BUFFALO, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the death of a woman who authorities said was kept in a cage and dismembered.
James Phelps, 60, entered an Alford plea Friday to first-degree murder, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse in the death of 33-year-old Cassie Rainwater, The Springfield News-Leader reported. Under an Alford plea, Phelps does not admit guilt but acknowledges enough evidence exists to convict him.
Phelps and Timothy Norton were charged in September 2021 after DNA tests identified the remains found at Phelps’ home near Lebanon as Rainwater, Dallas County officials said at the time.
Authorities said the men were initially arrested on a kidnapping charge after the FBI received a tip that photos of Rainwater partially nude and in a cage were found on Phelps’ phone.
Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice has said other photos showed Rainwater’s body had been disemboweled and dismembered.
Some of her remains were later found in a freezer, while others were located on a nearby property.
Rainwater was reported missing in August 2021 by a woman who said she was last seen with Phelps.
Phelps twice told investigators that Rainwater was staying with him but she had left for Colorado, according to court records.
Phelps’ house later burned to the ground in what investigators determined was arson.
Norton, who faces the same charges as Phelps, is scheduled for a court hearing on Tuesday.