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Woman held in tribal shooting known as bully



CEDARVILLE, Calif. (AP) - Practically everyone in this tiny town in the high desert of northeastern California's Surprise Valley knew Cherie Lash Rhoades.

A leader of the Cedarville Rancheria, she worked in the tribe's gas station and convenience store and wore brightly colored tank tops that showed off her tattoos.

But it is tough to find anyone with a kind word to say about her.

"She bullied her way through life," said Sandra Parriott, a lifelong resident of Cedarville and owner of two downtown markets. "But I would never think she would start blowing people away in a meeting."

Police arrested Rhoades on suspicion that she did just that Thursday in Alturas, leaving four dead and two wounded in a gun and knife attack at a meeting on whether to evict Rhoades from one of the nine little houses on the rancheria.

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 her, Jacob Penn, said she snapped under the pressure of her brother trying to evict her. The brother, Rurick Davis, who lived down the street on the Rancheria, had apparently taken over as tribal chairman and was among the dead.

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

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

The investigation was no secret around town, where several people interviewed by the AP mentioned it, though they said they had not been contacted by investigators and did not want to give their names.

Though Rhoades was always ready to share a joke, "you did not want to get on her bad side," said Penny Nash, Parriott's sister. "She has a powerful personality."

It was not immediately known if Rhoades had a lawyer. She was being held at an undisclosed location because the husband of one of the dead, the only nonrelative to be shot, works at the Modoc County Jail, Sheriff Mike Poindexter said.

Rhoades has yet to appear in court, where she would be given a lawyer if she could not afford one herself. Her father, Larry Lash, declined comment. Penn, who lived with Rhoades and was raised by her after her sister gave him up as a child, had little to say but a shrug of the shoulders about his aunt, whom he called, "my mom." He said two of the dead were his brother and sister, Rhoades' nephew and niece.

Most of the 35 registered members of the rancheria appear to have been related to Rhodes. Parriott ticked off 20 people on her fingers she knew were relatives of Rhoades.

Parriott said her late mother had known Rhoades' late mother, Virginia Sweeney, who lived in town as a child, but not on the rancheria. Rhoades came back about 20 years ago with her young son, mother and brother, Davis, and worked her way into leadership of the tribe.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a team to Alturas on Saturday to provide grief counselling for anyone wanting it, agency spokeswoman Nedra Darling said in an email.

Cedarville is a small town of about 1,500 people in the Great Basin, where the Paiute people once roamed with the skills to live in hard country. Now there are cattle on the range. The town is tucked between the foothills of the snowcapped Warner Mountains to the west, and a string of alkali lakes to the east.

The best jobs are working for the Modoc National Forest, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the schools. A lumber mill lies rusting and quiet on the edge of town. Downtown has several empty storefronts, but there are nice cafes where one can get prime rib, pizza or an enchilada; a bank, a bookstore, two small markets, a real estate office, a weaver's shop, a gas station, the library, a gunsmith, and other small businesses.

In the residential areas, nicely kept two-story homes mix with vacant houses. There is also a small hospital and dentist offices.

The rancheria is on the western edge of town, by the fairgrounds, announced by a simple wooden sign. Nine small one-story homes are grouped around a small playground. Streets are paved, with new concrete sidewalks. A few blocks away is the Rabbit Traxx gas station and convenience store, where Rhoades worked. It opened a couple years ago, about the time she was tribal chairman. It sells liquor, cut-rate cigarettes and packaged foods.

Parriott said the land of the rancheria was once part of a local ranch, and Paiutes would camp there in August to take part in the county fair.

Rancheria headquarters, where the shooting took place, is 25 miles away on a winding two-lane blacktop over the Warner Mountains in a residential area of Alturas, a town of 2,500.

Police served a search warrant on Rhoades' house late Friday afternoon. An Alturas police officer who would not give his name refused to say what they seized. He was joined by a sheriff's deputy and a highway patrolman.

Join the discussion

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roman3537 February 22 2014 at 5:54 PM

Personality disorder....and from the looks of it, she's had it for quite some time. Not an excuse, just a guess on my part.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
JIM February 22 2014 at 5:25 PM

She looks a lot like ma Bennet from Justified.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
larrykaren7613 JIM February 22 2014 at 5:50 PM

LOL....want some apple pie in a jar?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
kent_hern February 22 2014 at 5:14 PM

She won't have any trouble with eviction from her current housing.
She'll be there for a long, long time!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
minimaniac99 February 22 2014 at 6:23 PM

What a beast she should be hung and slaughtered.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
airborneinore February 22 2014 at 6:41 PM

I am sorry to say this website has become a haven for illegal sales pitches . I have flagged them many times and it only made them increase in numbers so that tells me this site don't give a crap if you want to do that here. So I am going to make this my last visit here until they stop it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
Gene February 22 2014 at 6:41 PM

That's a woman!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
cslinz62 February 22 2014 at 5:00 PM

Bullies are born mad at the world. They should all be illuminated. Men & women.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
agmassey cslinz62 February 22 2014 at 5:19 PM

either that or eliminate them.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Karen cslinz62 February 22 2014 at 6:15 PM

Most bullies are not born to be bullies, they are made that way. Would be interesting to know her life story -- not excusing her behavior by any means, she definitely deserves whatever punishment she gets. Getting thrown off the reservation wasn't what made her 'snap,' she has just always gotten her way before by being a bully. Suspect a long history of either drug abuse or mental illness, also.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Dan & Carol February 22 2014 at 6:07 PM

I wouldn't want to run into her in a dark alley...and really, she was called "mom" by her nephew, what's wrong with him?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
rreggaeredkc Dan & Carol February 22 2014 at 6:12 PM

We don't know his circumstances. Are many reasons why we may call an aunt or uncle mom or dad. "What's wrong with him?" His Aunt.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
mqats Dan & Carol February 22 2014 at 6:13 PM

Obvious answer: She said, hey kid. Call me mom.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Burt February 22 2014 at 4:52 PM

Talk about going on the warpath!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
EzinWy February 22 2014 at 4:45 PM

Put her out to pasture ...

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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