Ricky Carter, 27, of Paris, entered a plea of not guilty to murder and arson through his court-appointed attorney last Friday during a court appearance in Paris.
Carter has been charged with first-degree murder in connection to the Thursday, Dec. 21 death of two-year-old Ryatt Reese and is charged with arson for igniting a gas fire at a Paris residence in an attempt to cover up the death, according to the affidavit of arrest written by Arkansas State Police.
Carter is being held at the Logan County Detention Center in Paris on a $1 million bond. Carter appeared before 15th Judicial District Circuit Judge Jerry Don Ramey wearing a jail-issued black and white jump suit and wearing leg and arm shackles. Ramey appointed Joe Don Winningham as Carter’s attorney. Winningham told Ramey that Carter waived the reading of the formal felony information and entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client.
Ramey accepted the plea and set a March 9 court date for a pre-trial hearing and a jury trial date of March 26. It is highly unlikely that those dates hold up. Barring some kind of quick plea arrangement with prosecutors, Carter’s case will likely take up to a year or longer to work its way through the court.
Carter was ushered out of the Logan County Courthouse in Paris immediately after his hearing concluded and transported back to jail.
Carter told Arkansas State Police investigators that Reese, who was found to be unresponsive following the gas explosion, 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 affidavit of arrest. Carter told investigators that Reese died between 12:30 a.m. and 12:40 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21, according to the affidavit. According to the affidavit, an autopsy was performed on Reese’s body 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 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 Department 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 on Thursday morning, Dec. 21 on unrelated warrants, according to Logan County Sheriff Boyd Hicks, and placed in the Logan County Detention Center in Paris.
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.