Photo of partially naked missing woman in cage leads to arrests, Missouri sheriff says

Photos of a woman locked in a cage proved to be a breakthrough in her mysterious Missouri disappearance, officials said.

Now two men have been arrested, but Cassidy Rainwater is still missing.

Rainwater, 33, went missing in late July with her last known “associations” in southwestern Missouri’s Dallas, Laclede and Greene counties, officials said.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office released a photo of Rainwater on Sept. 1, seeking help finding her.

About two weeks later, an anonymous tipster provided the FBI in Kansas City with a photo of a woman in a cage in a “partially naked state,” according to court documents.

She was identified as rainwater.

Before the FBI got hold of the photo, Dallas County investigators discovered that 58-year-old James Phelps was the last person Rainwater had had contact with, according to court documents.

Phelps said Rainwater stayed at his home “until she could get back on her feet” and left about a month earlier in the middle of the night in a vehicle that stopped at the end of the driveway. He said she had discussed going to Colorado, according to court documents.

Phelps showed a sheriff’s deputy around his property and an attic space in his house where he said she was staying. The sheriff’s deputy noted that the loft was “somewhat gutted” with no personal belongings from Rainwater.

Investigators returned to Phelps’ home after receiving the photo, and he again told them Rainwater had left in the middle of the night, according to court documents. This time, the sheriff’s office had received a search warrant for his phone and discovered seven photos of Rainwater locked in a cage at his home while he was partially naked, court documents say.

He was taken into custody.

The sheriff’s office also turned its investigation into another man: Timothy Norton. Just days after the FBI received the photo, Norton told investigators he had helped Phelps “confine” Rainwater a day before she disappeared in late July, according to court documents. Norton said he knew rainwater was in a cage, court documents say.

Norton then admitted that after arriving at Phelps’ home, he physically detained (Rainwater) by detaining her for a considerable time for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a crime or inflicting bodily harm or (her) terrorize,” a sheriff’s lieutenant wrote in an affidavit.

The affidavit did not state the type of crime or injury inflicted on Rainwater.

Phelps and Norton are suspected of kidnapping. They are also charged with facilitating a crime, inflicting injury and terrorizing, according to court records.

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