Courtesy photo Robin Morehouse
“Little Ricky” Morehouse III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
2 YOA (25 months old)
165 Cherry Street
March 3, 2001
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing
Two-year-old 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.
Union County in Iowa
- Kent in Union County
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.
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.
Mother Fails Polygraph
Once he arrived at the hospital, Rick was told his son Ricky was dead. Rachel told both Rick and investigators the same story.
Courtesy photo Robin Morehouse
Ricky Morehouse (right) with his twin brother, Reggy
The power had failed, Rachel told authorities, 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 sat parked in the driveway.
It was 10 p.m.
The outside temperature already had dropped below freezing to 30 degrees.
There’d been no precipitation that day, and the maximum wind speed had reached only 9 miles per hour.
Rachel told investigators that while working on her car outside, 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 said she couldn’t find him.
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. Both women reported they found Rachel “standing in the yard with Reggy” when they arrived.
Courtesy photo Jeff Young, Creston News Advertiser
The home at 155 Cherry St. in Kent, Iowa, where 2-year-old Ricky Morehouse burned to death in the upstairs bathroom.
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. Shawler had then gone into the home with a pre-connected fire hose and air pack to search for the missing 2-year-old.
As the fire spread outward from the bathroom, 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 blown fuses or any kind of faulty wiring.
State Fire Marshal investigator David Linkletter ruled the fire as arson, and told Rick and Robin Morehouse that an accelerant had been used to ignite the fire.
That wasn’t all, he told the couple.
Rachel (Page) Luft today (Courtesy Facebook)
The fire had been set in the home’s upstairs bathroom, and state investigators believed the accelerant had been poured onto both Little Ricky and the bathroom floor before being ignited and Ricky set afire.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office had other egregious news.
The home’s bathroom door had been shut where the toddler could not escape, resulting in a fire burning so fast and hot that the fiery bathroom floor gave way and fell into the dining room below, where firefighters eventually found Little Ricky’s charred remains.
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 Rick & Robin Morehouse
Ricky Neal Morehouse III
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 often happens in arson cases; the child had been burned alive.
Rachel Page — the niece of a county attorney in a neighboring county — also had telltale signs of having been present when the fire first ignited; her fingertips were burned, her hair singed.
Little Ricky’s surviving twin, Reggy, suffered no injuries, and authorities believe he was taken outside the home before the fire was set. Neither Reggy’s clothing nor any part of his body had any detectable smell or traces of smoke.
Officials asked Rachel to take a lie detector (polygraph) test, which she submitted to and failed.
Union County Sheriff Rick Peil told Rick and Robin Morehouse the Union County Attorney has not yet charged anyone in the arson/murder because he feels there is insufficient evidence to ensure a conviction.
About Ricky Morehouse
Courtesy photo Brad Albee, findagrave.com
Ricky Morehouse III is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Prescott, Adams County, Iowa.
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. The couple 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 Morehouse, Little Ricky’s survivors included 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 about Ricky Morehouse III’s unsolved murder, please contact Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mike Motsinger at (515) 725-6010 or contact State Fire Marshal Division Investigator David Linkletter at (515) 689-1463 or Investigator Mike Lillebo at (515) 250-5458.
- Union County Sheriff’s Office
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
- Iowa State Fire Marshal Division
- “The horrific death of 2 year old Ricky Morehouse,” Reddit.com
- 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
- Ricky Neal Morehouse, III (1999 – 2001) Find a Grave Memorial
- “Four die in fires in Iowa,” by Tom Alex, The Des Moines Register, March 5, 2001
- “Toddler dies in Kent house fire,” The Creston News Advertiser, March 5, 2001
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