Mistrial Declared in Case of Rancher Charged with Killing Illegal Immigrant

(USNewsMag.com) – Prosecutors with the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s office said Arizona cattle rancher George Alan Kelly, 75, will not be retried.

On April 29th, Deputy County Attorney Kimberly Hunley said the office would not retry the case due to the “unique circumstances and challenges.”

The news came after a mistrial was declared by Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink in the case against Kelly, who was charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing a migrant on his 170-acre property after the jury was deadlocked. Kelly’s defense team stated that except for “one, lone holdout” juror who wanted to convict Kelly, the remaining jurors wanted to acquit him. Earlier this year, Kelly rejected a plea deal from prosecutors that, if he pleaded guilty, would have reduced the charges against him to one count of negligent homicide.

Kelly was arrested and charged after Mexican national Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea was found shot to death on January 30th, 2023, on Kelly’s property, located near Keno Springs, Arizona. Authorities never recovered the bullet that killed Cuen-Buitimea, who had been deported in 2016 after entering the country illegally multiple times.

Prosecutor Mike Jette argued during the trial that Kelly’s firing nine shots “recklessly” toward a group of men on his property escalated the situation, adding that he did not have the right to use deadly physical force.

However, Kelly’s defense team argued that Kelly had only fired warning shots from his AK-47 rifle into the air from his patio and did not shoot directly at the group of men, who were 100 yards away from him. According to testimony from his wife, Wanda Kelly, she saw two men armed with rifles, carrying backpacks and wearing camouflage, 100 feet from their home earlier in the day and had called their Border Patrol ranch liaison. Kelly’s defense team argued that his death was related to criminal activity, with Kelly’s defense attorney Brenna Larkin stating during closing arguments that Cuen-Buitimea was “not somebody who’s looking for the American dream,” adding that being “involved in a criminal lifestyle, it’s dangerous.”

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