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Arizona Rancher George Alan Kelly Will Not Be Retried for Death of Mexican Migrant

Published: April 30, 2024
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 April 29, Arizona prosecutors said that they will not retry George Alan Kelly — who was accused of fatally shooting a Mexican migrant on his property — after his trial last week ended in a deadlocked jury.  

Kelly was charged with first-degree premeditated murder for a shooting that occurred on his property on Jan. 30, 2023. The following February, Kelly was charged with an additional two counts of aggravated assault after prosecutors said that two surviving victims came forward and offered testimony.

Prosecutors claimed at the time that Kelly shot the “unarmed” migrant — who was later identified as Gabriel Cuen-Butimea — in the back “in an unprovoked attack as he ran for his life.”

Kelly, 75, claimed that he had only fired multiple warning shots into the air after discovering a group of armed men moving through the trees around his property. 

As a result of the shooting, Kelly spent months incarcerated, and was only released after posting a bond for $1 million.


Mistrial declared

After more than two days of deliberations, jurors in the trial failed to reach a unanimous decision on a verdict, prompting Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink to declare a mistrial on April 22. 

The Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office then had to decide whether to retry Kelly, or to drop the case.

“Because of the unique circumstances and challenges surrounding this case, the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office has decided not to seek a retrial,” Kimberly Hunley, the Deputy County Attorney told Fink on Monday. 

Fink agreed, adding that he would schedule a hearing to determine whether or not it would be dismissed with prejudice; meaning the case couldn’t be brought back to court. 

Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s defense attorney, said she will be filing a request for the case to be dismissed with prejudice. 

While exiting the courthouse, a reporter with KGUN asked Kelly for his reaction to which he replied he felt “relief.”

“The nightmare is over,” Kelly said, adding that the victim’s family “has my sincere sympathy.”