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story.lead_photo.caption An Arkansas State Police detective and trooper begin investigating the early morning explosion and fire at a home in Paris. The front porch roof collapsed in the explosion. - Photo by Dave Hughes

A man has been sentenced to prison after pleading no contest in the death of a 2-year-old boy and the attempted cover-up of the death by causing an explosion and fire, according to Logan County Circuit Court documents.

Ricky Lee Carter, 28, of Paris pleaded no contest June 11 to first-degree murder and arson in the death of Ryatt Reese and was sentenced June 13 to 30 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction for each offense.

The sentences will run concurrently.

Carter was accused of yanking the legs from under the boy, causing the child to fall and hit his head on the floor Dec. 21, 2017, in a home at 1704 S. Elm St. in Paris, according to court documents. Carter shared the home with Ryatt's mother, Julie Haney, and was watching the boy 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.

According to the mental-evaluation report, Carter told the examiner 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 and then lit his lighter, which caused the explosion.

Police went to the house when neighbors reported the explosion, and an officer and Carter removed the children from the burning house.

Carter told police initially that 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, but he continued to insist the boy's death was accidental, according to reports.

Carter also was charged in May 2018 with first-degree terroristic threatening and second-degree battery after threatening to kill another county jail inmate and causing injury to the jailer who intervened, authorities said.

A probable cause affidavit said Carter was in the jail yard April 21 when Elijah Delisle, 21, began yelling at him. Carter became angry and yelled back at Delisle.

Carter began banging on the yard door and screaming that he was going to kill Delisle, the affidavit said. Detention Deputy Cleveland Stewart stepped in and told both men to stop yelling, but the yelling continued, the affidavit said. Stewart opened the yard door to calm Carter, but Carter tried to push past Stewart, causing two scrapes on Stewart's left arm, according to the affidavit.

The charges were nolle prossed because of the plea agreement.

State Desk on 06/20/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas man sentenced to 30 years in boy's death, home explosion

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