Judge Declared Hung Jury In Illegal Migrant Murder Trial

An Arizona cattle rancher walked free on Monday after an Arizona judge declared a mistrial in the case against him. George Kelly, 75, was charged with murdering an illegal migrant trespassing on his private land but the jury deciding his fate could not reach a verdict on Friday or Monday.

Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea of Mexico. He faced a minimum prison term of ten years.

It was Jan. 30, 2023, when Kelly spotted a group of illegal migrants about 100 yards away on his Nogales cattle ranch. Investigators determined he fired nine shots.

Cuen-Buitimea previously crossed the U.S. border with Mexico illegally on numerous occasions. He was deported in 2016.

Kelly told investigators that he did not fire at the group on his ranch near the border but fired several warning shots up in the air. Nine shell casings were recovered on the rancher’s porch, according to court records, but the bullet that killed Cuen-Buitimea was never located.

Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s defense attorney, told the jury in her closing that the defendant faced “a life-or-death situation.” She declared he would have been justified in using deadly force, but he refrained.

An alleged witness, Daniel Ramirez, became a point of contention in the case. Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway reportedly met with Ramirez weeks later.

Prosecutors claimed Ramirez witnessed the shooting before he fled back into Mexico. But the defense highlighted testimony from the “witness” that seemed to contradict that he was present at the time of the shooting.

Larkin told the jury, which visited the property, that they could not find Kelly guilty on charges related to Ramirez because the alleged victim was not even there.

The defense attorney added that guilty verdicts on the other counts could also not be reached due to the lack of proof that the rancher shot anyone.

Prosecutors told the jury that Cuen-Buitimea was unarmed and hinted that Mexican drug cartels interfered with the investigation. But the hung jury means Kelly is now a free man, and he should soon learn if the contentious case will be retried.