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Men charged with kidnapping of Missouri woman photographed nude in cage

Cassidy Rainwater has been missing since July. The search for her turned when Missouri deputies received a photo of her partially nude apparently locked in a cage
Credit: AP
A home belonging to James Phelps, as it appeared from the road, near Windyville, Mo., on Sunday, October 3, 2021. On Monday a fire destroyed the home. Phelps is charged with kidnapping in the case of Cassidy Rainwater, who has been missing since late August. (Laura Bauer/The Kansas City Star via AP)

WINDYVILLE, Mo. — 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.

Credit: Dallas County Sheriff's Office

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 Kansas City Star 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.

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