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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.

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gudtip February 23 2014 at 1:11 PM

she looks like a bully, although she looks good with all of those tattoos holding that sign, lets see how well she will be able to handle herself inside the cage, where she will be face groups at one time, it will be no cake walk, she will find and meet bigger and better

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Miniopolis February 23 2014 at 11:27 AM

Hello!!! Who cares how much money is being made! 4 people have been killed and 2 wounded.

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Miniopolis February 23 2014 at 11:12 AM

Bring back the Lobotomy on this one. She can spend her life cleaning roadside dung!

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pvc6821 February 23 2014 at 10:59 AM

Used to work out of Cedarville for the BLM. Ate breakfast at "The Cozy Corner Cafe"Stayed at the Cedarville Hotel and ate supper at the Bar down stairs. Do remember a Doctor who had office hours late into the evening hours. Was a small Hospital on the north end of town. Tennesee Ernie Ford owned a bunch of land near 49 Mountain. East of town was Hot Springs Motel. Water was hjot and had a sulphur smell to it. I remember Lee Hutchins and I remember South of Cedarville a l;arge sheep operation run by John Espil. Do not remember the so ca;lled Rancherias. Do remember the Paiute Tribe though.

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lukeymarine February 23 2014 at 10:28 AM

Ink stains say's a lot these days are we bored with them yet !!

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mbrheljr February 23 2014 at 10:20 AM

Anyone who doesn't live in a cave knows that arrests lead to jury trials in virtually every murder case, as opposed to the defendant pleading guilty.

To explain my comments, I am looking at this case from a purely analytical viewpoint.

This includes time in the saddle as a former trial attorney, first as a defense counsel and later as a prosecutor; and now, as a Judge Pro Tem.

I purposely am NOT addressing the issue of guilt or innocence.

Defense attorneys invest time, energy and money trying to make their more unsavory clients look as presentable to a jury of 12 strangers as possible.

In other words, they don't want any jurors mentally convicting their client, based on how they look.

Therefore, counsel focuses on hiding tattoos, getting haircuts, removing body piercings, replacing objectionable clothing with business-type attire, etc.

With this particular defendant?

All I can say? Counsel appears to have their work cut out for them...

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runswthscisors40 February 23 2014 at 10:12 AM

That's an ugly woman.....in more ways than the obvious...............

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buddyboygabe February 23 2014 at 10:11 AM

next, they will open up soon, the Indian casino. :-0

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garycnk February 23 2014 at 10:05 AM

what happens to her boyfriend when she wants whooppee at night ?

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nick February 23 2014 at 10:05 AM

It looks like all those people are afraid of this evil women police and sheriff included, if they were smart they could have made this problem go away on its own , with one little trip to those alkali lakes.

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