An Arizona cattle rancher living near the US border with Mexico has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man believed to be a Mexican citizen.
George Alan Kelly, 73, was arrested last week in connection with a Jan. 30 murder at his property, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities say the victim, identified as 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, lived in Nogales, Mexico, separated by the border from a US town of the same name.
Officials believe Cuen-Butimea was a Mexican citizen due to a Mexican voter registration card he carried.
The fatal shooting took place just outside of Nogales, Ariz., in the Kino Springs area, according to Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Gerardo Castillo.
An address listed for the Kelly Cattle Ranch matches where Cuen-Butimea was killed.
Authorities have not provided much information about the killing, including a possible motive or whether the two men knew each other before the shooting.
The shooting rocked the Kino Springs neighborhood, with residents saying they had never felt unsafe in the border town before.
Maria Castillo, who has lived on Kino Springs and West Sagebrush Road for 10 years, told KOLD News 13 that it’s not unusual to see people crossing the border and moving into town.
“I pass by here every day,” Castillo said. “Late, early and never met anyone, I feel very safe here in the area.”
Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told the outlet that he knows the alleged shooter personally and even considers him a friend.
According to this friend, Kelly had previously had problems with people on his property. The friend noted that regardless of the reasoning behind the alleged shooting, he believes Kelly acted in good faith.
Kelly was taken into custody at the Santa Cruz County Jail, where he is being held on $1 million bail. He is due to appear in court again on Wednesday.
With post wires.