A woman accused of killing four people, including three of her relatives, at a tiny American Indian tribe's Northern California headquarters had been evicted from tribal housing because she was suspected of stealing from the tribe, the tribe's lawyer said Monday.
Cedarville Rancheria attorney Jack Duran said Cherie Lash Rhoades was suspended as tribal chairwoman just three weeks before the gun and knife attack, pending a federal investigation into allegations that she embezzled at least $50,000 in federal grant money.
Rhoades' son, Jack Stockton, was ousted as vice chairman and evicted from tribal housing on the same grounds, Duran told The Associated Press.
Stockton was not at Thursday's hearing when the shooting broke out. He does not have a listed phone number.
Duran said the meeting in Alturas, Calif., was being held to consider Rhoades' appeal of her eviction.
But at some point, Rhoades opened fire, killing her brother Rurik Davis, 50, who had been named interim chairman by the tribal council, authorities said.
Also killed in the attack were Rhoades' niece Angel Penn, 19; her nephew Glenn Calonicco, 30; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47. They were all members of the tribal council that evicted Rhoades, and Russo was the tribal administrator.
Duran said Penn was holding her newborn infant on her lap when she was shot, but the baby was unhurt and will be placed with a sister.
Davis' two daughters, Monica and Melissa Davis, were critically wounded, court documents said.
Responding officers arrested Rhoades outside the building, where a declaration of probable cause says Modoc County Undersheriff Ken Richardson saw Rhodes stabbing one of the victims in the parking lot and handcuffed her after another person tackled her. The document adds that police talked to six people who witnessed the shooting. The two women who survived bullet wounds were also cut with a knife.
A criminal complaint filed Monday in Modoc County Superior Court charges Rhoades with four counts of murder with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, and two counts of attempted murder. She was to be arraigned Tuesday morning.
District Attorney Jordan Funk said she will face the death penalty if she's convicted, because the complaint carries the special circumstance of multiple victims.
Funk said it wasn't immediately clear if attorneys had been appointed for Rhoades yet, because they would have to be qualified to handle a capital case.