/ Modified apr 12, 2024 2:48 p.m.

Jury visits a ranch near US-Mexico border where an Arizona man is charged with killing a migrant

The case in Nogales, Arizona, has attracted national attention as border security becomes an increasingly important issue in this year’s presidential contest.

George Kelly Jurors Jurors in the George Alan Kelly case murder trial visited the Kino Springs ranch on April 12, 2024, where officials found the body of Gabriel Cuen Buitimea last year.
Courtesy Santa Cruz County Superior Court

By Anita Snow, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors in the case of an Arizona rancher charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border visited the scene of the killing as the third week of the trial wrapped up.

Court officials on Thursday took jurors in a van to view various locations at George Alan Kelly’s ranch, as well as a section of the border. Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink denied news media requests to tag along.

The case in Nogales, Arizona, has attracted national attention as border security becomes an increasingly important issue in this year’s presidential contest.

Fink said this week that the case was taking longer than he hoped and he would start imposing time limits on testimony to ensure that the case goes to the jury next Thursday.

Kelly, 75, is charged with the second-degree murder of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, a Mexican citizen. Kelly has said he fired warning shots in the air, but didn’t shoot directly at anyone.

Cuen-Buitimea was in a group of migrants Kelly encountered on his nearly 170-acre (69-hectare) cattle ranch. Prosecutors have said Kelly recklessly fired an AK-47 rifle toward the migrants, who were about 100 yards (90 meters) away, but Kelly and his defense team reject that narrative.

Jury visits to crime scenes are relatively rare, but Fink has suggested that the jurors in this case would get a better sense of how events were seen on the day of the shooting by various people who have testified.

In 2018, federal jurors in the trial of a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged in the fatal shooting of a teen across the Mexican border also in the Nogales, Arizona, area were taken to the scene of the shooting after dark to observe conditions as they may have been at the time. Former agent Lonnie Schwartz was acquitted in the killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez when jurors failed to reach a verdict on a voluntary manslaughter charge.

Kelly was arrested and charged last year in the Jan. 30, 2023, fatal shooting of Cuen-Buitimea, who lived in Nogales, Mexico, just south of the border.

The bullet that killed Cuen-Buitimea was not found in the body or at the scene.

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