Rancher Is Charged With Murder on His Arizona Land After Shooting Dead Mexican Who Had History of Illegal Crossings
Melissa Koenig, Daily Mail, February 6, 2023
An Arizona rancher has been charged with first-degree murder and had his bail set at a whopping $1million for fatally shooting a Mexican citizen on his property.
George Alan Kelly, 73, was arrested following the January 30 fatal shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, on his ranch in Kino Springs, just a mile and a half north of the US-Mexico border.
Authorities are still investigating the fatal shooting, with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s chief deputy saying it does not appear that Kelly knew Cuen-Butimea ahead of the shooting.
But a friend of Kelly’s told KOLD he has had issues with people on his property in the past, though he believes Kelly acted in the best faith.
Cuen-Butimea, meanwhile, has had a history of illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, according to federal court records, and was deported back to his home country multiple times — most recently in 2016.
And just hours before the fatal shooting, Nogales International reports, US Border Patrol agents informed the county sheriff’s department of a ‘possible active shooter’ at the scene, with a man identifying himself as ‘Allen’ saying he was not sure if he was getting shot himself.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s officials have said they discovered Cuen-Butimea’s body just about 100 to 150 yards from Kelly’s home on January 30.
The victim appeared to have suffered from one gunshot wound. The Nogales, Mexico resident’s identity was later confirmed because of a Mexican voter registration card he carried.
Officials say they are still trying to clarify the circumstances surrounding the shooting and establish a motive, with Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo saying: ‘It doesn’t seem like Mr. Kelly and the [victim] knew each other.’
But under Arizona law, deadly force is allowed on one’s own property if the homeowner believes it ‘immediately necessary’ to prevent trespassing.
Several other statutes — known as the ‘stand your ground’ laws — also defend the use of physical or deadly force when a homeowner fears a threat and believes force is necessary.
Kelly’s neighbor, Maria Castillo, has said that migrants who crossed the border are often seen coming and going around the area.
Federal court records show Cuen-Butimea has had a history of illegal border crossings and deportations in and around Nogales, with the most recent documented case in 2016.
Castillo would not comment on Cuen-Butimea’s immigration status, saying it has not yet been confirmed.
According to a sheriff’s dispatch report obtained by Nogales International, the office first received a call at around 2.40pm on January 30 from US Border Patrol agents, relaying information about a ‘possible active shooter’ in the area of Sagebrush Road.
The Border Patrol agents had apparently received a report from someone at the scene, who mentioned a ‘group of people running’ and said he was ‘unsure if he was getting shot at as well.’
The entry identified the person as ‘Allen.’
Castillo said the sheriff’s department responded to the call, but did not find anything.
Just a few hours later, though, at around 5.50pm, sheriff’s deputies received another report of shots fired at the property, and by 6.42pm they recovered Cuen-Butimea’s body.
Authorities have said there was no weapon on the victim at the time, and investigators had collected two assault-style rifles from Kelly’s property in the aftermath to determine whether either were used in the shooting.
At his last court hearing, Kelly asked a judge about getting his bail reduced, citing his wife living at the ranch.
‘She’s there by herself… nobody to take care of her, the livestock or the ranch,’ he said, according to Nogales International.
‘And I’m not going anywhere. I can’t come up with a million dollars,’ he said, before asking the judge to ‘consider reducing it to any degree,’
The judge replied that his attorney would be able to request a reduction of bond, though it is unclear whether that request was made.
Local attorney Brenna Larkin, who was appointed by the court to represent Kelly, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the charge against him.
DailyMail.com has also reached out to Kelly’s family members for comment.
The Kellys had previously sued to prevent a golf station from being built in Kino Springs, court documents show, seeking damages of $2,000,000.
It is also unclear what happened in that case.
Kelly is now being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail, and is set to return to court on Wednesday.
He has identified himself in court as a rancher, but also appears to dabble in self-published fiction about ranch life in the border region
One of his books, available as an ebook on Amazon, is entitled Far Beyond the Border Fence and is described as ‘bringing the Mexican border/ drug conflict into the 21st century.’
The protagonists of the story are a couple whose first names match Kelly’s and his wife, Wanda’s, with a child baring his son’s name.
The 57-page work revolves around the couple living in southern Arizona at the VMR Ranch — Kelly and his wife’s real-life ranch is called Vermilion Mountain Ranch.
It describes how the character George and his foreman ‘had to patrol the ranch daily, armed with AK-47s.’