Judge Announces Mistrial In Rancher Border Case

There has finally been some finality in the case of Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly.

In January 2023, an event occurred that captured national attention involving Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly and the death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an illegal immigrant, on Kelly’s expansive borderland ranch.

The incident took place on Kelly’s 170-acre cattle ranch located near Keno Springs outside Nogales, Arizona. Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, the deceased, was found fatally shot on Kelly’s property on January 30, 2023.

The defense presented by Kelly’s attorney, Brenna Larkin, showed that the cartel was likely involved and questioned the intentions of Cuen-Buitimea. Larkin argued that Cuen-Buitimea was not merely a migrant but involved in more dangerous activities, potentially connected to criminal groups. She emphasized that living a criminal lifestyle inherently brings greater risks.

During the trial, significant attention was given to the whereabouts and actions of Kelly at the time of the shooting. The prosecution insisted that Kelly, from his patio, fired an AK-47 toward Cuen-Buitimea, causing his death. In contrast, the defense claimed that Kelly had only fired warning shots into the air when he felt threatened by the presence of two armed individuals in camouflage near his home.

He “didn’t use deadly physical force,” Larkin said in her closing argument. “He fired shots up into the air, over the tree, over where these people were to get the threat to stop.”

“The law does not say that you cannot use lesser force to defend yourself. The law does not say that when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you folks were out there. This is not downtown Nogales. This is not a populated area. This is isolated. It is empty,” Larkin told the jury. “He can fire warning shots to protect himself and to protect his wife. And that’s exactly what he did. That’s exactly what any man who cares about his wife and his home should do in this situation when faced with the threat that he was faced with.”

Supporting the defense’s narrative, Kelly’s wife, Wanda Kelly, testified about contacting their Border Patrol ranch liaison after spotting the armed individuals. It was hours later when Kelly found the body and again called Border Patrol.

One of the key elements in this case was the lack of recovery of the fatal bullet at the scene, leading to speculative theories about other possible shooters, including criminal gangs known as rip crews, potentially being involved. Dr. Ron Martinelli, a criminologist working for the defense, pointed out that none of the state’s witnesses could counter this theory effectively.

Adding another layer to the trial, statements by Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway were scrutinized. Hathaway was featured in an online video where he made controversial remarks about people wanting to “hunt some Mexicans.” Which seemed to have little to do with the case and more about the Sheriff’s opinions.

As the trial progressed, jurors visited Kelly’s ranch to understand better the scene of the incident. Despite the extensive deliberations that began on April 18, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. After several days, the judge declared a mistrial, leaving the legal proceedings in uncertainty.

It was also learned that the reason why there was a mistrial was because one juror wanted to convict the rancher.


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