Arizona rancher’s murder complaint amended with assault counts
PHOENIX (AP) — The first-degree murder complaint against an Arizona rancher suspected of killing a Mexican on his land was amended Tuesday to include two counts of aggravated assault against two others.
The filing at the Santa Cruz County Court in the border town of Nogales, Ariz., was the first public mention of the possibility that other people were injured in the Jan. 30 incident. The updated complaint only used the initials of the other two people suspected of being assaulted and did not state their nationalities.
The new charges come on the eve of a preliminary hearing for rancher George Alan Kelly, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the fatal shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, who lived just south of the border at Nogales, Mexico. US federal court records show Cuen-Butimea has been convicted of illegal entry and deported to Mexico on multiple occasions, most recently in 2016.
Kelly, 73, is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. MT (11 a.m. ET) in Santa Cruz County Court on Wednesday.
His attorney, Brenna Larkin, said Kelly did not shoot and kill the man, but acknowledges that earlier in the day he fired warning shots at smugglers carrying AK-47 rifles and bags backpacks he encountered on his property.
“He doesn’t think any of his warning shots could have hit the person or caused the death,” Larkin said in a court filing earlier this month. “All shooting Mr. Kelly did on the date of the incident was in self-defence and justified.”
Kelly’s ranch is just outside of Nogales, Arizona, within the city limits in the Kino Springs area.
The Mexican consulate in Nogales has not publicly commented on the case.
The shooting has sparked strong political sentiments less than six months after a prison guard and his brother were arrested in a West Texas shooting that killed one migrant and injured another. Michael and Mark Sheppard, both 60, have been charged with manslaughter in the September shooting in El Paso County.
Authorities say the twin brothers stopped their truck near a town about 40 kilometers from the border and opened fire on a group of migrants collecting water along the road. A migrant died and a woman was shot in the stomach.
GoFundMe campaigns to pay for Kelly’s legal defense have been halted due to the seriousness of the case and the money has been returned to donors, the platform said in a statement last week.
“GoFundMe’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit campaigns that raise funds to cover the legal defense of anyone officially charged with an alleged violent crime,” he said. “Consistent with this long-standing policy, all fundraising campaigns for the legal defense of someone accused of murder are removed from our platform.”
GiveSendGo, which describes itself as a Christian fundraising platform, runs at least four fundraising campaigns for Kelly’s legal defense, including one that raised more than $300,000 as of Tuesday.
Kelly apparently drew inspiration from his life as a rancher in the borderlands in the self-published novel “Far Beyond the Border Fence,” which is described on Amazon.com as a “contemporary novel that brings in the Mexican border conflict/ drugs in the 21st century”.
Written by a man of the same name, the 57-page novel focuses on a man named George and his wife, Wanda, also the name of Kelly’s real wife.
“Several times a week, illegal immigrants would pass through the VMR ranch,” one part read. “They were led by armed smugglers called Coyotes. George and his foreman had to patrol the ranch daily, armed with AK-47s.