Human Remains Found in Missouri Fire Debris

Aug. 31, 2013
Firefighters in Maitland have found human remains in the debris of a three-story converted tavern. They believe the owner may have set the fire.

Aug. 30--The search for the missing owner of the incinerated Maitland Opera House took a new twist Friday after lab results concluded the evidence collected in the structure's ruins was of human origin.

Holt County Sheriff Scott Wedlock confirmed that the evidence discovered Tuesday matches those of human remains. Evidence left at the scene suggested that it may be tied to the missing property owner, Kenneth Rainwater.

"Right now we can say that (Mr. Rainwater) is either a fugitive or he is deceased, because those are the two options we have," the sheriff said.

Authorities spent several days extinguishing the fire at the former three-story brick converted tavern. A large pile of rubble remained smoldering as officials continued the search for Mr. Rainwater, who may have set the property on fire to avoid child pornography charges filed against him in May.

Two notes were discovered in Mr. Rainwater's vehicle when fire crews responded to the blaze last Saturday. One note detailed his "military explosive experience" and the second note stated his intent to leave the country because "he couldn't get a fair trial," according to court entries by Holt County Prosecutor Robert Shepherd.

Mr. Rainwater was charged in May with three counts of possession of child pornography that he allegedly had inside his residence at the opera house.

Five days before the fire, Mr. Rainwater's bond was reduced from $250,000 to $50,000 surety bond. He posted bond with acknowledgement of his next court appearance on Aug. 28. He failed to appear.

"I haven't heard a thing from him," said James Carlson, Mr. Rainwater's bail bondsman with Carol Sharp Bonding. "It was a surprise to me. I contacted him a few days before and he seemed really positive. He said he was going to sell the building and hire a lawyer, because, he said, 'I've got to beat this thing. I'm not guilty.'"

A warrant for Mr. Rainwater's arrest was re-issued Wednesday. Mr. Carlson feared that his client may have taken his own life.

"I just never thought he'd do anything like this," he said.

The cause and manner of death was not available, pending DNA results. The Missouri State Fire Marshal Office's report stated that the cause of the fire is undetermined, due to the destruction of the building.

DNA results may take between four and six weeks, Mr. Wedlock estimated. The investigation remains ongoing.

A new pre-trial conference for Mr. Rainwater was scheduled for Oct. 9.

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.

Copyright 2013 - St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

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