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Retrial decision pending in rancher’s murder case

Mistrial declared in George Alan Kelly case
Posted at 7:03 PM, Apr 23, 2024

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — In Nogales, prosecutors have a big decision ahead—should they try again to convict rancher George Alan Kelly of second degree murder, even after a jury could not agree on a verdict?

George Allen Kelly’s case is not over yet— even after a trial that took four weeks. Jurors could not agree whether he was guilty or not guilty of killing a Mexican National crossing his ranch. So now prosecutors have to decide if they want to try another trial.

On Monday, George Alan Kelly left the Santa Cruz County courthouse knowing that without a firm verdict to settle the charges, he could face another trial.

He said, “It is what it is. It will be what it will be. I will keep fighting forever. I won’t stop.”

Kelly told investigators that on January 30, 2023, he stepped out on his patio and fired shots from an AK 47 after he heard a gunshot, saw armed men on his ranch and fired over their heads to drive them off.

Later he found the body of Gabriel Cuen Buitema more than a hundred yards from the house. The bullet that killed the man passed through him. It was never recovered for tests that would reveal if it came from Kelly’s gun.

A second degree murder charge does not ask jurors to conclude Kelly killed the man deliberately, but that the man died through Kelly taking actions clearly dangerous to human life. Lesser included offenses of manslaughter or negligent homicide also ask jurors to conclude reckless behavior by Kelly resulted in the man's death.

Kelly’s defense team suggested someone else killed the man—maybe border bandits who killed him to steal money and drugs.

Investigators testified Cuen Buitema’s wound was consistent with a bullet fired from near Kelly’s house. They said Kelly made inconsistent statements about the number of intruders and whether they had guns or not.

After about two and a half days of considering the case, jurors convinced Judge Thomas Fink they could not agree on a verdict. He declared a mistrial.

Defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp says when she talked to jurors from the eight person jury, they told her the defense was close to winning a not guilty ruling.

“There was one hold out for guilty. The rest were not guilty so seven, not guilty, one guilty.”

To help the Cuen Buitimea family, Representatives from the Mexican consulate were at the trial. They say they hope prosecutors will try again to convict George Alan Kelly.

Prosecutors may announce their decision in a hearing on Monday.