Trial venue change re­quested for ac­cused in tod­dler’s death

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - DAVE HUGHES

The at­tor­ney for a Lo­gan County man ac­cused of killing his girl­friend’s tod­dler son, then caus­ing an ex­plo­sion to cover up the death claimed his client can­not get a fair trial in Lo­gan County and asked a judge to move the trial to Scott County.

Hugh Laws of Rus­sel­lville filed the change of venue mo­tion in Lo­gan County Cir­cuit Court Thurs­day, ar­gu­ing the ac­tions that led his client, Ricky Carter, 28, to be charged with first-de­gree mur­der and ar­son have been so pub­li­cized in the small county that the cit­i­zens of the county are too prej­u­diced for Carter to re­ceive a fair trial.

Carter’s jury trial ten­ta­tively is set for Nov. 26 in Paris.

“Lo­gan County is a lightly-pop­u­lated county, were prac­ti­cally ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body, to the ex­tent that it would be im­pos­si­ble for the de­fen­dant to re­ceive a fair and im­par­tial trial in Lo­gan County,” Laws wrote.

The case in­volves the death of a 2-year-old boy, which will heighten no­to­ri­ety in the com­mu­nity, Laws wrote in the mo­tion. The boy, Ry­att Reese, also was the rel­a­tive of at­tor­ney Ernie Witt, who is based in Ozark but has an ac­tive prac­tice in Lo­gan County, and who also cur­rently is work­ing for a Lo­gan County elected of­fi­cial, the mo­tion said.

Laws wrote that Carter’s chance for a fair trial in Lo­gan County also was harmed by wide­spread news re­ports

At­tached to the mo­tion were pre­pared state­ments signed by two Lo­gan County res­i­dents not re­lated to Carter, ac­cord­ing to Laws, that said they “do not feel that Ricky Carter can re­ceive a fair trial in Lo­gan County. ...”

and by what he called an er­ro­neous fil­ing by the Lo­gan County Cir­cuit Clerk of a men­tal eval­u­a­tion re­port that in­cluded state­ments by Carter to the ex­am­iner about the case.

At­tached to the mo­tion were pre­pared state­ments signed by two Lo­gan County res­i­dents not re­lated to Carter, ac­cord­ing to Laws, that said they “do not feel that Ricky Carter can re­ceive a fair trial in Lo­gan County. There is suf­fi­cient prej­u­dice ex­ist­ing through­out the county.”

The mo­tion asked that Cir­cuit Judge Jerry Don Ramey move the trial next door to Scott County. Laws wrote that Carter is not known in Scott County, and Ry­att’s fam­ily also is not known in Scott County “and could not sway peo­ple in Scott County.”

Scott, Lo­gan and Yell coun­ties com­prise the 15th Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit.

Court doc­u­ments say Carter was ac­cused of yank­ing the legs from un­der the boy, caus­ing him to fall and hit his head on the floor on Dec. 21, 2017, in a home at 1704 S. Elm St. in Paris that he shared with Ry­att’s mother, Julie Haney. He was watch­ing Ry­att and Haney’s three other chil­dren while Haney worked a night job.

The Arkansas Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner’s of­fice con­cluded Ry­att died from trau­matic head and ab­domen in­juries.

Ry­att lost con­scious­ness and Carter’s at­tempts at car­diopul­monary re­sus­ci­ta­tion — which he did not know how to do prop­erly — were un­suc­cess­ful, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Carter told the ex­am­iner, ac­cord­ing to the men­tal eval­u­a­tion re­port, that once he re­al­ized Ry­att was dead he wanted to kill him­self.

He had no means to do it, then thought of blow­ing up the house. He said he turned on the gas in the house for a time then lit his lighter and caused the ex­plo­sion.

Po­lice went to the house when neigh­bors re­ported the ex­plo­sion and an of­fi­cer and Carter moved the chil­dren out of the burn­ing house.

At first, Carter told po­lice the ex­plo­sion was caused ac­ci­den­tally when he lit a cig­a­rette, re­ports said.

He later ad­mit­ted he caused the ex­plo­sion in an at­tempt to cover up Ry­att’s death, though he con­tin­ued to in­sist the boy’s death was ac­ci­den­tal, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

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