TIMELINE: The death and disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater in Dallas County, Mo.
DALLAS COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office led a months-long investigation into the disappearance and death of Cassidy Rainwater, a case that took national spotlight several weeks after she initially went missing.
Investigators say Rainwater, a 33-year old woman with ties to Dallas, Greene and Laclede counties, disappeared on July 25. She wasn’t reported missing to authorities until nearly one month later.
On Nov. 17, the Dallas County prosecutor filed first-degree murder charges against James Phelps and Timothy Norton in Rainwater’s death. Prosecutors previously charged Phelps and Norton with kidnapping over the disappearance of Rainwater in mid-September, following an FBI tip that led to their arrests.
Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice says investigators have not located any evidence leading them to believe there are any other victims or suspects associated with Phelps and Norton at this time.
**DISCLAIMER - Some people may find further details in this story to be disturbing.**
Here is the most recent timeline of events in Rainwater’s death, disappearance and confirmed information in the investigation:
July 25, 2021
This was the last day anyone, including family members, reported seeing Cassidy Rainwater. Per court records, James Phelps told police the last time he saw Cassidy was on this day. He told authorities she left in the middle of the night and never came back.
According to additional court documents released in September, KY3 learned that Timothy Norton was called to the house by James Phelps one day earlier for help in restraining Cassidy Rainwater.
Aug. 25, 2021
A family member contacted the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office saying they had not seen Rainwater or heard from her for an unspecified amount of time. That is when the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office opened the investigation into her disappearance.
Sept. 16, 2021
The FBI contacted Dallas County Sheriff’s Office saying they had received an anonymous tip that Cassidy Rainwater was caged up on a property rented by Phelps.
When police followed up on this tip, they found seven photos on Phelps’ phone that led to his arrest. Phelps was arrested and sent to the Dallas County Jail, where he is currently in custody.
Sept. 19, 2021
Police interviewed Timothy Norton on the disappearance of Rainwater. The address listed for him on online court systems and court documents showed the same address as James Phelps’ home on Moon Valley Road. Police found some inaccuracies in his story.
One day later, police brought back Norton to interview him again. Per court records, that is when he admitted details to authorities about restraining Rainwater back in July. The next day, Timothy Norton was booked into the Dallas County Jail without bond.
Sept. 21, 2021
A woman who knew Rainwater personally and knows of the suspects spoke with KY3 on the condition of anonymity. She said she can’t wrap her head around all of this.
“I’ve been incredibly unsettled since the whole Menagerie started,” she said. “I’m continuing to pray for her family. I can’t fathom what her family is experiencing and I’m heartily sorry that it happened so close to my home.”
The woman recalled Rainwater as being friendly.
“She would stop by, and she would talk to us when we were outside working. I don’t think Cassidy would have ever run off without keeping in contact with her family,” she said.
Sept. 23, 2021
Deputies searched around some properties in rural Dallas County, including the home connected to James Phelps on Moon Valley Road, for evidence in the investigation. After several hours, deputies departed from the scene, but no new findings in the investigation were released.
Oct. 1, 2021
Investigators confirmed they were waiting for DNA evidence to return in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice initially said it could be at least 30 days before any results are returned.
Oct. 4, 2021
The home Phelps rented on Moon Valley Road in Dallas County was burned to the ground in the late-evening hours.
A Dallas County deputy had alerted a firefighter after discovering a trip wire near the home. The Springfield Bomb Squad also received a call to assist at the scene. Several hours later, the bomb squad detonated the suspicious device.
Rachel Nicholson, who moved to Lebanon recently, said she saw the home go up in flames from a distance.
“All a sudden, the house collapsed and the flames got bigger. We could feel the heat,” said Nicholson. “Everything was on fire, and we sat there and watched it collapse. I called 911 because I was worried about it catching the woods on fire and spreading to the other houses.”
The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office launched an investigation after the fire caused a total loss to the home. Nobody was hurt from the blaze, but authorities have not reported any arrests in the fire investigation.
Oct. 5, 2021
Phelps and Norton appeared before a Dallas County judge via a webcam over their kidnapping charges, represented by different public defenders.
During the hearing, prosecutors asked for 45 days until the preliminary hearing due to the number of witnesses needed. The defense opposed this request based on state Supreme Court requirement that allows for only a 30-day period.
Dallas County Prosecutor Jonathan Barker said that if he still isn’t ready to proceed after 30 days, he would file a motion for more time. A judge initially set a preliminary hearing in both for Nov. 5.
Meanwhile, investigators returned to the scene of the fire during daylight hours to analyze the area. Authorities searched the area to figure out how the fire started and if there could be more tripwires than one spotted near the home.
KY3 spoke to a woman who lives near the home. She asked us to conceal her identity for her protection.
“If these people have committed such horrible crimes as they are accused, I hope the legal system prosecutes them to the fullest extent,” said the woman. “I am very upset by it.”
Oct. 7, 2021
Our team of reporters stayed in constant contact with Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice for updates in the disappearance of Rainwater.
In a Facebook post, Sheriff Rice addressed rumors in the investigation into the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. He wrote that he was upset with social media and bloggers thinking they knew what happened. He noted “there is a lot of misinformation” circulating in the case.
Oct. 12, 2021
In a Springfield Bomb Squad report, investigators said they found an incendiary device during a fire at the home connected to James Phelps.
The home caught fire during the evening hours of Oct. 4. In the report, investigators claimed they found the explosive device in a mortar tube with a balloon cover, which featured tripwires. The Springfield Bomb Squad removed the device without any injuries to those handling the device.
Oct. 15, 2021
Investigators with the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office concluded that an Oct. 4 house fire at the center of a kidnapping case in Dallas County was a result of arson.
Investigators ruled the fire as “undetermined” and “criminal.” James Phelps, one of two kidnapping suspects charged in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater, had previously rented the home.
Oct. 29, 2021
Attorneys filed a motion to request a change in the criminal case of James Phelps, one of two men accused in the kidnapping of Cassidy Rainwater. A judge approved the request one day later, per court records. The following week, Polk County Judge John C. Porter took on the case.
Prior to the request, a preliminary hearing in Phelps’ case was scheduled for Nov. 5. Dallas County Judge Lisa Henderson was initially expected to hear the cases of Phelps and co-defendant Timothy Norton.
According to court records, attorneys for Norton filed a motion to address his bond and possibly seek a release from jail, though the motion was not approved.
More than a month after their arrests, no additional charges had been filed against Phelps and Norton.
Nov. 17, 2021
Nearly four months after Cassidy Rainwater went missing, the Dallas County prosecutor officially upgraded charges against Phelps and Norton. The new charges included first-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse after DNA tests returned to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the death of Rainwater.
According to court documents, investigators recovered more than 200 pieces of evidence at the home and determined that Rainwater’s body had been dismembered. DNA tests returned to Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice confirmed Rainwater’s flesh was found in a freezer. Sheriff Rice said more of her remains were found scattered on a nearby property belonging to her grandfather Bill Rainwater.
Per court documents, investigators say Norton admitted that Phelps asked him to help kill Rainwater while she was staying at Phelps’ home. Investigators say Norton admitted to holding down Rainwater’s legs while Phelps strangled her. Investigators say they dismembered her body in a bathtub.
“What happened with Cassidy is something nobody should ever go through,” said Sheriff Rice in an exclusive interview with KY3 on the following day.
No official motive in Rainwater’s killing has been disclosed. Sheriff Rice said Phelps were classmates in school and friends for several decades.
James Phelps appeared in court on Nov. 19, just two days after his amended charges. During that hearing, Judge John C. Porter ruled against a bond request filed by Phelps’ attorney.
In the weeks that followed, Phelps and co-defendant Timothy Norton pleaded not guilty to new criminal charges. Both remain jailed in Dallas County.
Preliminary hearings for Phelps and Norton, originally set for the first week of February, have been postponed. The next court hearings are currently set for Feb. 8 for Timothy Norton and Feb. 18 for James Phelps.
During these upcoming court proceedings, a range of documents and evidence could be presented to the judges, defense and prosecution before the cases head to trial.
Authorities have not shared many updates since confirming the death of Rainwater on Nov. 17. However, if anyone has new information concerning the case of her death or disappearance, they are encouraged to contact the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office at 417-345-2441.
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