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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 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.

Metro on 11/09/2018

Print Headline: Trial venue change requested for Arkansas man accused of killing toddler, causing explosion

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