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Missouri Men Charged In Strangulation, Dismemberment Killing Of Cassidy Rainwater
Cassidy Rainwater’s remains were positively identified, officials announced this week, after county authorities found “what appeared to be human flesh” in a deep freeze in September.
A pair of Missouri men are charged in the murder of Cassidy Rainwater, who went missing this summer, according to officials, who released gruesome new details involving her death.
James Phelps, 58, and Timothy Norton, 56, have officially been charged with the murder of the 33-year-old who was allegedly strangled and dismembered this summer. They were also charged with abandonment of a corpse.
The murder charges were handed down after Rainwater’s mutilated remains — some which were discovered in a freezer — were positively identified. The two men had previously been charged with first-degree kidnapping.
Rainwater was last seen on July 25, according to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office. Her family reported her missing the following month.
Phelps was the last person to see Rainwater, according to a witness investigators spoke to.
The Missouri man later told county detectives that Rainwater had been staying with him for a couple of weeks until “she got back on her feet.” He added that Rainwater had possibly been planning to head to Colorado. The 58-year-old claimed he last saw her entering a vehicle about a month earlier at the end of his driveway in the middle of the night and hadn’t seen her since.
In September, the FBI — which had been assisting county officials in the course of the investigation — turned over a cyber-tip they’d received entitled “Cassidy.” The tip contained images of a partially nude woman in a cage and, investigators revealed this week, affixed to a type of crane used by hunters to gut wild game.
“The other photos depicted Cassidy’s body bound to a gantry crane, commonly used for deer processing, and her evisceration and dismemberment,” the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Nov. 17.
Investigators later determined the images matched the backyard of Phelps’ property. He was subsequently arrested while a search warrant was executed on his premises on Moon Valley Road. For a week, law enforcement scoured the area.
Rainwater’s skeletal remains were found on a nearby property. Authorities also seized what “appeared to be human flesh” from Phelps’ freezer with a date of July 24 scrawled on it. Forensic analysis confirmed the remains belonged to Rainwater. The gantry device and cage were also recovered as evidence.
Investigators later learned Phelps and Norton had plotted to murder Rainwater, according to additional digital evidence.
In custody, Phelps refused to speak with law enforcement. Norton, however, ultimately confessed to carrying out Rainwater’s slaying during an interview with FBI agents.
Norton told investigators he pinned Rainwater down while she slept on Phelps’ living room floor. Phelps later fatally choked her and put a bag over her face, he said. Rainwater was then allegedly taken outside and bound to the gantry crane.
“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.”
No official motive in Rainwater’s killing has been disclosed.
The arrest of the two men on kidnapping charges in September, followed by the Sheriff's Office's refusal to provide more details on the case (including whether Rainwater had been found) until now "due to the extreme nature of the crime", and a fire at Phelps' property in October that has still not been solved, prompted a flurry of speculation online — prompting pushback from law enforcement, who decried both social media and local reporters.
“While I understand the impatience and curiosity of the people, I’m going to give you a piece of advice,” Scott Rice, the Dallas County Sheriff, said at the time, WDAF-TV reported. “It is not a good idea to listen to ‘a crime reporter/blogger’ or TikTok videos.”
Phelps is scheduled to appear before Judge John C. Porter on Friday. Norton’s next court date is set for Nov. 23, according to additional court filings.
Norton’s lawyer declined to comment in detail about the case, citing its open nature, but was nonetheless adamant his client planned to fight the charges.
“We expected these charges to be filed and Mr. Norton will be entering pleas of ‘not guilty’ to these allegations,” Branden Twibell, an attorney representing Norton, told Oxygen.com Friday afternoon. Additionally, our firm will continue to review and investigate any potential evidence we receive from the prosecutor’s office.
Wayne Mettler, a public defender representing Phelps, didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment regarding the case on Friday afternoon.
Phelps and Norton are being held without bond at a Dallas County jailhouse, according to officials.