/ Modified mar 22, 2024 8:03 p.m.

Attorneys make opening statements in case of rancher accused of killing migrant

Friday was opening arguments in the trial of George Alan Kelly, the 75-year-old rancher being charged in the shooting death of a Mexican citizen, who prosecutors say was on Kelly’s property while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border undocumented.

George Alan Kelly trial George Alan Kelly during opening statements, on March 22, 2024, at trial where he's being charged with second degree murder and aggravated assault.
Angela Gervasi / Nogales International

Prosecutor Kimberly Hunley said in the courtroom that Kelly opened fire, on January 30, 2023, with an AK-47 on undocumented migrants Gabriel Cuen Buitimea and Daniel Ramirez as they walked on his property, a mile and a half from the border, in the Nogales area.

“Out of nowhere, a barrage of semi automatic assault rifle fire comes their direction,” she said. “And they’re walking and Daniel sees Gabriel just a few feet ahead of him get hit in the back with the assault rifle fire and he sees him grab his chest and say, I’m hit and he sees him fall in front of him and die.”

Kelly pled not guilty to the charges of second degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The defense says that Kelly saw a group of men on his property with guns and fired over their heads to scare them, making sure not to shoot anyone, and that the body of Cuen Buitimea was found in a different location.

As well, defense attorney Brenna Larkin told jurors that investigators were biased against Kelly and improperly handled the case, that witnesses in the case had conflicting and inaccurate testimony, and that the prosecution lacks adequate testimony to prove their case.

“Law enforcement had a bias going into this investigation and they wrapped the evidence around Mr. Kelly,” she said. “They decided he was guilty and they made it work. They didn’t let the evidence lead them to their conclusions. They let their predetermined conclusions lead them to their interpretations of the evidence.”

The trial is scheduled to run through April 19.

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