November 17, 2021
First-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse charges now accompany kidnapping charges against James D. "Jim" Phelps and Timothy L. Norton in connection to the disappearance of 33 year-old Cassidy Rainwater-Paul.
Cassidy was last seen at a DFS meeting about six weeks before Cora Terry filed the missing person's report on August 25th. "Reporting party says the last time she saw her was during a DFS visit and Cassidy left with a male by the name of "Jim" -unknown last name- he drives a silver GMC truck and has a cabin somewhere on Moon Valley."
Authorities now say the first time they went to the rural cabin at 386 Moon Valley Road near Windyville was on August 25th and contact with James Phelps was made on that date. "Deputies asked Phelps if he knew Cassidy Rainwater. Phelps advised he did, but he had not spoken to her in a month. Phelps advised Cassidy had made a statement about going to Colorado."
Dallas County Deputy Chris Clarke says he responded to 386 Moon Valley Road on August 25th for "a well-being check on Cassidy, but never located any sign of Cassidy," according to the newly filed court documents.
Deputies returned to Moon Valley Road on September 1st and Phelps told them that he let Cassidy stay in the loft area of the cabin until she could "get back on her feet." Phelps stated Cassidy had been talking about moving to Colorado and he had not seen her since she met a car at the end of his driveway in the middle of the night in late July.
On September 16th, the FBI provided Dallas County detectives with a cyber-tip labeled "Cassidy" and "a series of photographs of a partially clothed female in a cage who we recognized as Cassidy," sheriff Rice says. The other photos depicted Cassidy's body bound to a gantry crane, commonly used for deer processing and her evisceration and dismemberment," according to court documents.
Rice says that when detectives went back to the cabin on Moon Valley Road on September 16th they recognized items in Phelps' backyard that coincided with the photos.
|This satellite image was taken before the fire at the cabin and could show a gantry|
Phelps was placed under arrest and he was transported to the Dallas County jail and the crime scene secured while obtaining a search warrant, according to Rice.
After executing the warrant, Dallas County investigators, Greene County deputies, and the FBI spent seven days collecting over 200 pieces of evidence "including the gantry device, cage, potential blood evidence and items from the freezer that appeared to be human flesh with a date written on them of 7-24,"
Electronic devices were also seized. Those electronic devices say that Phelps and Norton allegedly conspired to murder Cassidy on July 24th.
The remains recovered from the freezer have been positively identified through DNA analysis as belonging to Cassidy. Her skeletal remains were found on adjacent property that has been in the Rainwater family for decades.
Investigators had to stop interviewing Phlps on September 17th when he asked for an attorney.
|Timothy L. Norton (left) and James "Jim" D. Phelps|
On September 20th, Timothy Norton confessed to his part in Cassidy Rainwater-Paul's murder. He told investigators that Phelps asked him to come over while Cassidy was asleep on the living room floor so he would have easy access to attack her.
"Norton said that after entering the house he held Cassidy's legs down while Phelps strangled her and placed a bag over her head." Norton said that after he and Phelps killed Cassidy they took a short break before carrying her body outside.
Norton said that Phelps attached Cassidy's body to the gantry crane and he began dismembering and eviscerating her. Norton told investigators that he helped Phelps carry Cassidy's remains to a bathtub in the cabin.
The cabin where Cassidy was murdered burned to the ground on October 4th, while both men were in jail. Investigators say the area surrounding the cabin had been rigged with tripwires attached to explosive devices and the blaze has been ruled arson.
"We have not located any evidence that would lead us to believe there are any other victims associated with Phelps and Norton at this time," Sheriff Rice said in the post.
Last month Rice said that 99.9 percent of what had been reported about the case was "fake news."
Rice says this is still an ongoing investigation and he urges anyone that may have information concerning the case to call the Dallas County Sheriff's Office at 417-345-2441.
Phelps is scheduled to appear in court this Friday (11-19-21); Norton on the 23rd. No word on if those appearances will still happen or be rescheduled.
Phelps and Norton attended Skyline High School together, according to an online alumni website.
Both men are asking a judge to consider bail in their cases.
"We expected these charges to be filed", said Norton's attorney, Branden Twibell. "Mr. Norton will be entering pleas of not guilty to these allegations. Additionally, our firm will continue to review and investigate any potential evidence we receive from the prosecutor's office."
Twibell says he will ask for a new preliminary hearing date for his client when he appears in court on November 23rd.