Authorities Address Cannibalism Rumors In Case Of Missouri Woman Kept In Cage, Killed & Dismembered

Photo: Dallas County Sheriff's Department
Cassidy Rainwater kidnappers arrested

A missing persons case in southwest Missouri has shaken three counties to their core after the two men involved in Cassidy Rainwater’s kidnapping were arrested in Lebanon.

James Phelps, 58, and Timothy Norton, 56, were arrested and charged with Rainwater's kidnapping in September but the 33-year-old's exact location remained unclear to the public until now.

Authorities have no confirmed that remains found in Phelps's home were those of Rainwater. 

Phelps and Norton have now been charged with first-degree murder.

What happened to Cassidy Rainwater?

Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice said Rainwater was disemboweled and dismembered after she was strangled. Some of her remains were found in a freezer.

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Rainwater was reported missing on August 25th, 2021 by a family member who said that they had not heard from or seen her in a while.

Before the remains were discovered the FBI received an anonymous tip from someone who provided an image of a woman in a cage in a “partially nude state,” according to court documents.

James Phelps was the last person to see Cassidy Rainwater alive. 

Following the report of the missing 33-year-old woman, Dallas County investigators discovered that 58-year-old Phelps was the last person to have had any contact with Rainwater, court documents say.

They questioned Phelps, who said that she had been staying at his home on Moon Valley Road “until she could get back on her feet,” and last saw her on July 25th when she left in the middle of the night in a vehicle that stopped at the end of the driveway.

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He showed a deputy around the property, which included the loft area where she had stayed with him.

The deputy reported that the loft looked “somewhat stripped” and had none of Rainwater’s personal belongings.

Photos of Rainwater in a cage were sent to the FBI. 

When the police received an anonymous tip that included a photo of a woman — who they identified to be of Rainwater — caged up on what we now know was Phelps’ property, law enforcement got a search warrant for his phone.

They discovered seven photos of Rainwater locked in a cage at his home while partially nude, according to court documents.

A few days later, police investigated 56-year-old Timothy Norton, who was believed to be Phelps’ accomplice and had the same registered address Phelps’ home on Moon Valley Road.

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“Norton then admitted that after arriving at Phelps’ home he did physically confine [Rainwater] by holding her down for a substantial period of time for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a felony or inflicting physical injury on or terrorizing [her],” a sheriff’s lieutenant wrote in a probable cause affidavit.

The crime scene was later destroyed.

In the midst of the ongoing investigation into Rainwater's death, Phelps's home was burned down

Authorities say they detonated an explosive device near the area of the fire.

At least two sex offenders are reported to have ties to the property though the names of these people have not been released.

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Rumors about cannibalism have surrounded Cassidy Rainwater's disappearance. 

An amateur blogger focused on crimes in the Southwest Missouri area hinted at several conspiracy theories surrounding the case.

Conspiracies are floating around that both Norton and Phelps were involved in cannibalistic activities as well, and that information has been kept private in case of a potential mistrial or widespread media coverage.

“My source says that law enforcers with the Dallas and Greene County Sheriff's offices have been pulled off the investigation,” they write, “and that at least two officers have been fired for leaking information about the investigation.”

However, Sheriff Rice has sharply criticized these "fake news" theories. 

"99.999999% of what has been posted to social media is CRAP," he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post

"It is not a good idea to listen to 'a crime reporter/blogger' or Tic Tok [sic] videos that is sitting in their apartment or their mommy and daddy’s basement eating Great Value cheese puffs and drinking box wine with grand intentions of being a social media superstar," the post continued.

According to court documents, Phelps and Norton have been charged with murder, kidnapping, facilitating a felony, inflicting injury, and terrorizing.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.