DALLAS COUNTY, Mo. — Cassidy Rainwater, the woman seen in a dark web photo being held in a cage in a partially nude state, was reported missing in August, in September her alleged kidnappers were arrested and charged, and in October the two men appeared in court.
James Phelps and Timothy Norton appeared in court Tuesday, October 5. This was less than 24 hours after the home where Phelps was staying burned to the ground. OzarksFirst is in contact with local authorities daily, but they are not releasing much information.
Fire crews, bomb squad called
The home alleged kidnapper James Phelps was staying at burned to the ground late Monday night, and a bomb squad from Springfield was sent to investigate.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed with OzarksFirst around 10 p.m., the home caught fire Monday. Fire crews from multiple stations were working to put out hotspots. At one point, a Dallas County deputy found something that resembled a tripwire; that’s when the Springfield bomb squad was sent to investigate.
The bomb squad arrived around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and shortly after, they detonated an explosive device near the area of the fire.
Springfield City Officials say they don’t have any further information at this time.
Phelps, Norton appear in court, community reacts
OzarksFirst was in the courtroom Tuesday, and a judge set preliminary hearings for both men at 9:30 a.m. on November 5. Both Phelps and Norton appeared via a video conference call from the Dallas County Jail. The public defenders did not request bond during the hearing.
Members of the surrounding community are still without answers, and some are turning to any source of information they can get.
“I feel like they’re kind of taking the story and running with it and maybe making it hyped up to more than what it really is. But I also feel like if law enforcement and others will give us information, they wouldn’t have to resort to that kind of…filling in,” says local Savannah Williams.
Wiliams lives in Urbana, about half an hour away from the site of Monday night’s fire. She says that she moved to Dallas County to get away from violence in Kansas City,
“Everything was quiet and I thought moving to the country was going to be the best fit, but now….I don’t want to move back to the city but now I feel like I might have made a bad choice,” says Williams.
Williams says that a lack of information coming from investigating authorities is leading an entire community to speculate.
“The little I did watch I didn’t hear anything bad, and then all of a sudden I’m hearing about a guy who’s got women locked up, and possible torture. I don’t understand what makes people get like that,” says Williams.
Background: How we got here and the search for answers
James Phelps and Timothy Norton were arrested in September and charged with the kidnapping of Cassidy Rainwater. Rainwater was last seen in July and was reported missing in late August.
Court documents accuse Phelps and Norton of holding Cassidy Rainwater in a cage on Moon Valley Road near Windyville, Missouri.
According to court documents, on Sept. 16, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by an FBI agent in Kansas City about an anonymous tip. The tipster advised there was a photo showing a missing person, Cassidy Rainwater, being held in a cage in a partially nude state.
On Sept. 1, a detective spoke to Phelps at his home in Lebanon. He said that Cassidy had been staying with him until she could get back on her feet, court records say. He said she had been talking about going to Colorado.
According to court documents, Phelps told the detective that about a month prior, Cassidy left in the middle of the night and met a vehicle at the end of the driveway in the dark and had not been seen or heard from since.
The detective noticed the loft on the property looked like it had been “stripped,” and they did not notice any belongings of Cassidy’s at the loft at that time.
On Sept. 16, investigators received a search warrant for James Phelps’ cell phone, and court records say they found seven photos of Cassidy Rainwater partially nude being held in a cage on his property on Moon Valley Road in Lebanon in Dallas County.
During the investigation, detectives identified Timothy Norton as being connected to the case.
According to court records, Norton was originally interviewed on Sept. 19 and after his interview, officers determined he had provided information that was not accurate.
He told investigators he was an over-the-road trucker and lives in his truck even when he was not actively working, police said.
Norton was interviewed again on Sept. 20 at the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office. During that interview, police said Norton confessed that he knew Cassidy Rainwater was being held at the home of James Phelps in a cage.
Court records say he also told detectives that on July 24, Phelps contacted him to come to his home to help restrain the victim, which he did.
On Monday, October 4th, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Facebook stating that the FBI has recovered several items that will be used to further the investigation.
Very few details on this case have been released by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, including whether Cassidy Rainwater has been found.