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Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly jury to take field trip to borderland property at center of murder trial

The jurors in the murder trial of George Alan Kelly will visit the border ranch where Mexican national Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea was found shot to death.

The jurors in the murder trial of Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly are expected to make a court field trip to the borderlands property at the center of case involving the death of Mexican national Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea. 

The visit to the 170-acre cattle ranch near Keno Springs outside Nogales will happen on Thursday, Fox News Digital has learned. 

As the trial surpasses its halfway point, jurors have heard testimony regarding where and at what distance Kelly was standing when prosecutors argue he fatally shot Cuen-Buitimea. 

The defense maintains Kelly only fired warning shots into the air from his patio earlier in the day, and his wife, Wanda Kelly, testified about dialing their Border Patrol ranch liaison upon spotting two armed men dressed in camouflage and carrying rifles and backpacks walking about 100 feet from their home. 


Kelly’s defense team has looked to sow doubt on whether forensics evidence presented in court and the autopsy report can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cuen-Buitimea was killed by Kelly’s gun. The fatal bullet was never recovered from the scene. A consultant for Kelly’s defense, who spoke on condition on anonymity, told Fox News Digital that none of the state’s witnesses so far in the trial have provided any rebuttal testimony against the defense theory that a rip crew – a gang of bandits, sometimes cartel-affiliated – could have fatally shot Cuen-Buitimea and robbed him.

Judge Thomas Fink of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court on Monday denied media access to accompany jurors onto Kelly’s private property during the ranch visit this week. 

Among the witnesses who took the stand last week was Sgt. Omar Rodriguez, the first supervisor with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office to respond to the scene after Kelly had called both the Border Patrol and the sheriff’s office the evening of Jan. 30, 2023, to report finding a dead body on his property.

During questioning by one of Kelly’s defense attorneys, Kathy Lowthorp, Rodriguez testified that he never considered that Cuen-Buitimea could have been a scout or a drug smuggler – and not just an illegal migrant "pursuing the American Dream," as prosecutors surmised – despite admitting that the decedent was dressed in camouflage and tactical boots, and had in his possession packs and a sophisticated, encrypted two-way radio. 

The defense consultant told Fox News Digital that smugglers, or coyotes, are known to carry similar radios to communicate with each other and monitor law enforcement communications in the area. 

Rodriguez testified that he flipped Cuen-Buitimea’s body over at the scene, cutting a backpack strap and searching the backpack. He said no U.S. dollars were found on the man’s body – something the defense considers unusual for a supposed migrant coming into the U.S. Rodriguez said Cuen-Buitimea had only 1,540 pesos – equivalent to less than $80 – and no identification on his person. 

Lowthorp grilled Rodriguez, "Maybe he was robbed. Have you considered that?" 

"I would be guessing, ma’am," he replied. 


"But sir, your job is to write down all possibilities and investigate, not sit there and defend yourself for why you didn’t investigate," Lowthorp retorted. 

At the onset of the trial, the prosecution’s key witness, a man from Honduras who claimed to have been with Cuen-Buitimea when he was shot, admitted to previously carrying drugs across the border and told the courtroom that he has paid human smugglers $2,500 each time they helped him cross illegally into the U.S. Notably, that man also testified as to why it took him two weeks after the shooting to come forward as a witness. He claimed under oath that he had consumed water from a trough on Kelly’s property and fallen ill for a while after crossing back over the border into Mexico.

Upon arriving at the scene, Rodriguez testified that Kelly guided him to Cuen-Buitimea’s body – situated about 115 yards from the Kelly residence, and admitted that despite the rancher’s nervousness, Kelly did place a lit flashlight in a tree near the body, allowing deputies to find the decedent more easily. 

Though he conceded he had no formal tracking or ballistics certification, Rodriguez told the courtroom that he believed "that the projectile or round that came and struck the decedent or victim came from the direction of the house," based on the position of the entry wound on the right side of his body. But upon pressing by Lowthorp, the sergeant admitted he could not say definitively whether Cuen-Buitimea had been killed immediately or could have been mortally wounded, was bleeding out and walking or staggering until finally collapsing in the location where he was found. 

Kelly made national headlines last year when he was held on a $1 million bond on a first-degree murder charge for several weeks. The highest charge was later downgraded to second-degree murder. The elderly rancher rejected a deal from prosecutors earlier this year that would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he would agree to plead guilty. The trial is expected to end April 19.

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