George Kelly trial continues: Arizona rancher accused of killing migrant

A key witness took the stand on Wednesday in the trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged with shooting and killing a migrant on his property.

Daniel Ramirez was with 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea when he was allegedly shot and killed by George Alan Kelly in Nogales in January 2023.

During cross-examination, Kelly's attorney poked holes in Ramirez's previous testimony to investigators, specifically when he told investigators "no" when asked if he had previously smuggled drugs into the United States. On Wednesday, Ramirez admitted to bringing marijuana into the country.

"They asked you, have you transported drugs into the United States? "Kelly's attorney asked Ramirez. "And you're telling us that you believe they meant on this particular occasion, only? Is that right?"

"Yes," Ramirez replied.

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George Kelly

Last week, both the prosecution and the defense gave their opening statements, and on March 26, witnesses took the stand for the state.

The prosecution started with law enforcement members who either arrived at the scene, or talked to Kelly shortly after. This includes an officer who captured the drone video of the property, a sheriff’s deputy in charge of guarding Cuen-Buitimea's body, and a ranch liaison who Kelly called and texted several times that day.

Prosecutors say Kelly recklessly shot toward Cuen-Buitimea and another migrant about 100 yards away. Kelly's lawyer says he heard a gunshot outside his property and shot into the air, fearing for his safety as well as his wife's.

Prosecutors tried to challenge that account, showing a timeline of Kelly’s statements throughout the night, arguing his story kept changing.

"So if I understand you correctly, he initially said he was being shot at, but in the second phone call, he just said he heard a gunshot?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, ma'am," one of the witnesses replied.

The defense, however, came swinging in their cross-examinations. Among other things, they questioned why a backpack and fanny pack were found the way they were on Cuen-Buitimea.

"If a person is traveling in this terrain, he's probably wearing what he has on: a backpack, fanny back. Would you agree?" asked defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp.

"Yes," a witness replied.

"You have no idea why it's to the side?" Lowthorp asked.

"No," the witness replied.

"You have no idea how it got pulled from front chest?" asked Lowthorp.

"No," the witness replied.

Kelly had turned down a plea deal that required him to plead guilty to the lesser charge of negligent homicide. If convicted, he could spend over 20 years behind bars.

The trial is expected to conclude on April 19.


Trial starts for Arizona border rancher charged with killing migrant on his property

An Arizona rancher went on trial Friday in the fatal shooting of a migrant on his property near Mexico as the national debate over border security heats up ahead of this year's presidential election.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.