Arizona Man’s Trial Reaches Halfway Stage, Accused of Killing Migrant

As the murder trial of an Arizona rancher begins its second half, jurors will have the opportunity to visit the ranch along the border with Mexico. The ranch is located on the land where the migrant was tragically shot. The ranch visit will begin as early as this week.

Last week, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink indicated that he would permit the visit, but he has yet to establish a time and date. On Monday, Fink turned down a request from the media to join jurors on a tour of the property owned by 75-year-old George Alan Kelly.

Despite the judge’s claims that jurors would benefit from the visit in their fair determination of the allegations in this case, he insisted on Monday that the media would have a hard time getting past his limitations on interviewing and photographing jurors.

Such trips do not happen very often.

After nightfall in 2018 to examine circumstances as they may have been at the time, federal jurors in the trial of a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of fatally shooting a teenager across the Mexican border in the Nogales, Arizona, region were brought to the site of the killing. Due to a lack of consensus among jurors, former agent Lonnie Schwartz was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16-year-old boy.

Witnesses who have testified so far include Kelly’s wife, Wanda, who said that she had seen two men carrying weapons and backpacks as they passed their ranch home on the day of the incident.

The witness who saw Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, collapse on the ground after being hit was a Honduran guy who was part of the migrant group visiting the ranch that day. It was never determined where Cuen-Buitimea was shot and murdered.

Last year, charges were brought against Kelly in connection with the fatal shooting of Cuen-Buitimea, who resided in Nogales, Mexico, near the border, on January 30, 2023.

According to the prosecution, Kelly carelessly discharged an AK-47 rifle at the migrants, who were situated around 100 yards (90 meters) away from him on his almost 170-acre (69-hectare) cattle ranch. Kelly was also in possession of a pistol. Kelly and his legal team deny that story.

Since the trial began on March 22, the hearings have been conducted four days a week. The anticipated end date is April 19.

In late February, both Republican Donald Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden made competing trips to the Texas–Mexico border, highlighting the importance of border security in this year’s presidential race.