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Round Valley tribal member arrested in slaying of Covelo woman

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Two Covelo brothers were in custody Thursday evening in connection with the weekend slaying of 21-year-old Rosalena "Belle" Rodriguez.

Mendocino County Sheriff's officials said Thursday morning that Jeremy Jason Freeman-Britton, 21, and Sidney Lewis Freeman, 25, were arrested on suspicion of homicide. By late afternoon, however, sheriff's officials announced the homicide allegations against Sidney Freeman were dropped.

Both men remained in jail without bail late Thursday. Freeman-Britton was also being held on suspicion of making criminal threats in an unrelated incident, the Sheriff's Office reported.

Round Valley tribal member Cora Simmons said the brothers are both tribal members.

Rodriguez's body was discovered face down on Hopper Lane, north of town at about 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, sheriff's authorities said.

She had been shot multiple times, authorities said.

Simmons said she is dismayed that tribal members could be responsible for the killing of a girl she described as "sweet" but troubled.

"I didn't want it to be our people," Simmons said.

Rodriguez apparently died sometime after going out with friends Saturday night or early Sunday morning, Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten said earlier this week.

Everyone in Round Valley knew Rodriguez as Belle, Simmons said.

Rodriguez grew up in the valley. She graduated from Round Valley High School as its valedictorian, according to school officials.

During high school, she played basketball, volleyball and softball, according to school records. She also was her freshman class treasurer and junior and senior class secretary, according to school records.

Rodriguez grew up poor and with little family support but managed to do well in high school and was a sweet person, both then and later in life, said Simmons, who is related to the victim.

She said Rodriguez's life apparently took a downward turn after high school. She did not have a job and apparently had problems with alcohol abuse, Simmons said.

Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com.

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