Man gets life sentence for bizarre murder and dismemberment of woman

A man from Dallas County, Missouri, has been subjected to the harshest of legal penalties for taking the life of 33-year-old Cassie Rainwater. On Friday, the 60-year-old James Phelps entered an Alford plea—not admitting guilt but acknowledging the consequence of conviction—for the murder of the woman whose remains were recently identified using DNA analysis.

The trail leading to the tragedy began on August 25, 2021 when Rainwater went missing. A woman had reported that Phelps was the last person seen with the victim in July before her disappearance. After this information was forwarded to the FBI, they arrived with pictures that depicted the body of Rainwater bound to a gantry crane—a piece of machinery typically used to process deer–with signs of dismemberment.

What was even more devastating were the remains found in a freezer that bore the message ‘7-24’ inscribed on them. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office noted that their digital investigations indicated that both Phelps and Timothy Norton had planned for the demise of the woman. Phelps himself conceded that she was lodging in his home until she regained her financial footing, adding that she went away from the house one night in the company of some strangers in a car.

Norton’s own confession of the incident implicated both himself and Phelps. He stated that he had arrived at Phelps’ house while Rainwater was sleeping and had held her down at Phelps’ orders while the aforementioned strangled her to death and put a plastic bag over her head. The duo then proceeded to drag the body outside, tie it to the gantry crane and dismembered it. Norton has since been slapped with a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in April while Phelps has now been given the lifelong punishment of being without the possibility of parole.