Woman in American Indian tribe attack was evicted over missing funds, lawyer says

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The lawyer for a tiny American Indian tribe in northeastern California said Monday the woman accused of leaving four dead and two wounded in a gun and knife attack last week at a meeting at its headquarters had been evicted from tribal housing because she was under investigation concerning missing tribal funds.

Cedarville Rancheria attorney Jack Duran also said Cherie Lash Rhoades was ousted as tribal chairwoman just three weeks earlier, and Thursday's meeting was aimed considering her eviction appeal. Rhoades' son, Jack Stockton, also was ousted as vice chairman, Duran told The Associated Press.

Rhoades was arrested Thursday on suspicion of killing four people and wounding two others at the meeting in Alturas, Calif.

Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk said Rhoades tentatively is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Modoc County Superior Court in Alturas. Funk said it wasn't immediately clear if Rhoades had been appointed an attorney yet.

The Cedarville Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe with 35 registered members. The Rancheria owns 26 acres in Cedarville, where most members reside in nine small, one-story houses on lots on the outskirts of town. The tribal houses are clustered around a small playground.

Killed in the shooting were Rhoades' brother Rurik Davis, 50; Rhoades' niece, Angel Penn, 19; her nephew, Glenn Calonicco, 30; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47.

Rurik Davis had apparently taken over as tribal chairman.

Alturas Police Chief Ken Barnes said Friday that authorities have been checking whether the embezzlement allegations spurred the tribe's efforts to evict Rhoades, but had not established any definitive motive.

Eviction from tribal housing is among the most serious punishments for American Indians. Though police have said they are still working on a motive, a nephew who lived with Rhoades, Jacob Penn, said she snapped under the pressure of her brother trying to evict her.

Barnes said that as the shooting erupted, young children were inside the building and on the property, and a judge from another tribe was listening to the eviction proceedings over the phone.

After running out of bullets, Rhoades grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed a woman, police said. She chased one of Davis' daughters out of the building and into the parking lot while brandishing the knife.

On Monday, Duran said Angel Penn, one of the dead, was holding her newborn infant on her lap when she was shot, but the baby was unhurt and will be placed with a sister.

Both of Davis' daughters were wounded. Officials said that one was alert and talking, while the other remained in critical condition Friday.

The tribe's headquarters — a ranch-style building with a pitched brown metal roof — is in a residential area about a block from the police station. The area was cordoned off with yellow police tape Friday.

In addition to a kitchen knife, investigators found two semi-automatic pistols at the scene.

Alturas, the seat of Modoc County, is about 55 miles south of the Oregon border and 35 miles west of the Nevada line. The motto of the community of 2,800 people — "Where the West Still Lives" — reflects the area's wilderness and natural beauty.