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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chilling Account of Cedarville Rancheria Shooting by Widower of Victim

The widower of an Alturas tribal shooting victim is speaking out about the motive behind February’s gun and knife attack that left four dead and two others seriously injured.
“I want people to know that my wife’s heart was in the right place. It wasn’t about exposing fraud and evicting people. That just happened,” Philip Russo said.
He and his wife, Shelia Russo, moved to Alturas from Bakersfield eight months ago.
“We would travel far and wide for her work. Shelia loved it,” Russo said.
Shelia was the Tribal Administrator for Cedarville Rancheria, a 35 member tribe of Northern Paiute Indians in Northern California. Russo works at the Modoc County jail.
“We were still newlyweds,” Russo said.
Philip called FOX40 News a week after our coverage of the shooting in February. He invited us into his home in Alturas, to learn more about his late wife.
“She gave me this card for Valentine’s Day. As I look at it, it talks about, I don’t know what I would ever do without you. I know it’s a stupid cheesy card, but that’s what we always said to each other,” Russo said, fighting back tears.
Less than a week later, Phil Russo’s wife was shot to death during an eviction appeal hearing for longtime Tribal Chairwoman, 44-year-old Cherie Lash Rhoades, and her son, Jack Stockton. Rhoades is the only suspect in the mass shooting.
“Cherie Rhoades had always tried to intimidate tribal employees with violence, tribal members with violence,” Russo said.
Russo said Cherie Rhoades, her son Jack Stockton, and his wife, Erin Stockton were hoarding tribal grants.
“My wife told me everything about her job. Every detail, every move, we talked about it,” Russo said.
Shelia told her husband that Rhoades would not let her use the federal grants for their intended purposes. Shelia eventually fired Erin Stockton, the tribes Chief Financial Officer, because the accounting was so poorly done.
“She went into Erin’s office and started to go through the records, just started to peel back the onion. And she started noticing Cherie’s name on some of these purchases,” Russo said.
cherie
Cherie Rhoades faces charges after killing 4 and injuring 2 on February 20.
Courtesy: Modoc County Sheriff’s Office
Russo said his wife discovered that Rhoades had been using the grant money on personal purchases, hotel stays, extravagant gifts and $30,000 cash payouts for her friends. Shelia Russo believed drug tests had been doctored in order to make some of the tribal members fail upon retesting so that the remaining tribal members would get a larger chunk of federal grant money.
Russo said his wife even thought the sale of the tribal building for $300,000 was done unethically.
FOX40 investigated and found internal documents substantiating some of Shelia Russo’s concerns and allegations.
Shelia Russo turned her findings over to federal authorities, and they started an embezzlement investigation into Cedarville Rancheria.
“They throw a $50,000 figure out there, but thats probably half of what is out there. And that’s only for 2012. Cherie was the Tribal Chairwoman for probably the last 10 years,” Russo said.
Shelia told her husband she believed hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been embezzled over that time.
“My wife had the savvy to take Cherie’s firing power of out her hands,” Russo said.
Months ago, Shelia approached the tribe’s Executive Committee about Rhoades. Shelia told Philip whenever anyone questioned tribal finances in the past, Rhoades promptly fired them. Shelia thought Rhoades would fire her if she got the chance.
The Executive Committee voted to make the entire tribe vote on firing Shelia, if anything happened in the future.
“As my wife was in Erin’s office, continuing to go through the books, Cherie and Jack showed up. They said, ‘You’re fired, you’re out of here,’ and my wife was like, ‘Wait a minute, you don’t have the right to fire me.’ So Cherie said, ‘Fine, you’re on administrative leave,’ and Shelia said, ‘You don’t have the right to do that either,’” Russo said.
This was the first time anyone in the tribe challenged Rhoades, and succeeded.
“Cherie Rhoades actually tried to shove my wife back into the building,” said Russo.
Russo said Shelia went to local authorities for help, but they said Shelia’s allegations about Rhoades were federal offenses.
“They were forced to take matters into their own hands,” Russo said.
That’s when the tribal members signed a petition to recall Rhoades. Months later, they evicted her along with her son.
The day after the eviction hearing, Rhoades showed up at her appeal hearing at the Cedarville Rancheria tribal office, where she is accused of killing four people and attempting to kill two others. Four of the six victims were  close relatives of Rhoades, including her own brother.
Relative Describes ‘Horrible’ Alturas Shooting
Crime scene investigators inside a tribal office in Alturas after a deadly shooting.
February 2014
“We only have one suspect. We have five or six live witnesses who were present in the room,” Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk said.
One of those witnesses was a victim herself: Rhoades’ niece, Monica Davis.
“Monica said, ‘Yes, I’m shot,’ and Cherie said, ‘I would have killed you too if i didn’t run out of bullets,’” said Russo.
The only thing Funk would say about the crime scene, was how people were positioned inside the tribal office. Funk said right before the shooting, Rhoades was kneeling on a chair with her hand in her pocket. Funk says Rurik Davis, Angel Penn, Glenn Calonico, Shelia Russo, Melissa Davis and Monica Davis were seated at a long table in front of Rhoades. He says multiple other people were in the room.
Funk said this is most likely not a case where they need to identify a suspect. He said  it is a case where they will need to determine whether or not they should seek the death penalty.
“Capital cases frequently drag out. We want to avoid that here. We want justice for the victims,” Funk said.
The Modoc County Undersheriff  told FOX40 News he was the first on scene at the tribal office, minutes after the shooting. He said when he arrived, Rhoades was in the parking lot, stabbing one of the victims in the chest with a butcher knife.
He said Cherie fumbled and dropped her knife, and that’s when he tackled her. The Undersheriff said the crime was caught on camera from surveillance mounted outside the tribal office, inside the tribal office, and on his body camera.
Russo watched in court, weeks later, as Rhoades pleaded not guilty.
“I go for Shelia. We had each others’ back. So I go and I stare. I look at her. She won’t look at me. It’s pretty apparent to me that she won’t look at me,” Russo said.


Read more: http://fox40.com/2014/03/19/husband-recounts-chilling-lead-up-to-alturas-shooting/#ixzz2wWTct346

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cherie Rhoades a.k.a Robert Smith. I wonder if Smith will try this when he is caught and is forced to pay the price and answer to the tribe by eviction,banishment,loss of ALL tribal benefits for LIFE!! Seems about right for all the tribal members he has hurt,the tribal $$$$ he has taken and abuse of his position. We all know and he knows it's only a matter of time before he is taken down and his family won't be able to walk around Pala with their chins up acting like their father/husband has done no wrong and continue to believe his lies. Soon they will be walking in disgrace when EVERYONE knows what they have been hearing and seen pictures of are all true. Either the Feds or the general council will move soon.

Anonymous said...

They need to lock up that big brute with all those white ass slimy attorneys and see what happens, she/he will put them all in a head lock.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Robert Smith &
his family broke and homeless.And as far as Theresa Nieto goes, I would like to see her locked up in donkey farm and take up the ass
on a daily basis.This would be their Karma payback.

Anonymous said...

Robert has hurt so many people. I hope he is taken out of office soon.

Anonymous said...

Yes sir,Mr. Robert H.Smith,its time to get your house in order,why?. Because your run as Tribal Chairman is about to come to an end.Don't feel bad, because your puppets will go with you.
Do you hear that,Nieto,Perez,Lopez
Yanez,Lattin,Miranda.
All the aboved mentioned are the low life scum of the Pala Band.
Smith & Nieto, the ring leaders,I hope you all get at least 20 yrs to life in Federal prison, any less would not be justice. And to Mrs Charlene Smith, I hope that you also get locked up for your part in your husbands crime spree, also, why are you signing legal documents using the name,
Charlene Rathburn, aka Trina Scott Rathburn. What a discrace you all are, and to think that you would get away with it. You all just got to greedy, and now its payback time.

Anonymous said...

She really could pass for Robert Smiths sister.

Anonymous said...

Well.......she is his 1st cousin....nough said....lol

Anonymous said...

If she was his first cousin he would be in bed wiyh her.
I mean, his 3 daughters are also his 3rd cousins.
It all started when he got in the wrong line. He didn't know the difference between a "Redneck" &
"Redskin".

Anonymous said...

Yeppers, they are 1st cousins. Their mothers were half sisters......need I say more? His 3 daughters are his 2nd cousins.

Anonymous said...

Man, Robert Smith is one sick Motherf#$ker.Or, CousinFu@ker.

Anonymous said...

I thought that incest was against the law. Oh wait, i forgot smith is sovereirgn.

Anonymous said...

That man is a complete waste of human flesh and apparently his worthless family is too

Anonymous said...

If you think thats bad, wait until you see all the holdings that he has bought with Tribal funds without the Tribes consent.
Same goes for Theresa Nieto. I really can't understand why the people think that she is hollier than thou. She is nothing but a lying scumbag "BITCH". A wolf in sheeps clothing, so to speak.
Why are so many members fooled by her.She lies about all the financial reports that she gives at the meetings,including the one she told about not having to pay Subway to out of the franchize that we had at the mini mart.
You better wise up and take notice
because whether you want to believe it or not, she is as dirty and corrupt as Robert Smith.