Arizona border rancher denies killing man found dead on his property
Feb 14, 2023, 7:22 AM | Updated: 4:42 pm
(Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (AP) — The lawyer for an Arizona rancher being held on $1 million bond says her client did not shoot and kill the Mexican man whose body was found on his property last month near the U.S.-Mexico border, but earlier that day fired warning shots at smugglers carrying AK-47 rifles and big backpacks on his land.
A defense request made last week in Santa Cruz County Justice Court asks that the $1 million bond set in the first-degree murder case against George Alan Kelly be lowered or lifted. Kelly, 73, on Monday remained in custody at the Santa Cruz County Jail in the Jan. 30 killing.
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Monday, Feb. 20.
Attorney Brenna Larkin, who was appointed by the court to represent Kelly, said in her request that her client “admitted to firing warning shots at the smugglers earlier in the day, but denied firing any shot at any person.
“He does not believe that any of his warning shots could have possibly hit the person or caused the death,” she continued. “All the shooting that Mr. Kelly did on the date of the incident was in self-defense and justified.”
Kelly’s ranch is located just outside Nogales, Arizona, city limits in the Kino Springs area.
The victim, Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. U.S. court records show Cuen-Butimea was convicted of illegal entry and deported back to Mexico several times, most recently in 2016.
The Mexican consulate in Nogales has not returned several calls seeking additional information about Cuen-Butimea.
Kelly apparently drew on his borderlands ranching life in the self-published novel “Far Beyond the Border Fence,” which is described on Amazon.com as a “contemporary novel which brings the Mexican Border/Drug conflict into the 21st century.”
Authored by a man with the same name, the 57-page novel focuses on George and his wife, Wanda. George Alan Kelly’s wife is also named Wanda.
“Several times each week illegal immigrants would cross the VMR ranch,” reads one part. “They were led by armed human smugglers called Coyotes. George and his foreman had to patrol the ranch daily, armed with AK-47’s.”