A 73-year-old rancher accused of killing an illegal alien on his property has had the charge downgraded from first- to second-degree murder.
George Alan Kelly was charged after a Mexican national was found shot dead on his Arizona ranch last month. The property is roughly a mile and a half from the border with Mexico.
Fox News reported that the charge was amended Friday in Santa Cruz County Justice Court.
Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s court-appointed attorney, entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of her client.
Larkin addressed the decision to downgrade the charge.
“That’s a significant change in the charge,” she said. “Second-degree murder is, frankly, a more complicated theory of the case for both the state and the defense.”
Kelly was released on a $1 million bond this week. He received the money via donations to the Christian fundraising platform GiveSendGo.
Larkin has stated in court filings that Kelly feared for his life as a number of armed men walked through his property on Jan. 30. The attorney also said Kelly heard a gunshot, according to KSAZ-TV.
“The leader of the armed group of men saw Mr. Kelly and pointed an AK-47 right at him,” Larkin wrote.
“Mr. Kelly, fearing for his life and safety, fired several shots from his rifle, hoping to scare them away from him, his wife, his animals, and his home.
“As he shot, Mr. Kelly took care to aim well over the heads of the armed group of men. The group then began running into the desert surrounding his home.”
She added that none of the men on the ranch was known to Kelly and that “he had not given any of them permission to come onto his land.”
Larkin said that later in the day, Kelly found the body of a man identified as Gabriel Cuen-Butimea.
Cuen-Butimea “[had] a radio with him, and he was wearing tactical boots, indicating he was possibly involved in illegal activity,” according to Larkin.
“He does not believe that any of his warning shots could have possibly hit the person or caused the death,” she said.
“All of the shooting that Mr. Kelly did on that date of the incident was in self-defense and justified.”
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