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In addition to a kitchen knife, investigators found two semi-automatic pistols at the scene.
Alturas, the seat of Modoc County, is about 55 miles south of the Oregon border and 35 miles west of the Nevada line. The motto of the community of 2,800 people — "Where the West Still Lives" — reflects the area's wilderness and natural beauty.
The Cedarville Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe. The Rancheria owns 26 acres in Cedarville, where most members reside in nine small, one-story houses on lots on the outskirts of town. The tribal houses are clustered around a small playground.
An audit of the tribe's books by a private firm showed the tribe received $1.1 million in federal money in 2012. About half went toward tribal roads, with the balance directed to governmental and general assistance, and housing.
The audit, which was filed with the federal government in late November, raised questions about how the government and roads funds were spent. It found that both the bookkeeping and management of tribal programs had "material weakness" that created an opportunity for abuses.
A summary of the audit, posted on a federal website, did not detail specifics about the weaknesses nor the exact costs that the auditor questioned.
The decision to evict a tribal member is a "very big statement," particularly in a rural area where other housing might be hard to find, said Dennis Chappabitty, a California attorney with extensive experience working with tribal governments.
While Chappabitty has visited the Cedarville Rancheria, he said he did not know tribe's eviction rules. Generally, a tribe has wide latitude to evict a member, whether for failure to pay rent or "just bad behavior."
Problems can arise in small tribes, he said, because a member up for eviction might feel targeted for personal reasons.
The fourth victim, Russo, 47, was a tribal administrator who managed evictions and had two teenagers, said her mother, Linda Stubblefield of Taft.
Stubblefield said Russo had mentioned several times that she was worried about violence associated with evictions.
"Anytime you evict someone from their home, you're going to worry about this," Stubblefield said. "And you're taking their Indian rights from them."
Struggling to find words, Stubblefield said her son-in-law had called her to break the news about the attack.
"This is not supposed to happen," Stubblefield said.