Courtesy photo Robin Morehouse
“Little Ricky” Morehouse III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
Ricky Neal Morehouse, III
2 YOA (25 months old)
165 Cherry Street
Case Number: 01-03131
March 3, 2001
May 23, 2018 | by Steve Saunders, Fox42KPTM.com
UNION CO., Iowa (FOX42KPTM) — Rick and Robin Morehouse say even after all these years, the feelings are still raw.
“It just gets easier to deal with, but it never goes away,” said Rick Morehouse.
They are the father and step mother of two adorable and once inseparable twins.
“They were such good boys,” said Robin Morehouse.
Back in March 2001, Rick says he got home from work when the truly unthinkable happened.
“I get a knock on the door from the Harlan police department to tell me what was going on,” said Morehouse.
The officer was there to tell him that one of his twins died in a fire in what used to be known as the town of Kent, Iowa.
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, lived with their biological father, Rick Morehouse Jr., and stepmother, Robin (Hogue) Morehouse, in Harlan, Iowa, where they enjoyed visiting their “Grandpa Keary” Hogue and “Great-Grandpa Larry” Hogue.
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 after first being doused with an accelerant.
The twins were spending the weekend in Kent, about 95 miles southeast of Harlan, with their biological mother, Rachel Page, when the fire — deemed arson by investigators — was intentionally set, resulting in Little Ricky’s death.
Officials ruled Ricky III’s death a homicide.
Reggy did not suffer any injuries in the fire.
For nearly two decades, Little Ricky’s unsolved murder has been a source of disbelief and outrage in the two southwest Iowa communities.
Based on witness statements and evidence gathered the night of Ricky’s murder, why wasn’t something being done? Why were officials holding off on making an arrest?
Father Won Custodial Battle
Rick Morehouse Jr. and Rachel Page never planned to share a future together, yet both wanted to be involved in raising their twin sons.
Rick Jr. married Robin Hogue on June 11, 1999 — the twins then just four months old — and the boys’ general welfare quickly became a major concern; after visits to Rachel’s house, the tots often returned home to Rick and Robin with unexplained injuries.
Map showing the alternative routes from Harlan to Kent, Iowa. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Rachel had difficulty controlling her anger, a close family member told Iowa Cold Cases, and it came as no surprise when Rachel ended up listed on the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Child Abuse Registry — more than once.
Rick and Robin decided Rick needed to sue for custody of the boys, and after a bitter legal battle, the court awarded physical custody to Rick but granted Rachel 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.
Courtesy photo Robin Morehouse
Ricky Morehouse (right) with his twin brother, Reggy
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. There’d been a fire at Rachel’s home, the officer said, and one of the twins was dead. 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.
Rachel Lies, Fails Polygraph
Union County in Iowa
Kent in Union County
In the night’s dark hours, Rick Morehouse’s headlights led him down winding highways toward an uncertain future. Maybe the police report was premature … maybe firefighters or neighbors had safely rescued both his son’s from Rachel’s house. But if one of the boys had in fact died, how badly injured was the other twin? Could he possibly still succumb to smoke inhalation or burn injuries?
At the Creston hospital, Rick learned his son Ricky was dead, but that Reggy sustained no injuries at all and was perfectly fine. A full examination and preliminary reports about the fire indicated Reggy hadn’t even been inside the home when the fire broke out.
Rachel told both Rick and investigators the same illogical story.
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. She rushed in, she told authorities, and said she found Reggy at the top of the L-shaped stairway. She said she carried him out of the house and then returned for Ricky but couldn’t find him.
Though the fire was contained to the upstairs bathroom, Rachel made no calls to 911.
The evening news had just begun when neighbor Sherry Trembly first saw flames shoot out from an upper window in the home next door. Trembly immediately called 911 to report a fire, and then ran outside where she’d be joined by Rachel’s aunt, Linda Roach, who lived nearby.
Trembly and Roach were two of the first to arrive on scene. The Creston and Lenox fire departments responded to the alarm.
Both women reported they found Rachel just “standing in the yard with Reggy” when they arrived. Neither woman saw Rachel make any attempt to return inside the home for Ricky, and, in fact, had not witnessed Rachel exiting the home with Reggy in her arms after the fire started. They’d simply observed Rachel standing outside with Reggy just moments after the fire began.
Though Rachel’s car was parked in the driveway with a clear view to the home’s front door, she’d not seen anyone enter or exit the house.
After investigators discovered evidence on Rachel’s person that appeared to connect her to being present when the fire started, Rachel submitted to a polygraph (a lie detector test), which she failed.
Volunteer Fireman risks own life to find missing child
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 then entered 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. The Iowa Office of the State Fire Marshal said the fire 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.
Courtesy photo Facebook
Rachel (Page) Luft today
That wasn’t all, he told the couple.
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.
Courtesy photo Rick & Robin Morehouse
Ricky Neal Morehouse III
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.
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 firmly believe he’d been taken outside the home prior to the arson fire.
Creston hospital personnel and law enforcement officials based this opinion on, in part, some of the following facts:
- Neither Reggy’s clothing nor any part of his body had any detectable smell or traces of smoke, a common occurrence in structural fires.
- Hospital reports confirmed Reggy did not suffer any type of smoke inhalation; even microscopic particles would be present had Rachel truly “rescued” Reggy from the location where she said she found him standing upstairs after the fire had already begun.
- Eyewitness testimony by neighbors and first responders.
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.
On Feb. 8, 2018, Ricky’s stepmother, Robin Morehouse, posted the following to her Facebook page (printed here with Robin’s permission):
I very rarely post about this, but I’m so disappointed right now! So, here is my little rant. An organization called “The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases” was willing to take on Ricky’s case pro bono if Union County would release the case file they have to them.
Unfortunately for us, Timothy Kenyon, who is the Union County Attorney is not willing to release the file. He is using the excuse that since it was the Union County Sheriff, the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Iowa State Medical Examiner who compiled all the documents in the file he does not have the authority to release it. He also stated any notes he has made himself cannot be release either. He is the county attorney, he should have the power to release the file since it’s his choice whether to prosecute or not.
Since he won’t release the file to let someone else do some work on Ricky’s case, why doesn’t he do his damn job?!?! Everybody knows who caused Ricky’s death, but nobody wants to hold her accountable. I suppose since the same people have been in power in Union County since before he died nothing will ever get done. Apparently those people do not believe Ricky deserves justice and that just breaks my heart.
~ Robin Morehouse, Feb. 8, 2018
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, the sons of Rick Morehouse Jr. and Rachel Page.
Rick Morehouse Jr. married Robin Marie Hogue in June 1999, and the court awarded custody of the twins to Rick and Robin after a bitter custody battle with Rachel Page.
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 grandfather Keary Hogue; his great-grandparents, Glenn and Anna Ruth Hardest, Neal and Mary Morehouse, Floyd Hinkle, Bill and Betty Page, and Larry Hogue. Other survivors included numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.
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
- “Homicide charge sparks renewed interest in Iowa cold case,” by Todd Magel, KCCI.com, July 18, 2018
- “Family of boy killed in 2001 fire says officials are not doing enough to solve arson case,” by Steve Saunders, FOX42KPTM.com, Wednesday, May 23, 2018
- Facebook Post by Robin Morehouse, Feb. 8, 2018
- “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), ongoing
- 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
Copyright © 2018 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.