Phoenix man sentenced in neighbor's murder

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Gary Thomas Kelley By Natalie Rivers Gary Thomas Kelley By Natalie Rivers

PHOENIX – A Phoenix man who fatally shot his neighbor during a racially charged argument was sentenced to more than 27 years in prison.

Gary Thomas Kelley, 51, was sentenced Tuesday for the second-degree murder of Juan Varela and aggravated assault on Varela's brother.

The incident took place on May 6, 2010, when Kelley came out of his home near Central and Southern avenues in Phoenix. Authorities said Kelley yelled racial slurs and warned Varela to go back to Mexico.

Varela's brother, Antonio, walked toward the two men.

Kelley removed a .38-caliber revolver from his waistband and pointed it at the two brothers then fatally shot Varela in the neck area. 

Phoenix police officers responded and ordered Kelley to come out of his home. Within minutes Kelley was observed exiting the house with two bottles of beer. He drank one and poured the other over his head before police took him into custody.

Kelley's first trial ended with a hung jury. He was retried in April and was found guilty.

At Tuesday's hearing, Judge Susan Brnovich sentenced Kelley to 20 years for the murder and 7.5 years for the aggravated assault to be served consecutively.

Kelley apologized to Varela's family at the sentencing and told the judge the shooting was not racially motivated.