Murder case against Arizona rancher has additional alleged victims

(NewsNation) — The prosecution now maintains there were eight people on the property of the Arizona rancher suspected of killing a Mexican citizen near the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a preliminary hearing Wednesday, the state said 74-year-old rancher George Alan Kelly shot an unarmed man in the back in an unprovoked attack more than 100 yards from his residence just outside Nogales, Arizona, city limits in the Kino Springs area on Jan. 30.

According to the state, two other victims were with the deceased and were also shot at, but escaped.

Authorities believe the victim was Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, because of a Mexican voter registration card he carried.

U.S. federal court records show Cuen-Buitimea was convicted of illegal entry and deported back to Mexico several times, most recently in 2016.

Attorneys for Kelly say the shooting was “justified” and in “self-defense.”

Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenna Larkin, who was appointed by the court to represent Kelly, said he didn’t just fire shots, but instead was approached by armed men. 

According to the documents, Kelly heard a single gunshot from inside his ranch, then “saw a group of men moving through the trees around his home,” described in documents as being “armed with AK-47 rifles, dressed in khakis and camouflaged clothing and carrying large backpacks.”

According to witnesses, none of the group was armed.

One witness asserted that Kelly randomly started shooting at people from 10 yards away and also shot a horse, which Larkin says is not consistent with findings.

A first-degree murder complaint against Kelly was amended Tuesday to include two counts of aggravated assault against a pair of other people.

The filing in Santa Cruz County Justice Court was the first public mention of the possibility other people may have been hurt. 

The state believes more witnesses may come forward.

Justice of the Peace Emilio G. Velasquez ordered that Kelly’s $1 million bond be changed from a cash to a surety bond, which would allow Kelly to put up his ranch and home rather than come up with cash and allow him to leave custody while the case plays out.

Kelly’s preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue on Feb. 24 at 9 a.m.

Kelly’s wife Wanda spoke to NewsNation after the hearing, saying, “I just need to process everything that happened.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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