The murder of a prominent Cochise County rancher that triggered a nationwide outcry about border security remains unsolved a year later.
Investigators have identified a man who fits the description of the possible killer — a tall, cross-border smuggler with a violent criminal record. But they don’t know for sure if he’s in the U.S. or Mexico, or if he’s dead or alive.
And even if they find him, it won’t mean the crime is solved.
Authorities haven’t found the gun used to kill Robert Krentz on his ranch last March 27 and they have no witnesses, according to documents the Arizona Daily Star obtained through public records requests.
Krentz and his dog were gunned down on his property near the Mexico border shortly after he reported spotting someone who appeared to be in trouble.
Sheriff’s officials said Krentz’s all-terrain vehicle was running and his wounded dog was trying to defend him when authorities found his body in the remote area of his sprawling 35,000-acre ranch northeast of Douglas. The dog later died.
Krentz, 58, had been on his ATV checking water lines and fencing when he was shot. Neighbors and law enforcement officials later followed tracks apparently belonging to the killer 20 miles south into Mexico.
Authorities didn’t discover Krentz’s body until just before midnight on March 27, giving the killer a nearly 14-hour head start to flee south to Mexico. He was likely long gone by the time they followed his tracks to the border the next afternoon.
Sheriff’s officials believe Krentz was killed by an illegal immigrant who was headed to Mexico and worked as a scout for drug smugglers.
The murder became a flash point in the immigration debate. A month after the killing, Arizona lawmakers passed the nation’s toughest legislation targeting illegal immigration.
So far, there’s been no closure for Krentz’s heartbroken widow, children and grandchildren, and no explanation for shaken ranchers in this remote valley near the Arizona-New Mexico state line.
“We would like to know what the heck happened,” said Bill McDonald, a fifth-generation rancher east of Douglas. “It doesn’t make any sense to us.”
Sheriff Larry Dever won’t answer specific questions about the investigation.
“Rob Krentz was killed by a bad person with a bad agenda, and our porous borders continue to contribute to the potential for another event,” Dever said. “I will never rest until this killer is brought to justice.”