1. Cassidy Rainwater death

The latest court documents made public in Cassidy Rainwater’s disappearance and death claim her alleged killers, James Phelps and Timothy Norton, had planned her murder for the night of July 24, 2021.  

A month later on August 25, Dallas County deputies officially began their search after a relative reports Cassidy missing. 

The same day, a deputy goes to the home on Moon Valley Road where Rainwater was staying, but reports he sees no sign of Cassidy at the cabin.  

A week later on September 1, deputies go to the cabin again a second time to investigate Rainwater’s disappearance. This time, deputies say Phelps admits Cassidy had been living there but claims she left suddenly in late July.  

Two weeks would pass until a new break in the case. On September 16, the FBI receives a cyber tip containing photos of Cassidy. The FBI reports the photos depicted Cassidy being held in a cage alive, as well as after her body was mutilated. 

In the days following, James Phelps and Timothy Norton would be arrested and charged with felony kidnapping. 

2. COVID-19 2021

(Credit: Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a part of our lives since the beginning of 2020. The virus was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and on January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding COVID-19.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, the way society operates has changed dramatically. Not just in the United States but around the world.

In the summer of 2021, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department stated the Delta variant was making Springfield a national hotspot.

“For more than a year, many people have chosen to not take this disease seriously simply because they believed that those who were suffering the most were older or already suffering from other illnesses and underlying health conditions. The Delta variant is proving these assumptions wrong. It is a threat to people of all ages. We have heard from our hospital partners that more and more younger people are being hospitalized and put on ventilators.”

Health Director Katie Towns

The Health Department gave two ways to fight the deadly virus.

  1. Vaccine
  2. Natural immunity

The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first discovered in India and is one of the three related variants. This variant has become infamous for its ability to outpace and replicate quicker than the other variants.

Alpha has also been confirmed by the Health Department and this variant was discovered in the United Kingdom and quickly emerged in numerous countries around the world.

Health experts encouraged everyone eligible to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, American citizens can now choose between three COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Moderna
  • Pfizer
  • Janssen

Local hospitals soon presented a COVID-19 vaccine deadline to employees. Mercy hospital in Springfield released a statement in July requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

As the year 2021 comes to an end, another variant is making its way through the country–Omicron.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department reported its first case of the omicron variant on December 29, 2021.

3. Silver Dollar City Fire

In November Silver Dollar City had a fire that damaged three buildings.

Silver Dollar City shared an update on Facebook saying the fire spread from Heartland Home Furnishings, a woodcarving shop, to Flossie’s Fried Fancies, a pork rind business, in the lower western portion of the park. The fire was discovered before the park opened for the day.

4. 11-year-old gets trapped under The Branson Coaster

Aalondo and his mother Vonda at Mercy Hospital

An 11-year-old boy was severely injured on a Branson rollercoaster in June.

According to a post from the Branson Professional Firefighters Local 152, emergency crews went to the scene in the 2100 block of West 76 Country Boulevard to rescue the boy.

Shelandra Ford says her grandson thought the ride had ended when it stopped on the tracks. So, he stood up, and the ride started back up knocking him down. Aalondo then became trapped under the coaster.

According to Shelandra Ford, her grandson is totally blind in his right eye and is 15% blind in his left eye. Aalondo had these vision impairments before the accident.

Officials say it took around one hour and 45 minutes to rescue Aalondo, and he was immediately taken by helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Springfield.

5. Bodies of missing father and sons found

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement found the bodies of the father and two sons who went missing on Thursday, Feb. 25. The bodies of Darrell Peak, Kaiden Peak, and Mayson Peak were found in Warsaw on Monday, March 1, 2021.

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6. Double homicide at Famous Dave’s

Branson Police announced charges in the double homicide that happened in May 2021.

Officers say the suspect is also tied to armed robberies that happened over Memorial Day weekend.

Miguel Melendez-Torres

Miguel Melendez-Torres, 34, has been charged with two counts of murder in the second degree in the deaths of Krystle Buhl and Richard McMahan. Charges of first-degree armed robbery and armed criminal action are also linked to the May 29 double homicide behind Famous Dave’s. He is also charged with robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action for the robbery in downtown Branson.

The victims, Krystle Buhl and Richard McMahan were both servers at Famous Dave’s Restaurant on 76 Country Boulevard. They were shot and killed on May 29, 2021.

A news release from the Branson Police Department says investigators have spent countless hours working on the case. In August, the department released video of a suspect near the scene. Since then, the department says, investigators have been able to develop more leads.

7. Springfield man charged with assault after stabbing female Mercy employee

Springfield Police announced that a 32-year-old Springfield man has been charged with first-degree domestic assault in connection with a stabbing at a Mercy medical facility.

Charles Turner is accused of stabbing a woman at the Mercy Surgery Center at National and Seminole, where she worked. Police Lt. Steve Schwind said the incident stemmed from a domestic situation.

Charles Turner

8. Kimberling City police chief and several officers submit resignations

Kimberling City Police resign

The Kimberling City police chief and several officers submitted their resignations from the police department in September.

In October, Assistant Police Chief Eric Schmitt pleaded with city leaders for pay increases to retain enough staff to protect the community.

Mayor Bob Fritz says he was shocked and disappointed when he first received a resignation letter from his former police chief, Craig Alexander.

In November, after an extensive search to find the next Kimberling City Police Chief, the city made a decision.

City leaders chose Todd Lemoine to fill the position.

“Wind up with twenty-six years in the Marine Corps, retired as Sgt. Major, retired from law enforcement as a captain and later progressed to the federal government side,” said Chief Lemoine. “Anti-terrorism, force protection, physical security, emergency management, law enforcement, active shooter, disease containment, and a couple of other items that are there fall under protection.”

Chief Lemoine explained that he was already in the process of moving to Kimberling City with his family from Louisiana when he saw this exciting opportunity. Lemoine has family from Springfield and has frequently visited the Ozarks over the last sixteen years.

9. Park Ranger shot in officer involved shooting and MSHP trooper shot in the eye

The Springfield-Greene County Park Board identified a park ranger who was shot and injured in November.

According to the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, Ranger Robert Bridges was providing backup to the Springfield Police Department when he was hit by several shots fired by a suspect.

Bridges was taken to a Springfield hospital in serious condition.

Bridges was escorted to his home from the hospital on November 16.

The procession was escorted by Springfield-Greene County Park Rangers, Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, and Missouri Highway Patrol Troop D along with several other agencies.


A Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper was shot in December. The trooper suffered injuries to his right eye.

MSHP Sergeant Mike McClure says the Trooper initiated a short pursuit with the suspect. The pursuit ended at the end of Armory Court in Springfield, just north of Lake Springfield, near the Springfield Nature Center.

McClure says the suspect drove down an embankment, got out of his vehicle, and produced a weapon. There was an exchange of gunfire, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper was hit. The suspect is still at large. The Greene County Sheriff’s Office and Springfield Police are helping with the search.

The Trooper was taken to the emergency room by another officer. 

Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop D stated Justin Michael Jackman became a person of interest in the shooting and was taken into custody.

Justin Michael Jackman

10. Dozens of young girls removed from “Circle of Hope Girls Ranch” amid allegations of abuse

Two women who were once residents at Circle of Hope filed petitions against the faith-based reformatory school for young women.

The two women remained anonymous in the case but listed numerous allegations that detailed physical, mental and sexual abuse by  Boyd and Stephanie Householder. The two women also stated the Householder’s son abused them.

Boyd Householder was charged with:

  • Six counts of second-degree statutory rape
  • Seven counts of second-degree statutory sodomy
  • Six counts sexual contact with a student
  • One count of second-degree child molestation
  • 56 counts of abuse and neglect of a child
  • Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child

Stephanie Householder has been charged with:

  • Ten counts of abuse and neglect of a child
  • 12 counts of endangering the welfare of a child

In July, the couple was released from jail after reporting health issues. A southwest Missouri judge on Friday released Boyd and Stephanie Householder from jail and placed them on home confinement while awaiting their trial. Their attorney said in a court filing that Boyd Householder has contracted COVID-19, and his wife has a serious blood clot condition.

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Missouri attorney general details charges of Circle of Hope owners

Daughter of Circle of Hope owners speaks out after parents’ arrest

Missouri attorney general will announce update to Circle of Hope case

Attorney for Circle of Hope victims “happy to see” AG on case

Two women file legal petitions against Circle of Hope detailing what happened during their stay

Dozens of young girls removed from “Circle of Hope Girls Ranch” amid allegations of abuse

Couple accused of reform school abuses released from jail