2 charged in kidnapping of woman photographed nude in cage

cassidy rainwater.jpg
Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 11:52:30-04

WINDYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Two southern Missouri men have been charged in the kidnapping of a woman who went missing in July, after investigators found photos of her, nearly naked and apparently locked in a cage, on one of their phones.

Fifty-eight-year-old James Phelps and 56-year-old Timothy Norton have been in jail since mid-September on a kidnapping charge in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. Their attorneys didn’t immediately return Associated Press phone messages Tuesday seeking comment.

According to court documents, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office deputies interviewed Phelps after a missing person’s report was filed in August because he was believed to be the last known person to have contact with the 33-year-old Rainwater, the Springfield News-Leader reports.

Phelps told police at the time that Rainwater had been staying in a loft on his property while she “got back on her feet.” But he said she left in the middle of the night, possibly to go to Colorado.

Law enforcement in Dallas County continued to investigate until they were contacted by the FBI office in Kansas City. Their office had anonymously received a photo of a partially nude Rainwater being held in a cage, according to court documents.

The News-Leader reports that investigators returned to Phelps’ home after receiving the photo. This time the sheriff’s office had obtained a search warrant for his phone, where they discovered seven photos of a partially nude Rainwater apparently locked in a cage, the court documents say.

Norton and Phelps were subsequently arrested.

FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton told the AP that the agency has provided the sheriff's department assistance but that she couldn't comment further.

The mystery deepened further Monday when fire crews rushed to battle a blaze at Phelps' home near Windyville, an unincorporated community in Dallas County.

The Springfield bomb squad also was called to the scene to help, city spokeswoman Cora Scott told The Associated Press. She did not explain why, but directed additional questions to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, which didn’t immediately return a phone message.