By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It was not altogether surprising that the upbeat, yet slightly naive teen who colored her hair to match that of her idol Tori Amos would be attracted to Noordman and Guerrero, her enigmatic best friends. Noordman was a young activist who founded a gay-and-lesbian club at her high school and was into animal rights. Guerrero was smart and admired by his peers among the town’s small goth crowd. Bullwinkle liked to stand out as well, but in subtler ways, like through her eclectic taste in clothing. She also had a slightly antisocial side. In history class, she and her good friend Rachel Schneider would sit under their desks and chat in an attempt to show disdain for the “stupid jocks.”
“We were not popular,” said Schneider. “We were weird.”
Guerrero and Noordman wouldn’t have won any popularity contests with the in crowd either, but they did win the admiration of Bullwinkle, though friends say the duo often teased and bullied the more retiring Bullwinkle. Their peers thought Guerrero and Bullwinkle were an odd mix. Guerrero was considered sarcastic, dark and mean by Bullwinkle’s friends. Nevertheless, sometime around last spring Bullwinkle and Guerrero started seeing each other somewhat on the sly as more than friends. Friends say Bullwinkle complained that Guerrero would run hot and cold toward her.
“She did tell me about Damien at the end of the school year,” said Schneider. “She said that she had been kinda seeing Damien and that she was afraid to tell me because she knew I didn’t like him. I was surprised. To me he is a mean person who is arrogant and cruel.”
Whatever it was between Guerrero and Bullwinkle, it didn’t last very long, maybe a few months, but Bullwinkle was hooked. “She told me Guerrero was her soul mate,” said Laura Williams, 38, a family friend who lives with the Bullwinkles. Guerrero, on the other hand, was hooked on Elody Romero, a former classmate of Bullwinkle’s at Redlands East Valley, whom he dated for a good part of the last two years. He told police that after he and Bullwinkle split, Bullwinkle would not get the hint and persisted in calling him and sending e-mails.
“I knew he was a player, but I didn’t think he would go with Kelly,” said former Redlands East Valley High School student Heather Hill. “I didn’t think that she was his type. Kelly seemed too nice. The other girls were quiet and dark. He is so sarcastic, and Kelly is so gullible sometimes. I didn’t think their personalities would match.”
At high school, when not hiding under her desk, Bullwinkle could be found at lunchtime hanging out at the information booth of Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FLAG) with Noordman, who founded the student club in her senior year. At first, the club received a lukewarm reception and even sparked a few protests, but soon boasted 30 members, including Bullwinkle. “[Kinzie] was the leader,” said the 19-year-old Hill, who was dating Noordman during this time. “She always had something interesting to say. People looked up to her and respected her.” Noordman also staged a protest on campus against eating meat and, on at least one occasion, was a participant in Long Beach’s Gay Pride Parade.Kinzie Noordman (left) and Kelly Bullwinkle with fellow FLAGS (friends of lesbians and gays)
But inside the manicured white stucco walls of her home in northeastern Redlands, Noordman had what looked to be a strained relationship with her parents. Noordman’s mother, Deborah, recalled to the police an instance when she listened in on a phone conversation between her daughter and then-boyfriend Marco Diaz (who was recently arrested for statutory rape) when Noordman was a sophomore and he was a senior. According to police transcripts, Deborah recalled Diaz saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your mom got cancer and we could take away her medication so she could die?” Noordman agreed, adding it would be cool. Diaz went on to say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your dad killed himself?” Again Noordman agreed. The family was devastated.
While Bullwinkle and Guerrero kept their relationship quiet, Noordman’s love life was an open book. After she split with Hill, Noordman began dating a homeless kid from Riverside named Henry who liked to wear skirts and dresses. The relationship lasted for almost a year until Henry cheated on her. “He broke her heart. She really liked him,” said former classmate Meagan Leigh Smith. “Kinzie said the reason why she loved him was because he was wearing a dress. She always wanted to see a man in a dress.” For the last two years, she had been dating Peter Kovalsky, a former classmate at Redlands East Valley, to whom Noordman later placed a call that proved critical to the murder investigation.
By the time Noordman and Bullwinkle graduated from high school, they both had gone through a transition. While Bullwinkle’s eclectic style remained mostly intact, she took on a more goth appearance, adding fishnet stockings and high-heeled boots to her wardrobe. Noordman, meanwhile, snipped, spiked and dyed her hair red and black. Her jeans and T-shirts were replaced with black tops, pants and combat boots. It was such an about-face that fellow classmates voted Noordman the most changed at their 2002 graduation. To make their point, the students compared a photo of Noordman in seventh grade with a photo of her as a freshman, then at graduation. “She went from a surfer chick to a goth,” said Smith. “She wore conga shells and was going out with a guy in track. A few months later she looked like something out of The Crow. It was a big turnaround.”
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