Alturas police searched the home of Cherie Lash Rhoades, a former Cedarville Rancheria tribal leader described as the neighborhood bully, yesterday. Carrying pistols and firearms, they entered the home of the woman who is currently in custody on suspicion of opening fire during a tribal meeting in this small town in northeastern California, killing four and critically wounding two. Rhoades has been in jail since Thursday.
Those killed at the headquarters of the Cedarville Rancheria tribe included the brother of Rhoades, Rurik Davis, 50, as well as her niece, Angel Penn, 19, and nephew Glenn Calonicco, 30. The fourth person killed was a 47-year-old tribal administrator named Sheila Russo, who is no relation to Rhoades. Russo was in charge of tribal evictions and leaves behind two teenage children. The two wounded are the daughters of Davis. One of the girls remains in critical condition, but the other is awake and talking.
Tribe members were gathered for a meeting on whether or not to evict Rhoades and her son from the tribe’s land. According to a nephew of Rhoades, Jason Penn, Davis had led the effort to evict her and her son. Among Native Americans, being evicted from tribal housing is one of the most serious penalties that can be imposed.
It has not been determined when exactly the shooting started, but the damage was done quickly. At the time the gunfire started, young children were present on the property and inside the tribal headquarters in Alturas. A judge representing another tribe was listening to the proceedings via telephone. Cherie Lash Rhoades stabbed a woman with a kitchen knife after she ran out of ammunition. Still holding the knife, the neighborhood bully pursued a daughter of Davis into the building’s parking lot. An uninjured woman, who was covered in blood, ran to the City Hall nearby and reported that people had been shot and killed.
When police arrived, Rhoades was holding the knife and running outside of the building. With the assistance of a tribal worker, they were able to tackle her and place her in custody. She has been charged with attempted murder, suspicion of homicide, child endangerment, and brandishing a weapon. Because the husband of Russo is a jail employee, Rhoades was moved to another location as yet undisclosed. While processing the scene, investigators discovered two semi-automatic pistols and a kitchen knife.
An anonymous source told The Associated Press that Rhoades was being investigated by federal officials in connection with the disappearance of no less than $50,000 in federal grant money that was meant for the tribe. Whether the proposed eviction meeting taking place was related to the alleged embezzlement has not been definitely resolved. Standing in front of Rhoades’ home approximately 15 miles from Alturas, Penn said that Rhoades’ brother had driven her too far. Penn himself accompanied Rhoades into Alturas on Thursday. She dropped him off at his cousin’s house before continuing on to the meeting at tribal headquarters, which is located approximately one block from the police station in a residential area.
Members of the tribe described killer Cherie Lash Rhoades as a brash woman with few friends who was known as a neighborhood bully. She was well-known in the small town of Alturas and worked at the tribal convenience store/gas station. She was often seen wearing bright tank tops that revealed her many tattoos. She has not yet appeared in court and there is no word on whether she has retained a lawyer.
By Jennifer Pfalz