Arizona rancher, 73, is charged with first-degree murder for shooting dead Mexican migrant
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 federal court records show that Cuen-Butimea has had a history of illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, and was deported back to the country multiple times — most recently in 2016.
And 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.
George Alan Kelly, 73, is facing first-degree murder charges for shooting a Mexican migrant on his property on January 30
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.
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.
The body of Nogales, Mexico resident Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, was found on Kelly’s sprawling ranch
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.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo has said the office is still investigating the incident
At his last court hearing, Kelly had asked a judge about getting his bail reduced, citing his wife.
‘She’s there by herself… nobody to take care of her, the livestock or the ranch,’ he said, according to Nogales International.
Kelly appears to be an author, writing about life as a rancher in southern Arizona
‘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.
Kelly is now being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail, and is set to return to court on Wednesday.
He has identified himself 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, and even includes his son’s name.
The 57-page work revolves around a character 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.’
Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines warned the cartels are ‘basically running this border’
The latest figures showed that there were 251,487 migrant encounters at the border in December
Colombian immigrant Gisele, 18, bundles up against the cold after spending the night camped alongside the U.S.-Mexico border fence on 22 December 2022 in El Paso, Texas
Migrants along the Mexican side of the southern border as they waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide when to lift pandemic-era restrictions preventing many from seeking asylum
Authorities in Arizona have decried the migrant crisis in recent months, as they slam President Joe Biden for his lack of a response.
Customs and Border Protection figures released last month revealed that there were 251,487 migrant encounters at the border in December. That is the highest figure for a single month ever, and brings the latest three-month total up to 717,600.
December’s number was up more than 7 percent from November, and nearly 29 percent from the previous year.
In the aftermath, Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines told Fox News: ‘The cartels are basically running this border.’
He added: ‘This is not a political discussion. This is a national security issue.’
Lines warned that some migrants, who are often fleeing violence and poverty, remain ‘indebted to the cartel’ when they arrive in the United States when unable to afford the fees demanded for transit.
His comments followed similar remarks from the Yuma County mayor that President Biden’s crackdown on illegal immigration from Mexico would barely ‘move the needle’.
The Republican mayor said it was a step in right direction, but without freeing up agents to properly patrol the frontier it would make little difference.
‘It needs to be more holistic; it needs to be greater,’ he added.
‘And really, until we get down to enforcement, you’re not going to discourage anyone from coming here.’
Critics say more relaxed border policies under the Biden administration have paved the way for Mexican drug cartels to profit from taking people across the border.
A Daily Mail source said ‘people are the new dope’ as the cartels judge that ‘under Biden there is serious money to be made from people trafficking’.
The Mexican drug war, a US-led collaborative effort to dismantle cartels and end the trafficking of people and drugs, is one of the world’s largest conflicts, ongoing since 2006 and responsible for 20,000 casualties last year alone.
But the president has tried to shift the blame on Republicans, chastizing them at the US Conference of Mayors for failing to pass his immigration reform proposals.
‘They found it a better issue to campaign on than an issue to solve,’ Biden said. ‘So, we have a choice: They can keep using immigration to try to score political points, or we can help solve the problem.’
Meanwhile, a GOP-led House Oversight panel is set to hold its first hearing for its investigation into the Biden administration’s alleged mishandling of the southern border.
The probe has put Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who faces a potential impeachment, on notice to hand over everything related to the migrant crisis.
James Comer, the new Chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, vowed to hold Biden and Mayorkas ‘accountable’ and invited four Border Patrol officials to attend one of the first hearings of the 118th Congress this week.