False Testimony Investigation Could Lead to Retrial in Cherie Rhoades Case

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ALTURAS -- An investigation into possible false testimony during a death penalty trial may allow a convicted murderer to get a new trial.

"Three people should not be allowed to kick a person out of their home," Cherie Rhoades said in an audio recording of an eviction hearing in the Cedarville Rancheria tribal office in Alturas in February of 2014.

In January of 2017 a Placer County jury issued the death penalty for former tribal Chairwoman turned convicted murderer Cherie Rhoades. The trial was heartbreaking for survivors of the mass murder, victims families, and jurors alike who watched both a video and audio recording of the horrific shooting.

Attorneys said Rhoades was seen on camera shooting her own brother, Rurik Davis, her nephew Glen Calonico, her niece, Angel Penn, and tribal Administrator Sheila Russo. Attorneys also said the Rhoades shot her two nieces Melissa and Monica Davis and chased after one of them with a kitchen knife. Both of those women survived.

FOX40 obtained a copy of the audio recording taken during that eviction hearing on Thursday evening. Much of it was too disturbing for a viewing audience. However, in between the barrage of bullets, and a baby crying in the room, multiple victims can be heard pleading with Rhoades to stop shooting.

In response Rhoades can be heard saying, "not until you're dead."

Some of the people closest to the case who had to go through that agonizing trial said they felt re-victimized by the thought that Rhoades might get a new trial over a detail that some consider to be irrelevant.

"My theory was that when she visited the restroom prior to coming to the hearing she had the firearms in her backpack. Took them out, put them in her pockets," Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk said.

Funk told FOX40 that the accusation about possible false testimony stemmed from something the former Alturas police chief Ken Barnes said about that backpack. Funk said Barnes the Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter was misinterpreting something Barnes said about when investigators discovered the backpack in what room and who collected it as evidence on what day.

"He assumes that when Chief Barnes was talking about the backpack on the 21st that he was talking about when the backpack was located and that wasn't his intent at all," Funk said.

But Sheriff Mike Poindexter said that another person in the tribal office the day of the shooting brought the potential issue with the backpack testimony to his attention and that it was his legal responsibility to look into it.

"If the DA and Chief Barnes say this is not as it occurs, fine! We're saying this may have occurred, that it appears to us it may have occurred, judging by what we have looked into," Sheriff Poindexer said.

In an email to FOX40 Modeoc County Undersheriff William Dowdy said "Again, our office was in no way shape or form trying to overturn Mr.
Funk's conviction of Cherie Rhoades. We had an obligation to forward on the information that was presented to us. Our concern is for the victims of this horrific crime."

But Phil Russo, husband of victim Sheila Russo does not feel that way.

In a written statement to FOX40, Russo said, "I believe that this motion for retrial lacks in merit and is disingenuous in its motivation. I am confident that District Attorney Funk will have this motion dismissed. I fully support him in this effort as well as how he conducted the trial. I prayed every day for justice in this case, and with, the Death Penalty conviction, we got it. For Shelia and me this was a personal victory. It brought me a sense of closure. I felt that my wife could finally rest in peace and that I could begin to move forward with my life. I see this motion for retrial as another form of re-victimization of the victims and survivors of this heinous mass murder. I can only hope that one day, we will finally get to see a system that refuses to disregard the rights of the victims over the rights of criminals and murderers."

Rhoades Attorney Antonio Alvarez told FOX40 over the phone that he did not believe Barnes had any reason or intention to lie during his backpack testimony, but that he had an obligation to file the motion for a new trial because the integrity of the case may have been compromised.

But Funk said he felt that the potential issue with the backpack testimony was brought to light nearly three months after Rhoades trial because he prosecuted one of Sheriff Poindexter's deputies in an alleged excessive force case.

"There is clearly an agenda here. They are playing politics with a capital case verdict in a mass murder. He should be removed from his position because of this," Funk said.

"Make no mistake about it, we have a terrible relationship but that is not part of this at all," Poindexter said in response.

Cherie Rhoades sentencing hearing is still scheduled for April 10th in Alturas, CA. At that time, Alvarez said, everyone will hear what the judge decides about the potential issue with the backpack testimony.

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