Woman missing for months as cannibalism rumors swirl; image of partially nude caged woman found

National News

LEBANON, Mo. (KRCG/CBS Newspath) — As bizarre rumors of cannibalistic behavior and multiple murder victims flooded social media Saturday, authorities had confirmed little about a missing woman and two suspects now under arrest in South Central Missouri.

Federal authorities ramped up their search for 33-year-old Cassidy Rainwater. Investigators said two men held Rainwater in a cage on Moon Valley Road near Lebanon.

Neighbor Bob Hostetler is thankful his family is safe.

“It’s a horrible deal. All I know is that living this close all of these years, God had a protecting hand for some of us around here,” Hostetler said.

Hostetler lives about a mile away from the possible crime scene and knows members of the Rainwater family. Federal investigators said no one has seen Cassidy Rainwater since July.

Someone reported her missing on Aug. 25.

Two weeks ago, FBI investigators from Kansas City got an anonymous tip that someone was holding Rainwater in a cage on some property near Lebanon. Authorities arrested Timothy Norton and James Phelps.

CBS Newspath image from KRCG

Prosecutors charged the two men with felony kidnapping. Court documents said investigators found photos on Phelps’ cellphone showing a woman partially nude and in a cage.

Investigators said Norton admitted he helped Phelps to restrain Rainwater.

Beyond the photos, investigators had not disclosed what they found on the Phelps property. Hostetler briefly spoke with Phelps just one time during the past year as his neighbor and heard the rumors of cannibalism.

“He’s arrested and so is everybody potentially involved. Hopefully, it will all get cleaned up. It’s a bad thing. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine,” Hostetler said.

Norton and Phelps are in the Dallas County Jail without bond. The two men have criminal setting hearings scheduled for Tuesday.

Cassidy Rainwater is still missing. Anyone who knows where she is should contact their local law enforcement agency.

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