatt up and he threw up again. Carter said he cleaned Ryatt up again. Carter said he was sitting on the edge of his bed and Ryatt was in front of him. Carter said he grabbed Ryatt by the ankles and pulled him towards the bed. Carter said Ryatt fell back onto his head and began to shake."

Carter told investigators he attempted CPR on the child "for a long time," according to the affidavit.

"Carter said he did not know what to do," the affidavit states. "Carter said he placed Ryatt on the bed and turned on the gas in the mud room located at the rear of the residence. Carter said he let the gas run for approximately 45 minutes. Carter said he then entered the kitchen and ignited his lighter."

Carter helped a Paris Police officer pull three children from the burning one-story home at 1704 South Elm St. in Paris following the gas explosion, according to an Arkansas State Police news release. A police officer responding to the report of an explosion came to the door and Carter met him with three children, according to the affidavit. The officer asked Carter if there were any more people in the house and Carter told him there was one more in a back bedroom. When the officer entered that bedroom, he saw Ryatt. The officer grabbed the child and exited the home. After noticing the child wasn't breathing, the officer performed CPR on the child, according to the affidavit. The officer then called for an ambulance and the child was transported to Mercy Hospital in Paris and later pronounced dead.

Carter was initially arrested at the scene Thursday morning on unrelated warrants, according to Logan County Sheriff Boyd Hicks, and placed in the Logan County Detention Center in Paris on Thursday, Dec. 21.

 According to the affidavit, Carter first told investigators a different version of that morning's events. Investigators told Carter that the boy's death "was not a result of the explosion, fire or smoke inhalation." They then told Carter to tell them "exactly what happened."

According to the affidavit, Carter "lowered his head and said softly that we would think he is a monster."

The investigation that lead to the charges is being lead by Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division. The investigation is continuing, the ASP news release states.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division was requested to investigate the death of a two-year-old child, after the Paris Police Department responded to a loud noise complaint that was made at 4:26 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 21.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division is conducting the investigation with assistance from the ASP Fire Marshal’s Section, the ASP Crimes Against Children Division (CACD), the Paris Police Department and the Paris Fire Department.

Firemen arrived at the residence at 4:30 a.m. and fought the blaze for about 90 minutes, according to Paris Fire Chief John Wells. No firemen were injured, Wells said.

“There was definitely some type of an explosion,” Wells said. “The front porch had been blown off, walls inside the house were cracked and windows had been blown out. Our thought is a gas explosion. There was an extensive amount of damage to the home.”

Wells also said this is the first fatality he’s encountered as fire chief in 24 years.

A representative of the Red Cross said Thursday the organization is providing assistance to the family.

Carter is scheduled to appear at a plea and arraignment hearing in 15th Judicial District Circuit Court in Paris on Jan. 12.