Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

February 23, 2014

AP source: Tribal killing suspect target of probe

ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) — The woman who police say killed three family members and a worker at the headquarters building for an Indian tribe that was evicting her and her son from its land was the target of a federal investigation into at least $50,000 in missing tribal funds.

Investigators have been looking into whether Cherie Lash Rhoades took federal grant money meant for the Cedarville Rancheria tribe she once led, a person familiar with the tribe's situation told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Rhoades recently was ousted as chairwoman of the 35-member tribe that includes many of her relatives.

On Thursday afternoon, her brother, Rurik Davis, and other tribal members were attending a meeting involving Rhoades's potential eviction at the headquarters building in the rural northeastern California community of Alturas. It's unclear precisely when the shooting began, but in quick succession Davis, 50; Rhoades' niece, Angel Penn, 19; her nephew, Glenn Calonicco, 30; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47, were killed.

Investigators were looking into whether the embezzlement allegations spurred the tribe's efforts to evict Rhoades, but had not established any definitive motive, Alturas Police Chief Ken Barnes said Friday.

"If we could confirm or deny that, it would help me toward a motive," Barnes said.

Later Friday, police armed with rifles and pistols searched her home. One Alturas police officer who would not give his name acknowledged that they were serving a search warrant, but would not say what they seized.

Eviction from tribal housing is among the most serious punishments for American Indians. One of Rhoades' nephews, Jason Penn, said Davis was behind the effort.

"Her brother drove her too far," Penn said as he stood in the front yard of Rhoades' home on the tribe's land in Cedarville, about 15 miles from Alturas.

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