Dallas County sheriff confirms body found on James Phelps’ property as Cassidy Rainwater; murder charges filed
BUFFALO, Mo. (KY3) - The Dallas County sheriff says DNA tests performed on a body found on the property of James Phelps confirm the death of Cassidy Rainwater.
The Dallas County prosecutor on Wednesday filed new first-degree murder charges against James Phelps and Timothy Norton for Rainwater’s death. The prosecutor also charged them with the abandonment of a corpse. They each faced kidnapping charges in Rainwater’s disappearance.
Investigators say Norton admitted 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. Investigators found the remains in a freezer. In total, more than 200 pieces of evidence were recovered at the home.
KY3 News first broke the news of the kidnapping of Rainwater in mid-September. FBI investigators contacted detectives in Dallas County saying they received photos from an anonymous person showing Rainwater in a cage. Investigators say a detective recognized Rainwater in a partially nude state. After searching Phelps’ phone, officials discovered seven photos of Rainwater. According to detectives, Rainwater had been staying with Phelps while she got on her feet. Investigators say Phelps claims she had left in the middle of the night at the end of July and he had not seen her since then. Detectives searched the area for several days.
Sheriff Rice says investigators have not located any evidence leading them to believe there are any other victims associated with Phelps and Norton at this time. Sheriff Rice says this is an ongoing investigation. If there is anyone who believes they may have information concerning this case, they can call investigators at the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office at 417-345-2441.
A judge had scheduled a court appearance for Phelps on November 19.
Sheriff Scott Rice shared this update on Facebook:
On 08/25/2021 We received a missing person report on Cassidy Rainwater. While talking with the reporting party, Cora Terry, it was revealed the last time Cassidy had been seen was approximately six weeks ago prior to the missing person’s report. Terry advised the last person she believed to have seen Cassidy was James Rainwater. We later learned James Rainwater was in fact James Phelps, who lived at 386 Moon Valley Road, Lebanon, Mo.
On the same day as 08/25/2021, after taking the missing person report, Deputies drove to 386 Moon Valley Road to follow up on the missing person report. After arriving at 386 Moon Valley Road, Deputies met James Phelps. Deputies asked Phelps if he knew Cassidy Rainwater. Phelps advised he did but he had not spoken to her in about a month. Phelps advised Cassidy had made a statement about going to Colorado.
On 09/01/2021 a Dallas County Detective drove to 386 Moon Valley Road where he spoke with James Phelps concerning the missing person case of Cassidy Rainwater. Phelps told the Detective that Cassidy had been staying with him until she got back on her feet, and she had been there for a couple of weeks. Phelps repeated to the Detective that Cassidy had been talking about going to Colorado. Phelps stated that about a month prior, Cassidy had met a vehicle at the end of the driveway and left in the middle of the night. Phelps stated he had not seen Cassidy since.
On 09/16/2021 the FBI contacted Dallas County Detectives and provided a series of photographs. The FBI had received the photographs as a cyber-tip that was titled “Cassidy” by the person who sent them. The photos depicted a partially clothed female in a cage who we recognized as Cassidy. The other photos depicted Cassidy’s body bound to a gantry crane, commonly used for deer processing, and her evisceration and dismemberment.
On this same day 09/16/2021, Dallas County Detectives responded to 386 Moon Valley Road. Upon arriving, Detectives recognized items in Phelps back yard that coincided with the photos. Detectives placed Phelps under arrest and had him transported to the Dallas County Jail, while he remained on scene keeping the scene secure until a search warrant was obtained.
The search warrant was obtained through Dallas County Prosecutor Jonathan Barker and signed by the Honorable Judge Lisa Henderson.
The search warrant was executed by Dallas County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of Greene County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and the FBI. For the next seven days, investigators processed the entire crime scene. Collected during this time was physical evidence including the gantry device, cage, and items from the freezer that appeared to be human flesh with a date written on them of 7-24. Skeletal remains believed to be Cassidy were located on the adjacent property. Also recovered from the scene was digital evidence from electronic devices. In total, over 200 pieces of evidence were recovered.
The remains found in the freezer were confirmed by the crime lab to be Cassidy Rainwater. Digital evidence revealed messages between James Phelps and Timothy Norton planning the murder of Cassidy Rainwater.
On 09/17/2021 Dallas County Deputy and an FBI agent interviewed James Phelps. Phelps invoked his right to an attorney.
On 09/20/2021 Timothy Norton was interviewed by FBI agents. Norton confessed to the murder of Cassidy Rainwater. Norton told FBI agents that Phelps had him come over while Cassidy was sleeping on the living room floor, so he had easy access to attack Cassidy. Norton stated, after entering the house, he held Cassidy’s legs down while Phelps strangled her and placed a bag over her head. Norton stated that after Cassidy was deceased, he and Phelps took a short break before carrying her body outside. Norton stated that Phelps bound her to the gantry crane and Phelps began evisceration and dismemberment of Cassidy’s body. Norton stated he helped Phelps carry Cassidy’s body into the house and placed her into the bathtub.
We have not located any evidence that would lead us to believe there are any other victims associated with Phelps and Norton at this time. This is still an ongoing investigation. If there is anyone who believes they may have information concerning this case, they can call investigators at the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office at 417-345-2441.
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