OPINION | This article contains the author's opinion.
George Alan Kelly, a rancher in Arizona, has been charged with the murder of a Mexican national.
Chief deputy attorney for Santa Cruz County, Kimberly Hunley, said that the Mexican national was in a group of people who were unarmed.
Hunley said that the group “posed no threat to him or his family.”
AZ: 74 y/o George Alan Kelly arrived to his evidentiary hearing in Nogales alone this morning—While his attorney recommended he didn’t make a comment he told me off camera that he doesn’t know what to expect today as he has never been in a situation like this.
Hearing at 9am. pic.twitter.com/7XIxeEFGbl
— Ali Bradley (@AliBradleyTV) February 24, 2023
Kelly allegedly “shot at them repeatedly with an AK-47, striking and killing one of them.”
Hunley continued, “Mr. Kelly shot an unarmed man in the back in an unprovoked attack as he ran for his life. There was no warning, and the victim was more than 100 yards from the defendant’s residence when he was shot and killed.”
Two people who were shot have spoken up, which has led the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office to file an amended complaint that added two counts of aggravated assault to the first-degree murder charge Kelly faces.
Kelly is charged with killing Gabriel Cuen-Butimea of Mexico. Cuen-Butimea had been deported to Mexico multiple times.
AZ: Prosecution says there were 8 people on George Alan Kelly’s ranch when he fired shots—One shot allegedly killed an immigrant.
The state believes more witnesses may come forward.
Kelly’s bond stays at $1M but converted to a surety. Prelim hearing continued: Feb. 24th 9am. pic.twitter.com/hRQK0ZlQUM
— Ali Bradley (@AliBradleyTV) February 22, 2023
Kelly is in jail on a $1 million bond. Justice of the Peace Emilio G. Velasquez kept the amount the same but changed the conditions to a surety bond. Kelly can put up his land as the bond.
Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s attorney, said, “There was a huge divergence in how investigation and prosecution should happen and how it did happen in this case.”
Larkin continued, “There’s a very large incentive structure for people to come forward and to have claimed to have been witnesses.”
“People can possibly obtain immigration benefits for doing so, or at least have the expectation of that, and people can succumb to pressure from traffickers who have an interest in blaming this event on Mr. Kelly.”
Kelly added, “Testimony is something that is bought and sold by drug traffickers the same way that drugs and people are bought and sold. It is a valuable commodity, and it is used by these traffickers to obtain what they want.”
“In this case, the benefit they’re getting is security for their smuggling route through Mr. Kelly’s property, and they’re sending a message to anybody else defending his or her own property that if you defend your property against us, you will be arrested, and there will be witnesses who come to stand against you.”