Missouri kidnapping case leaves questions

The disappearance, followed by a complex investigation, has led to various rumors spread online.

On Aug. 25, 33-year-old Cassidy Rainwater from Missouri was reported missing by her family. As of right now, no information regarding her current whereabouts or if she is even alive has been released. Two suspects have been apprehended and charged with Rainwater’s kidnapping. However, there have been several turns and speculations in the past month with this case that makes it appear to be much more than a kidnapping.

Around mid-September, an anonymous tip was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation containing photos of a partially nude woman locked in a cage. Upon seeing the photo, a Dallas County detective recognized the caged woman as being Rainwater. Not long after, a search warrant was issued for the phone of James Phelps, one of the two suspects and upon investigation one of the last people to see Rainwater alive. Seven more such pictures of Rainwater were found on Phelps’ device.

Upon questioning in the initial stages of the investigation, Phelps confirmed that Rainwater had stayed with him at his house on Moon Valley Road. However, he claimed that she was only staying there until she could get back on her feet, and he had not seen her since she left his house in the middle of the night on July 25, the last confirmed sighting of Rainwater. The authorities left Phelps’ home after first searching the loft in which Phelps said the missing woman was staying. The loft appeared to be “stripped,” with no sign of any of Rainwater’s belongings.

But Phelps was not the only person listed as living at his Moon Valley Road house. The police followed up with Timothy Norton, the second suspect, who did not corroborate Phelps’ statement. In his first interview, the police found inaccuracies in Norton’s statements, who claimed that he did not live in the house with Phelps, but in his car working as an overload trucker. According to court records, the police followed up with Norton again the following day, when he admitted to assisting Phelps in restraining Rainwater, leading to their arrests. Another search of the house did not turn up any new evidence according to reports.

The investigation has continued, however. Not long after his arrest, Phelps’ rent house in Lebanon was burned to the ground, and investigators have concluded it was the result of arson. A tripwire was discovered by law enforcement, who alerted a local firefighter immediately. The fire was started by the discovered explosive’s controlled detonation by bomb squad professionals and no one was hurt in the process.

A new Lebanon resident, Rachel Nicholson, spoke on the incident: “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.”

According to Dallas County Sheriff Rice, it is upsetting that misinformation surrounding the investigation has been passing around on Facebook and elsewhere. Such conspiracies include claims from an amateur blogger of reliable sources connected to law enforcement that confirm remains were found at the site of the fire that could be Rainwater. Others involve Norton and Phelps being involved in an extensive underground cannibalism ring in Missouri and ate Rainwater, or that police officers are being pulled off the case for leaking information. No reports have been made that corroborate such rumors at this time.

Post Author: Logan Guthrie