Trial Date Set for Kino Springs Rancher Charged with Murder of Undocumented Immigrant

In a significant legal development, a trial date has been set for Kino Springs rancher George Alan Kelly, who stands accused of the murder of an undocumented immigrant. The proceedings offer a glimpse into the complexities of the case, including the prosecution’s plea deal, the defense’s intent to reject, and the anticipation surrounding the upcoming trial. Chief investigative reporter provides live updates from Nogales, Arizona.

The Legal Landscape:

The legal proceedings took a pivotal turn during a hearing presided over by Judge Thomas Fink. The new trial date was established, marking a crucial step forward in the murder case against Kelly. Jury selection is slated to commence on March 21 and 22, with an anticipated three-week trial to follow.

Kelly and his attorney, Brenna Larkin, participated remotely in the hearing. While they were not physically present, the significance of the proceedings was not lost, considering it was the first court appearance in Santa Cruz County Superior Court since the trial faced delays in September due to appeals filed by prosecutors.

Prosecutors successfully navigated various appeals, securing the nod from the State Court of Appeals. This included the permission to depose Kelly’s wife further and the acknowledgment that certain text messages involving Kelly could be presented as evidence during the trial.

While some motions are still at Judge Fink’s discretion, no arguments were entertained during the recent hearing. However, Judge Fink did schedule a Donald Hearing to elucidate the terms and conditions of a plea offer extended to Kelly by the prosecution.

The Plea Deal:

A proposed plea agreement obtained by News 4 Tucson outlines terms that would enable Kelly to admit guilt in exchange for a reduced charge of negligent homicide instead of 2nd degree murder. The lesser sentence carries a minimum of four years and a maximum of eight years in prison.

Despite the plea offer, Kelly’s attorney, Brenna Larkin, affirmed his intent to reject the proposal. During the court proceedings, she stated, “Your honor, we have discussed that plea with Mr. Kelly, and it is his intention to reject that plea.”

The trial is set to proceed with an eight-person jury and four alternates. Judge Fink strategically scheduled the trial for the end of March, taking into consideration students returning from Spring break and aiming to avoid scheduling conflicts with Summer vacations later in the year.

Background of the Case

George Alan Kelly faces a 2nd degree murder charge in connection with the death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an undocumented immigrant found deceased on Kelly’s Kino Springs ranch in February of the previous year. Kelly contends that he fired warning shots above the heads of a group of armed drug smugglers on his property, maintaining his denial of shooting anyone.

Trial Date Set for Kino Springs Rancher Charged with Murder of Undocumented Immigrant

The case centers on Kino Springs rancher George Alan Kelly, facing a 2nd degree murder charge in the death of undocumented immigrant Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea on Kelly’s ranch. Kelly alleges firing warning shots at armed trespassing drug smugglers, denying any direct involvement in the death. Legal proceedings encountered delays, marked by successful appeals allowing further depositions and text message introductions. A proposed plea deal offers a reduced charge of negligent homicide, but Kelly’s intent to reject sets the stage for a three-week trial starting March 21. Strategic trial scheduling by Judge Thomas Fink aims to accommodate academic breaks and avoid summer conflicts. The case underscores legal intricacies, justice pursuit, and the enigma surrounding events on the Kino Springs ranch.


As the legal proceedings unfold, the case raises questions about the complexities surrounding the murder accusation and the potential implications of the upcoming trial. The rejection of the plea deal sets the stage for a legal battle that will not only determine George Alan Kelly’s fate but also shed light on the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident on the Kino Springs ranch. Live updates from Nogales will continue to provide insights into this ongoing legal saga.

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