THE LATEST: What we know about the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater and the Dallas County, Mo. investigation
DALLAS COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office is leading a months-long investigation into the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater, an investigation that has taken multiple turns since September.
Investigators say, Cassidy 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 a month later.
The case has led to multiple arrests, court proceedings, and new developments in recent weeks. Two suspects, James Phelps and Timothy Norton have been arrested and charged for the kidnapping of Rainwater. Both appeared in Dallas County court Tuesday.
One night earlier, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office says a home near Lebanon, Missouri, connected to Phelps was burned to the ground. The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating after the fire caused a total loss to the home, while the Springfield Fire Department Bomb Squad responded after the discovery of a tripwire.
These latest developments unfold following an active September in the investigation. Around the middle of the month, investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 from a photo, and officials later discovered seven photos of Rainwater after searching Phelps’ phone. According to detectives, Rainwater had been staying with Phelps while she got on her feet. Phelps told authorities Rainwater had left in the middle of the night at the end of July and he had not seen her since then.
More than two months have passed since the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater, and community members around the Ozarks are searching for answers on her condition and what happened.
Here is the most recent timeline of events in Rainwater’s disappearance and confirmed information in the investigation:
July 25, 2021
This was the last day anyone, family members or else wise, 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, KY3 learned that Timothy Norton was called to the house by James Phelps one day earlier for help in restraining Cassidy Rainwater.
August 25, 2021
A family member contacted the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office saying they had not heard from or seen from Cassidy since an unspecified timeframe. That is when the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office opened the investigation into her disappearance.
September 16, 2021
The FBI contacted Dallas County Sheriff’s department saying they had received an anonymous tip that Cassidy Rainwater was caged up on Phelps’ property.
When police followed up on this tip, they found seven photos on Phelps’ phone that led to his arrest. Phelps was arrested and taken to the Dallas County Jail where he still remains.
September 19, 2021
Police interviewed Timothy Norton. He said he lived in his car because he was an overload trucker. 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.
September 20, 2021
Police brought back Norton to interview him again. Per court records, that is when he admitted to authorities restraining Cassidy Rainwater back in July. One day later, Timothy Norton was booked into the Dallas County Jail without bond.
September 21, 2021
A woman who knows Rainwater and of the suspects speaks 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 that happened so close to my home,”
The woman recalls Rainwater as being friendly.
“She would stop by she would talk to us when we were outside working. I don’t think Cassidy would have ever run off without keeping contact with her family,” she said.
September 23, 2021
Deputies searched around some properties in rural Dallas County, including a home on Moon Valley Road, for evidence in the investigation. After several hours, deputies departed from the scene.
October 1, 2021
Investigators confirm they are waiting for DNA evidence to return in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice says it could be at least 30 days before any results are returned.
October 4, 2021
A home near Lebanon, Missouri, connected to Phelps was burned to the ground. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office says Phelps, 58, had been renting the home.
A Dallas County deputy had alerted a firefighter after discovering a trip wire near the home, and the call went out to bring in the Springfield Bomb Squad. Hours later, the bomb squad detonated the suspicious device.
Rachel Nicholson, who moved to Lebanon recently, says she saw the home go up in flames from a distance.
“All a sudden the house collapsed and the flames got bigger and 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 like going to the other houses.”
The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating after the fire caused a total loss to the home.
October 5, 2021
Phelps and Norton appeared before a Dallas County judge via a webcam, both 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 state asked for 45 days, but the defense objected 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 that he’d file a motion for more time. A judge set a preliminary hearing for Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m.
Meanwhile, investigators returned to the scene of the fire during daylight hours to analyze the area. Authorities are trying to figure out how the fire started and if there could be more tripwires than one spotted near the home Monday.
We 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.”
October 7, 2021
Our team of reporters has been in constant contact with Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice. However, no further details are being released pending forensic results.
In a Facebook post, Sheriff Rice addressed rumors in the investigation into the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. He wrote that he’s upset with social media and bloggers thinking they know what is happening and says “there is a lot of misinformation” circulating in the case.
October 12, 2021
In a Springfield Bomb Squad report, investigators say they found an incendiary device during a fire at the home at the center of the kidnapping case in Dallas County.
The home on Moon Valley Road, located between Lebanon and Buffalo, caught fire on the evening of Oct. 4. In the report, it claims investigators found the explosive device in a mortar tube with a balloon cover, which featured tripwires. The Springfield Bomb Squad removed the device, and no firefighters were injured in battling the fire.
October 15, 2021
Investigators with the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office concluded 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.
No additional charges have yet been filed in the case. Our team of reporters has been in constant contact with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, but no further details are being released pending forensic results.
To report a correction or typo, please email email@example.com
Copyright 2021 KY3. All rights reserved.