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Defense in rancher murder trial rests without George Alan Kelly taking stand

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 21:33:25-04

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — Jurors will soon begin considering a verdict in the murder trial of Santa Cruz County rancher George Alan Kelly. The defense rested without Kelly testifying in his own defense.

Defendants are not required to testify and they rarely do. It’s dangerous for a defendant to do because besides friendly questions from their own lawyers, prosecutors can hit them with very unfriendly questions.


Kelly’s defense attorneys decided not to put him on the stand. Throughout the trial, investigators have testified that Kelly’s story kept changing about the incident. They say that it was late in the day of the shooting and a half hour into questioning by a detective before he even admitted firing his AK-47 assault rifle.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rancher’s murder trial: Was Kelly willing to confront smugglers on his land?

Kelly had said he fired shots over the head of two men crossing his land. He said they were warning shots meant to drive them away, not to hurt them.

But Kelly later found one man dead—Gabriel Cuen Buitimea fell more than a hundred yards from where Kelly stood just outside his house and fired nine times.

No bullet was ever found to test for a match to Kelly’s rifle. The bullet that killed the man went through him and kept going. Kelly’s defense attorney’s suggested the dead man was involved in smuggling and that bandits shot him to steal drugs, money and guns.

A second degree murder charge does not ask jurors if someone meant to kill anyone. All that’s required for a conviction is to prove Kelly was reckless when he fired his rifle and that a man died as a result.


Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.