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George Alan Kelly: Jury Selection Continues for Rancher Accused of Killing Mexican National

The 76-year-old, who has been charged with second-degree murder, maintains he fired in the air to defend his wife and his property

George Alan Kelly: Jury Selection Continues for Rancher Accused of Killing Mexican National

The trial of the 76-year-old rancher facing murder charges is underway in Arizona after months of delay.

Jury selection entered its second day on March 22 for the trial of George Alan Kelly, who has been accused of killing an illegal alien who was part of a group crossing his ranch less than two miles from the United States-Mexico border. Kelly has pleaded not guilty and maintains he fired into the air in self-defense. 

Proceedings are being conducted in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. In total, eight jurors will be selected as well as four alternates. If convicted of murder, Kelly is facing over 23 years in prison.

The cattle rancher rejected a plea deal in January that consisted of one charge of negligent homicide with a maximum sentence of eight years. 

The trial is expected to last three weeks. It was initially scheduled for September 2023 but was delayed while prosecutors fought to have text messages written by Kelly admitted as evidence. The effort was ultimately denied.

Kelly has been charged with one count of second-degree murder for the death of Mexican national Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea as well as one count of aggravated assault.

Cuen-Buitimea was part of a group of illegal aliens who were attempting to gain access to the United States on Jan. 30, 2023 by crossing Kelly’s 170-acre property in Kino Springs. Authorities have accused Kelly of recklessly firing an AK-47 toward the group. After shots were fired, authorities found Cuen-Buitimea dead at the scene.

Kelly’s lawyers say their client took action out of concern for his wife’s safety and the safety of his property. The rancher was reportedly eating lunch when he heard a single gunshot and saw a group of at least five men dressed in camouflage moving across his land. Kelly called Border Patrol Ranch Liason before going onto his porch.

According to court documents, one of the men pointed an AK-47 at Kelly when they saw him on the porch. 

“Mr. Kelly, fearing for his life and safety, fired several shots from his rifle, hoping to scare them away from him, his wife, his animals, and his home,” said the document filed by the defense. “As he shot, Kelly took care to aim well over the heads of the armed group of men. The group then began running into the desert surrounding his home.”

Kelly’s wife Wanda told law enforcement that arrived at the scene that she had seen armed men near the house. After law enforcement searched the property and left, Kelly reportedly went to look for his horse and noticed his dogs were focused on something under a mesquite tree. The rancher approached with his flashlight and saw a body lying face down. He once again called the Border Patrol Ranch Liaison.

The body, later identified as Cuen-Buitimea, was dressed in tactical boots with a radio. A firearm was not located on the body.

A recording of the second phone call, which lasted eight minutes, was released. According to NewsNation, Kelly repeatedly asked the Sheriff’s office for assistance and said an EMT or an ambulance would not help.

None of the other illegal aliens were injured during the incident and they're believed to have fled back across the Mexico border.

Kelly, who cooperated with law enforcement, was arrested and his bail was set at $1 million. He posted bond and was released on Feb. 23, 2023.

“George and Wanda Kelly are so grateful for all your support and donations," said a post on a GiveSendGo fundraiser created to help Kelly, per Fox News. "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." 

Cuen-Buitima had repeatedly illegally entered the United States. According to Fox 10 Phoenix, he was convicted and deported in 2016.

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