A Dallas County, Missouri, man charged with murdering a woman whose remains were found in a home after she was photographed while partially clothed in a cage has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to reports.
FOX 4 in Kansas City, Missouri reported that James Phelps, 60, entered an Alford plea on Friday, acknowledging there is enough evidence to convict him of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and abandonment of a corpse, without admitting guilt.
Timothy Norton (L), and James Phelps (R). Photo: Dallas County, Missouri, Sheriffs Office (Dallas County, Missouri, Sheriffs Office)
Phelps and Timothy Norton were both accused of killing 33-year-old Cassie Rainwater in September 2021 after DNA analysis of the remains found at Phelps’ home identified the victim.
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Photos provided to investigators by the FBI on Sept. 16 showed Rainwater’s body bound to a gantry crane, which is primarily used for processing deer, as well as her “evisceration and dismemberment,” the Dallas County Sheriff’s department said in a Facebook post at the time.
Some of the victim’s remains were located on an adjacent property, while others were found in a freezer with “7-24” written on them.
Cassidy Rainwater (Dallas County Sheriff’s Department) (Dallas County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Office)
The Sheriff’s Office said digital evidence recovered revealed Phelps and Norton were planning Rainwater’s death.
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Rainwater was first reported missing on Aug. 25, 2021, by a woman who told authorities Rainwater was last seen with Phelps in July.
Phelps told investigators that Rainwater was staying with him until she could get on feet, mentioning she was going to Chicago.
A month before her disappearance, Phelps allegedly told investigators, Rainwater met someone in a vehicle at the end of his driveway and left in the middle of the night.
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Norton told FBI agents he visited Phelps while Rainwater was asleep, then held her legs down while Phelps strangled her and placed a plastic bag over her head, the sheriff said.
Once Rainwater was dead, both men took the body outside, bound her to the gantry crane and dismembered her body, Norton allegedly told investigators.
On Oct. 4, a fire that was ultimately ruled an arson, destroyed Phelps’s home, and officials investigating the fire found two explosive devices made with mortar tubes and balloon covers with tripwires attached near the home.
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Norton faces the same charges as Phelps and is scheduled for a court hearing on Tuesday.