Mystery as home where half-naked woman was allegedly caged burns down ahead of trial

Location of missing woman remains unknown

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 06 October 2021 16:50

Home where half-naked woman was allegedly caged burns down ahead of trial

The home in Missouri where a man is accused of holding missing woman Cassidy Rainwater captive in a cage has burned down as he waits for trial in jail.

James Phelps, 58, is charged alongside Timothy Norton, 56, with kidnapping, facilitating a felony, inflicting injury, and terrorizing in the disappearance of the 33-year-old Ms Rainwater.

As of Wednesday morning, Ms Rainwater’s location remains unknown.

Mr Phelps was arrested on 16 September after investigators reportedly found images on his phone depicting a half-naked Ms Rainwater in a cage in his home in Lebanon, Missouri.

Police arrested Mr Norton, a trucker, four days later when they found out that he had reportedly helped restrain Ms Rainwater.

Both men were in jail on Monday when the house where the woman was held captive caught fire and burned down.

The Springfield Fire Department’s bomb squad was sent to the house after what could have been a tripwire was discovered and an explosive device was set off as the fire carried on into Tuesday morning, KOLR 10 reported. The house was eventually burned to a crisp.

How the fire was started is under investigation by the Division of Fire Safety, which has not revealed if the fire was an accident or a case of arson.

When Mr Phelps and Mr Norton appeared before a judge on Tuesday via videoconference, prosecutors asked to be afforded 45 days until the preliminary hearing to have time to gather witnesses.

OzarksFirst reported that a hearing has been scheduled for 5 November.

The remains of James Phelps’ Missouri home was still smouldering on Tuesday

Court documents obtained by WDAF shows that Ms Rainwater was reported missing on 25 August after she had been gone for six weeks. Mr Phelps was the last known person to have seen Ms Rainwater, and he was initially questioned by law enforcement on 1 September. He said the woman had been living with him “until she could get back on her feet” and move to Colorado.

But he also said that Ms Rainwater had left his home a month before – meeting up with a vehicle at the end of his rural driveway and heading off in the middle of the night, adding that she hadn’t been in touch with him since that time.

Detectives noted that the home seemed to have been “stripped” and that no items belonging to Ms Rainwater appeared to be at the home.

Local law enforcement was contacted by the FBI on 16 September after the bureau received an anonymous tip concerning photos of a half-naked Ms Rainwater being held in a cage at the house.

After getting a search warrant for Mr Phelps’ phone, investigators found seven images depicting what the FBI tip had described.

The investigation found that Mr Norton helped Mr Phelps restrain Ms Rainwater on 24 July.

Mr Norton gave police “inaccurate information,” telling authorities that he was living in his semi-truck during his time off.

The following day, Mr Norton reportedly told investigators that he was aware that Ms Rainwater had been held at the home against her will.