Posted on April 23, 2024

Judge Declares Mistrial in Case of Arizona Rancher Charged With Murder of Mexican National on Border Property

Danielle Wallace et al., Fox News, April 22, 2022

A jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly, who was accused of second-degree murder in connection to the death of a Mexican national found fatally shot on his borderland ranch in January 2023.

The jury began deliberating April 18. After days of being unable to reach a verdict, the judge overseeing the trial declared a mistrial on Monday.

The case centered around the death of Mexican national Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who was found shot to death on Kelly’s 170-acre cattle ranch near Keno Springs outside Nogales, Arizona, on Jan. 30, 2023.

Kelly’s defense has countered the prosecution’s argument that Cuen-Buitimea was an unarmed migrant and has suggested cartel influence mired the death investigation.

“Long story short, this is simply not somebody who’s looking for the American dream. There’s no evidence that this person is here for those kinds of benign purposes,” Kelly’s defense attorney, Brenna Larkin, said during her closing argument on Thursday. “And we bring that up, not, you know, to be judgmental about Gabriel or to not have compassion for him. But when people are involved in a criminal lifestyle, it’s dangerous. It’s more inherently dangerous than simply being a migrant who’s coming here. So it’s relevant for that reason.”

Cuen-Buitimea had illegally entered the country multiple times previously and had been deported as recently as 2016.

Over the course of weeks, jurors heard testimony regarding where and at what distance Kelly was standing when prosecutors argued he fatally shot Cuen-Buitimea, as well as the motivation for the gunshots.

The defense maintained Kelly only fired warning shots into the air from his patio earlier in the day, and his wife, Wanda Kelly, testified about dialing their Border Patrol ranch liaison upon spotting two armed men dressed in camouflage and carrying rifles and backpacks walking about 100 feet from their home. Law enforcement responded to the property, and hours passed before Kelly called Border Patrol again to report finding the body.

The fatal bullet was never recovered from the scene. A criminologist working pro bono as a consultant for Kelly’s defense, Dr. Ron Martinelli, previously told Fox News Digital that none of the state’s witnesses in the trial had provided any rebuttal testimony against the defense theory that a rip crew — a gang of bandits, sometimes cartel-affiliated — could have fatally shot Cuen-Buitimea and robbed him.


{snip} The prosecution argued that Ramirez was the sole witness to Cuen-Buitimea’s shooting death and fled across the border afterward.

Ramirez testified that he previously carried drugs across the border, though not on the day of the January 2023 shooting.

The defense argued that based on Ramirez’s own testimony, it did not seem he was even present that day. The jury was able to make a field trip to Kelly’s ranch to get a lay of the land.


Larkin told jurors that Kelly was confronted with “a threat to his life” and “had a rifle pointed at him,” meaning that he would have been justified in using deadly physical force.

But even so, the rancher “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.”