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Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly has charges dismissed in migrant shooting case

An Arizona judge on Tuesday dismissed the murder case against George Alan Kelly, a rancher accused of shooting a Mexican national on his property in 2023.

An Arizona judge on Tuesday dismissed the case against rancher George Alan Kelly, who was charged with murder after being accused of shooting a Mexican national on his border property.

Kelly, 75, was accused of killing Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, on his 170-acre cattle ranch near Keno Springs outside Nogales, Arizona, on Jan. 30, 2023. 

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink said the State “has decided not to retry this case following mistrial because another jury would not convict the defendant based upon the same evidence.”


“At best, another hung jury would result. More likely, another jury would acquit,” Fink wrote.

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Santa Cruz County prosecutors in April decided not to retry Kelly after Fink declared a mistrial due to a hung jury. Jurors voted in favor of acquitting Kelly 7-1 of second-degree murder or the lower counts of manslaughter, negligent homicide or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

In his decision, the judge cited a lack of physical evidence and witnesses despite the fact that the shooting occurred more than a year ago; the bullet that allegedly killed Ramirez was never located.

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The judge also questioned whether the only witness named who came forward, Daniel Ramirez — a man who was walking with Cuen-Buitimea on the night he died — “would even be around for another trial.

Ramirez testified that he has tried and failed to cross the border 10 times. “There is no assurance that his whereabouts would be known in the future,” Fink said.

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Prosecutors have said that jurors’ opinions about the border may have impacted their decision-making in Kelly’s trial, but Fink said that is only speculation.

The judge described the jury as “rational and diverse” in their 7-1 decision to acquit Kelly.

“The court finds that the State is not able to articulate a reasonable basis for holding this case ‘open’ with a dismissal without prejudice. The interests of justice are not served by the dismissal without prejudice for a case that cannot and will not be re-tried,” Fink wrote. “The interests of justice are not advanced where the only thing to be accomplished by a dismissal without prejudice … is the harassment of the Defendant.”

Fox News’ Stepheny Price contributed to this report.

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