Rancher Accused of Shooting Mexican National at His Border Property Released From Jail
Rancher Accused of Shooting Mexican National at His Border Property Released From Jail

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

An elderly Arizona rancher who is accused of killing a Mexican national at his border property has been released from Santa Cruz County Jail on a $1 million bond, which has been converted from a cash bond to a surety bond.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo confirmed to Fox News that George Alan Kelly, 73, posted bond on Wednesday. Justice of the Peace Emilio Velasquez upheld the bond and agreed to convert it from a cash bond to a surety bond, allowing Kelly to use his ranch property as collateral.

Velasquez set the next hearing date for Friday. Kelly’s defense had wanted 30 to 60 days of delay in the proceedings to allow them time to talk to experts and gather forensic and ballistic evidence they allege the authorities neglected, according to Fox News.

Kelly, in the court documents he signed on Wednesday, must meet a number of conditions to remain out of custody, including not possessing firearms, drink alcohol, change his address without providing notice, or leave the state without written permission, reported Nogales International.

Rancher George Alan Kelly in an undated photo provided by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office in Nogales, Ariz. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Kelly was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in January, in relation to the death of a Mexican national identified as Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, whose body was found on Kelly’s cattle ranch near the U.S.-Mexico border, outside of Nogales, a city in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. The fatal shooting is alleged to have occurred on Jan. 30.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday filed an amended complaint against Kelly, listing two counts of aggravated assault against a pair of other people. The updated complaint used only initials for the two other people suspected of having been assaulted and did not list their nationalities.

Cuen-Butimea, who lived just south of the border in a city in Mexico similarly named Nogales, had prior to his death entered the United States multiple times illegally and was deported repeatedly, according to reports.

Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s attorney, has said Kelly did not aim to shoot at and kill Cuen-Butimea, but that Kelly acknowledged that he had fired warning shots at smugglers who were carrying AK-47 rifles and backpacks that he had encountered on his property.

“He does not believe that any of his warning shots could have possibly hit the person or caused the death,” Larkin said in a court filing earlier this month. “All the shooting that Mr. Kelly did on the date of the incident was in self-defense and justified.”

Kelly a Target of ‘Politicized’ Prosecution: Defense

In the state’s motion opposing Kelly’s modified terms of release, prosecutors contend that Kelly shot at least eight rounds with an AK-47 at a group of men on his property.

His action came “without warning and unprovoked, while they fled for their lives, unarmed and unable to defend themselves.”

“He just started shooting at them,” according to the motion.

Larkin said prosecutors filed charges without the bullet that allegedly killed Cuen-Butimea. There was also no forensic or DNA evidence, autopsy results, or any other elements that factor into a routine police investigation before finding charges of premeditated first-degree murder.

“Those are all facts that an investigation should determine. Those facts should be determined prior to charges being filed,” Larkin argued.

Larkin said the prosecution did not appear to have vetted witnesses or analyzed their statements.

There is a “large incentive structure,” for witnesses to come forward in hopes of receiving immigration benefits, she said. Or, they “succumb to pressure from traffickers in blaming this event on Mr. Kelly.”

GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding platform, is raising funds for Kelly’s bond and defense.

“George and Wanda Kelly are so grateful for all your support and donations,” reads a statement on the fundraising page, referring to Kelly and his wife.

“When we come together and stand up for what is right we MAKE a difference! They still have a long road ahead of them. Please continue to support George. God Bless.”

Earlier in February, GoFundMe removed all campaigns in support of Kelly’s case. A spokesperson for the platform told NTD in an emailed statement that the company’s terms of service “explicitly prohibit campaigns that raise money to cover the legal defense of anyone formally charged with an alleged violent crime.”

“Testimony is bought and sold by drug traffickers, and people are bought and sold,” Larkin said.

It is “sending a message to anybody else who may be defending their property that if you defend your property against that, you will be arrested, and there will be witnesses to stand against you.”

Allan Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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