Cowboy down: Rob Krentz's family talks about the life and death of the murdered Arizona rancher 

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There, they found three expended bullet shells — Sheriff Dever wouldn't reveal the caliber to the media. An agent from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement identified the dusty footprints of one individual at the scene.

Trackers from several agencies followed the footprints south, toward the Mexico line, where the trail ended.

"There is absolutely no reason this had to happen," Dever concluded at his press conference, "other than the bad intentions of one sick, sorry individual whom we hope to be able to catch up to very quickly."

Dever's comments raised many still-unanswered questions:

Why would anyone connected to the drug trade risk the wrath and intense scrutiny (from both sides of the border) that killing a popular rancher in cold blood would bring?

Why did the killer also shoot Blue? Had the dog come upon an advance scout for the Mexican drug cartels who smuggle in untold amounts of dope through Cochise County every year?

Why did it take so long for authorities to find Rob Krentz's body after his family had called in a missing-persons report?

As for the latter, Dever tells New Times that "Rob was found kind of down in a little arroyo. You wouldn't see him from any of the nearby roads."

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed her agency had "responded immediately to the murder. Immediately following the shooting, Customs and Border Protection [the Border Patrol] deployed additional helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to the area of the shooting. Border Patrol trackers located the footprint sign of the suspect and tracked him back into Mexico."

Not quite, says Cochise County Sheriff Dever. He says his agency requested, without success, Border Patrol "air assets" hours earlier.

Dever speculates that long-standing radio communications problems between Border Patrol stations in Lordsburg, New Mexico, and Douglas may have caused the delay.

The Border Patrol did respond by air, Dever says, but not until after the state Department of Public Safety had dispatched a Ranger helicopter from Tucson and soon found Rob's body using heat-seeking sensors and other technology.

And the biggest question, especially to politicians and the general public: Was the murderer an illegal alien?

Sheriff Dever told New Times after the shooting that "it makes sense that Rob ran into a guy who was involved in drug trafficking. The tracks tell us that the guy was heading south to Mexico, which suggests what it suggests. Whether he's an illegal or not remains to be seen. But it wouldn't surprise me."

Dever mentioned retaliation as a possible motive, saying that Phil Krentz called the Border Patrol one day before the shooting after spotting a group of what looked like undocumented immigrants on the ranch.

The agents soon arrested eight migrants and found almost 300 pounds of marijuana in the vicinity.

But federal prosecutors never did file drug-smuggling charges in the case, supposedly because they couldn't establish a direct link between the men and the pot.

The sheriff said Rob Krentz, like all border-area ranchers, had been deeply frustrated by the influx of drug smugglers onto his land.

But he noted that Rob, conversant in Spanish, was known to have helped ordinary migrants over the years by providing them with water and food.


Public interest in the Rob Krentz murder case skyrocketed.

Part of it stemmed from the remarkable timing: Senate Bill 1070 — the Arizona Legislature's thumbing its nose at the feds over illegal immigration — was nearing a final vote.

If odds of its controversial passage seemed great before the Krentz murder, it was a given afterward.

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