Courtesy photo Rick & Robin Morehouse
- Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
165 Cherry Street
March 3, 2001
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing
Ricky Neal “Little Ricky” Morehouse, III, burned to death in the upstairs bathroom of his biological mother’s home in Kent, Iowa, on Saturday night, March 3, 2001.
Ricky and his twin brother, Reggy, who lived in Harlan, Iowa, with their biological father, Rick Morehouse, Jr., had been spending the weekend in Kent with their mother, Rachel Page, when the fire — deemed arson by investigators — was set and Little Ricky was killed.
Reggy did not suffer any injuries in the fire.
For more than a decade, Little Ricky’s unsolved murder has been a source of disbelief and outrage in the two southwest Iowa communities.
Father Had Won Custodial Battle
Rick Morehouse Jr. and Rachel Page split up shortly after the twin boys were born.
Union County in Iowa
Kent in Union County
Rick Morehouse married Robin Hogue on June 11, 1999, and the twins became a central feature in their lives as Rick battled to gain custody of his two young sons. Rachel had difficulty controlling her anger — according to a family member, she is listed on the Department of Human Services’ Child Abuse Registry — and the court awarded legal custody to Rick.
Rachel was granted unsupervised visits with her sons.
In March 2001, the boys were spending the month’s first weekend with their mother at her two-story home at 165 Cherry Street in Kent, approximately 100 miles southeast of their Harlan home. Rick Morehouse worked a late shift on Saturday, March 3, and he’d just arrived home that night when Harlan police officer Kevin Petty knocked on his door and told him there had been a fire at Rachel’s home. One of the twins was dead, Petty told Morehouse, and Rachel was at the Creston Greater Community Hospital.
Rick immediately left for the hospital — close to a two-hour drive — and Robin placed a call to the hospital and spoke with Rachel’s mother, Linda Page. During this phone conversation, Robin learned Little Ricky had died in the fire but that his twin had suffered no injuries at all.
Once he arrived at the hospital, Rick was told his son Ricky was dead. Rachel told both Rick and investigators the same story.
The power had failed, Rachel said, so she’d gone to the basement to fix the fuses and restore the power. She said afterward she’d gone to check on the twins, who were sleeping upstairs. The power then failed a second time, she said, though no neighbors reported any outages.
Rather than try to restore the power again, Rachel said she instead decided to clean out her car, which was parked in the driveway. It was 10 p.m. with an outside temperature of 30 degrees. There was no reported precipitation for the day, and the maximum wind speed for the day had reached only 9 miles per hour.
While working on the car outside, Rachel said she saw flames shooting from the upstairs bathroom window. Though the car was parked in the driveway, she’d not seen anyone enter the home. She rushed in, she told authorities, and found Reggy at the top of the L-shaped stairway. She carried him out of the house, she said, and returned for Ricky but could not find him.
Courtesy photo Robin Morehouse
- Ricky Morehouse (right) with his twin brother, Reggy
Neighbor Sherry Trembly, who called 911, and Rachel’s aunt Linda Roach, who lived nearby, were two of the first to arrive on the scene. The women reported that they found Rachel standing in the yard with Reggy when they arrived.
The Creston and Lenox fire departments responded to the alarm. Creston Assistant Fire Chief Mick Landers told officials that when he and volunteer fireman Eric Shawler arrived, the fire was largely contained to the upstairs bathroom area. Shawler had then gone into the home with a pre-connected fire hose and air pack to search for the missing two-year-old.
As the fire spread, Shawler continued to make repeated trips into the house in search of Little Ricky, with no success. The grisly truth about what happened to the toddler would not be known until firefighters extinguished the blaze.
The fire at 165 Cherry Street had been no accident. It didn’t result from fuses blown or any faulty wiring.
State Fire Marshal investigator David Linkletter ruled the fire as arson, and told Rick Jr. and Robin Morehouse that some type of accelerant was used to ignite the fire.
The fire had begun in the home’s upstairs bathroom. The accelerant, which was believed to have been poured onto Little Ricky as well as onto the bathroom floor, resulted in a fire burning so fast and hot that the fiery bathroom floor gave way and fell into the dining room below, where Little Ricky’s body was later found. The door to the bathroom had been shut where the two-year-old could not escape.
There were no working smoke detectors in the house, though Rachel admitted to investigators she’d just checked on the boys and then gone outside to clean out her car just moments before spotting flames shooting from the upstairs bathroom window.
Courtesy photo Jeff Young, Creston News Advertiser
- The home at 155 Cherry St. in Kent, Ia., where 2-year-old Ricky Morehouse burned to death in the bathroom.
The death certificate for 2-year-old Ricky Neal Morehouse III stated he had burned to death and had not died of “smoke inhalation” as is customary with deaths caused by fires. The child had been burned alive.
His mother, Rachel — the niece of the county attorney in a neighboring county — suffered only burned fingertips and slightly singed hair.
Little Ricky’s surviving twin, Reggy, not only suffered no injuries, but had no detectable smell of smoke on his body or in his clothing.
Officials asked Rachel to take a lie detector (polygraph) test, which she failed.
Union County Sheriff Rick Peil told Rick and Robin Morehouse the Union County Attorney has not yet charged anyone in the arson/homicide because he feels there is insufficient evidence to ensure a conviction.
This quandary is not unique to Union County and it weaves a common thread through many of Iowa’s unsolved homicides; those charged with murder may not be tried again for the same crime once they are acquitted. There are no second chances, and in the interest of justice, prosecutors move forward with charges and then on to trial only when they believe enough evidence exists — beyond a reasonable doubt — to secure a needed conviction.
While the State Fire Marshal’s office may be able to state with certainty the fire was caused by an accelerant used in Rachel Page’s upstairs bathroom, no concrete evidence exists thus far to prove she was the one who poured the accelerant before going outside at 10 p.m. to clean out her vehicle.
About Ricky Morehouse
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III, and his twin brother Reginald “Reggy” Morehouse were born January 23, 1999 at St. Joseph’s Hospital (now Creighton University Medical Center) in Omaha, Nebraska, to Rick Morehouse, Jr., and Rachel Page. They separated shortly after the twins’ birth.
Little Ricky’s funeral was held Saturday, March 10, 2001 at Coen-Beaty-Pearson Chapel in Corning, with burial in the Evergreen Cemetery in Prescott.
In addition to his parents and stepmother, Robin, Little Ricky was survived by his twin brother Reggy; his grandparents, Steve and Linda Page, Ricky Morehouse, Sr. and Debbie Morehouse; and his great-grandparents, Glenn and Anna Ruth Hardest, Neal and Mary Morehouse, Floyd Hinkle, and Bill and Betty Page.
If you have any information regarding the unsolved murder of Ricky Morehouse III, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail email@example.com, or contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 782-7717.
You may also send information to Iowa Cold Cases via our Contact form or our Anonymous Tip Form.
- Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases from Ricky Morehouse, Jr. (victim’s father) and Robin Morehouse (victim’s stepmother)
- Ricky Morehouse Obituary, The Harlan News-Advertiser, March 9, 2005
- Find a Grave Memorial
- “Four die in fires in Iowa,” The Des Moines Register, March 5, 2001
- “Toddler dies in Kent house fire,” The Creston News Advertiser, March 5, 2001
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