A southwest Missouri case that already was drawing wide attention with reports that a woman had been kept in a cage at an Ozarks home took another twist Monday night when the home burned to the ground.
The home belonged to James Phelps, 58, who sits in the Dallas County Jail without bond. He is charged with Class B Felony kidnapping.
Phelps and Timothy Norton, 56, are expected in court Tuesday in the case of Cassidy Rainwater, a woman reported missing in late August. They also face charges of facilitating a felony, inflicting injury and terrorizing, according to court records.
For more than two weeks, authorities have been picking apart Phelps’ life and collecting evidence at his home along Moon Valley Road near the community of Windyville. It’s there in Phelps’ dilapidated home where investigators believe he kept Rainwater, 33, in a cage.
Photos of a caged Rainwater, who was partially nude, were initially sent to the Kansas City office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Similar photos were later found on Phelps’ cell phone, according to court records.
Authorities haven’t said anything about Rainwater. Officially, she is still reported as missing.
On Monday night and into Tuesday morning, fire crews were back at his home, where Norton was known to park his semi and sleep in it. According to published reports, authorities found a makeshift trip wire on the property and called in the Springfield Fire Department’s Bomb Squad.
Authorities have remained tight-lipped about the investigation since it began in mid-September and continued to say little after the fire.
“Anyone involved in the incident is not making a statement or releasing any information at this time,” a dispatcher with Dallas County 911 told The Star Monday night as crews were at the scene.
Scanner traffic captured by Broadcastify.com provides some details about what fire crews found at Phelps’ home.
Around 8:40 p.m., a voice came over the dispatch audio for the Polk, Hickory and Dallas counties public safety channel.
“Would you respond to Windyville for a structure fire? Moon Valley Road, requesting assistance with traffic.”
Then another voice: “386 Moon Valley Road, 386 Moon Valley Road. Request for tanker support. Going to be a fully engulfed structure fire.”
And shortly after 9 p.m.: “Be advised one live incendiary device has been located. The fire marshal has been contacted, will be en route.”
Several hours later, just after 1 a.m.: “Bomb squad on scene.”
The southwest Missouri department had posted information on the Rainwater case two hours before that, around 7 p.m. After giving standard background on the case, the department thanked Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott for his help and the assistance of his crime scene unit as well as the FBI for its work.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for Cassidy’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We ask that you all respect their privacy,” the message said. “To protect our investigative process and increase possibility for successful prosecution, we have no additional comment.”
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said Tuesday morning that the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigative agency on the case.
“As the sheriff mentioned in one of his statements previously, we have provided assistance to them, but it is Dallas County’s matter,” Patton said. “All information, you would have to get from Dallas County.”