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Arizona Rancher Who Shot and Killed an Allegedly Armed Illegal Migrant on His Property Released on $1M Bond

Published: February 23, 2023
Asylum-seekers line up to be processed by US Customs and Border Patrol agents at a gap in the US-Mexico border fence near Somerton, Arizona, on Dec. 26, 2022. (Image: REBECCA NOBLE/AFP via Getty Images)

On Feb. 23, Arizona rancher, George Alan Kelly (73), who has been held in custody for months facing murder and other charges for shooting and killing a Mexican national on his ranch, was released after posting a $1-million bond. 

“Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo confirmed that 73-year-old Kelly posted bond Wednesday after appearing in court,” Fox News reported. 

The judge presiding over Kelly’s case, Emilio Velasquez, originally upheld Kelly’s $1 million bond but later agreed to convert it from cash to surety. 

Kelly’s next hearing date is set for this Friday, even after his defense, attorney Brenna Larkin, pleaded with the court to allow a continuance of 30 to 60 days to allow time for forensic and ballistic evidence to be gathered, evidence that Larkin says authorities have neglected to process.  

Kelly was charged with first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting that occurred on his property on Jan. 30 this year. On Feb. 21, Kelly was charged with an additional two counts of aggravated assault after prosecutors said that two surviving victims came forward and offered testimony. 

Prosecutors continue to argue that Kelly shot the “unarmed” migrant — believed to be Gabriel Cuen-Butimea — in the back “in an unprovoked attack as he ran for his life,” in stark contrast to Kelly’s account. 

Kelly claims that he fired multiple warning shots into the air early on Jan. 30, after discovering a group of armed men moving through the trees around his property. 

His defense alleges that at one point during the incident an armed migrant “pointed an AK-47 right at” Kelly who had been calling Border Patrol multiple times that day seeking assistance.

Prosecutors continue to claim the migrants were unarmed. 

On Feb. 23, Larkin argued that there’s a “very large incentive structure for people to come forward and to have claimed to have been witnesses,” adding that witnesses have an expectation of immigration benefits. Larkin said that potential witnesses are also under pressure from traffickers “who have an interest in blaming this event on Mr. Kelly.” 

“Testimony is something that is bought and sold by drug traffickers the same way that drugs and people are bought and sold,” Larkin said.


GoFundMe campaign canceled 

Earlier this month, a number of GoFundMe campaigns launched to support Kelly’s legal battle were canceled by the platform.

“GoFundMe’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit campaigns that raise money to cover the legal defense of anyone formally charged with an alleged violent crime. Consistent with this long-standing policy, any fundraising campaigns for the legal defense of someone charged with murder are removed from our platform,” a spokesperson for GoFundMe said in a statement to Fox News Digital

New campaigns, launched on Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, have to date attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So far, just under $390,000 has been raised via four campaigns with the most successful campaign raising $327,249 as of Feb. 23. 

Shannon Pritchard, who launched the most successful campaign on GiveSendGo wrote,“It is a tragedy that a simple farmer, who should be protected by the government, has been abandoned and had to defend himself.  That is bad enough, but the government that caused this, now wishes to persecute him.  Not only that, they are holding this old farmer on 1 million dollar bail, which anyone can see is purely political.  This will ruin the remaining years of this gentleman’s life, through no fault of his own. Are you as outraged as I am?  This man should not have to spend a night in jail.”

Pritchard had to raise the funding ask, several times, as donations rolled in, and added a subsequent post to her campaign that reads, “I will never forget your generosity for the rest of my days. May God bless each and every one of you, from the smallest donor to the largest. And thank you all for the prayers that you offered up for Mr. Kelly. I am praying a prayer of thanksgiving for you all each day.”