Cowboy Down

Rob Krentz's Family Talks About the Life and Death of the Murdered Arizona Rancher

McDonald went on to say that, in the past few years, "the character of the crossers has taken an ominous turn."

He recalled that Rob Krentz's message to Border Patrol agents at a community meeting a few years earlier was that "if things continued as they were, it was inevitable that someone would be killed."

A few years ago, the Krentzes found the remains of a woman on their ranch. An undocumented migrant, she died of dehydration just yards from a water trough.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, at the border near Naco, says that solving the Krentz murder is at the top of his agenda.
Paul Rubin
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, at the border near Naco, says that solving the Krentz murder is at the top of his agenda.

"Why did this happen?" Sue Krentz asks. "How could our government let this happen to us and to her and thousands like her? No one cares."

Rob Krentz wasn't keen about expressing himself in public. But he spoke out again in May 2005, this time telling a Tucson television station that migrants had cost his family ranch up to $8 million over the previous five years.

The losses were the type described by McDonald in his stark Senate testimony a few weeks ago.

Sue was more outspoken than her husband, writing to politicians and trying to get someone in authority to listen about the plight of Arizona border ranchers.

"Maybe they listened," she says, "but I can't say that anybody did anything."

Sue Krentz drives a visitor around the north part of the ranch, near her home and about 10 miles from the murder site.

She knows every dip, every slippery turn on the old dirt roads. "You know your child, you know your ranch," she says.

Sue isn't carrying a firearm—never does. She says she isn't "going to live scared. I'm going to deal with what I'm going to deal with."

A stretch of the road runs through U.S. Forest Service land. Sue stops at a large metal sign that the feds erected a few years ago.

It reads, "Travel Caution: Smuggling and Illegal Immigration May Be Encountered in This Area."

Sue parks and steps into a pasture crisscrossed with water lines.

"The water that our cattle and the wildlife drink comes from our private land—land that we pay taxes on, land that is ours," she says. "Is there anything wrong with that?"

Sue talks about her late husband's physical problems, how his body had been breaking down after years of grinding it out on the ranch.

Rob had back surgery in July 2009, and it was months before he could resume working full-time. He and Sue regularly drove over to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where their son Andy is a physical therapist, for rehab.

In January, Rob had one of his hips replaced. His second hip had been scheduled for similar surgery in May.

"Rob's attitude helped him out with all this stuff," Sue says. "He just did what he could out there, even though he still couldn't move so much. He was pretty beat-up."

An ATV zips by in the other direction on the dirt road. A big fellow in the four-wheeler has a dog on either side of him.

He waves at Sue, and she waves back.

"That's my brother-in-law Phil," Sue says. "He's got so much more to do now that Rob is gone."

The cowboys now responsible for the day-to-day operation of Krentz Ranch are Phil, his son Ben, and Sue's son Frank.

It strikes Sue that she hasn't heard from Frank in a few hours.

"He's working today down near where Rob got shot," she says. "Stuff has to be done. But I get kind of crazy when he's out on the ranch and I don't hear from him for a while. I think he might be hurt, that somebody's done something to him."

Sue speaks of her continued faith in God, despite all that's happened to her and her family.

"I'm a Catholic, and I have to trust in what He has in store for all of us," she says. "But I am a little aggravated with my church right now."

She tells of attending a Sunday Mass with her sister, Dr. Lily Percell, in Phoenix a few weeks earlier.

The priest was sermonizing about SB 1070 and "how it's evil and [how] he picks up illegal aliens and takes them to safety and how he supposes that makes him an illegal. I'm getting madder and madder, not because all aliens are evil people or even because I know that an illegal killed Rob. I'm mad because there's nothing coming out of his mouth that says anything about our rights, about what's happened to us, American citizens."

Sue says she and Percell walked out of the sermon and paced around the church parking lot.

Afterward, a lay pastor came out and tried to reason with the sisters.

"He told us that we all have our human dignity, that God looks at us all the same and all of that," Sue Krentz says. "I told him, 'What about my human dignity, hon? What about my husband's human dignity, getting shot in cold blood while he's out with his dog?"

She finishes with this: "I wonder what really happened out there with Rob that day. But, basically, I just wonder why."

Dever says there never has been a case in his 30-year police career that he's wanted solved more than Rob Krentz's murder.
« Previous Page
Next Page »