DES MOINES, Iowa — On March 3, 2001, Ricky Morehouse III and his twin, Reggy, 2, visited their mother, Rachel Page Luft, for the weekend at her Kent home. The boys’ father, Rick Morehouse, Jr., had custody of the twins, and they resided with him and Morehouse’s wife, Robin Morehouse, two hours away in Harlan.
Despite being on the Department of Human Services Child Abuse Registry, Luft was allowed unsupervised visits with the twins.
On the night of March 3, 2001, a fire broke out in the bathroom on Luft’s home’s second level. Luft managed to get Reggy to safety, but Ricky was trapped inside. Firefighters found his tiny body after they had fully extinguished the fire.
State Fire Marshal, David Linkletter, ruled the fire arson. It was not due to faulty wiring or blown fuses. As the investigation continued, a startling picture of what happened appeared.
Jody Ewing of IowaColdCases.org writes, “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.”
Ricky had been burned alive. He did not die of smoke inhalation. His twin, Reggy, suffered no injuries, and investigators theorized that someone had taken him outside before the fire started. His clothing and body had no detectable smells or traces of smoke.
Luft claimed the power to her house went out twice before the fire. After the first time, she fixed the fuses and restored the power. But after the 2nd outage at around 10 p.m., she decided to clean her car in the driveway instead of resolving the power again.
The temperature outside was slightly below freezing. None of Luft’s neighbors reported power outages.
While cleaning her car, Luft said flames shot out of the upstairs bathroom window. She ran into the home, found Reggy at the top of the L-shaped stairway, and carried him out. She returned for Ricky but could not locate him. A neighbor called 911.
Later, officials asked Luft to take a lie detector test after discovering she had burned fingertips and slightly singed hair. She agreed, took the polygraph, and failed.
Even though Luft had visible signs of being the firestarter, was the only adult home during the fire, and failed a polygraph, police never charged her with the crime. In fact, police have not arrested anyone connected to the arson fire. The reason? The same old one – not enough evidence.
In 2018, police ruled Ricky’s death a homicide after previously ruling it accidental.
To read the full story, please visit Iowa Cold Cases.