There was no big changeover for Guerrero in high school. He lived in a two-story white-and-tan home in Highland, an upper-class suburb next to Redlands, that he shared with his mother, stepfather and brother. His father is a firefighter for the city of Los Angeles and lives in a small town near Temecula. Guerrero’s ‰ interest in the goth culture and its dark clothing and music began in his freshman year and remained at the time of Bullwinkle’s murder. He topped off his black T-shirts and black pants with white contact lenses like his idol Marilyn Manson. He held court with his fellow goths at the back of the school, a stone’s throw away from where the jocks and preppies congregated. Outside of school, he was somewhat of a loner and spent most of his time with best friend Noordman, or girlfriend Romero, or his friend Daniel Skill, a.k.a. Taco Dan, and more recently Bullwinkle. Noordman and Guerrero liked to listen to Manson, Nine Inch Nails or Tool and watch films like Reservoir Dogs, A Clockwork Orange or their favorite, Natural Born Killers.
Bullwinkle may have longed to be Guerrero’s “soul mate,” but Guerrero and Noordman had a deep connection and really did consider themselves to be soul mates. For Christmas 2002, Noordman bought Guerrero the matching snake rings Juliette Lewis’ character gave Woody Harrelson’s in Natural Born Killers. Noordman was so taken by the movie she had a poster in her room and even named her parrot and rabbit Mickey and Mallory, the names of the Harrelson and Lewis characters.
Sad Farewell: A memorial to Kelly Bullwinkle near where her body was found. The Tori Amos Lyrics were added by Kinzie Noordman.(Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov)
“I could tell when he came up to us at school she would stop her discussion and focus on him. She kinda idolized him,” said Hill. “He was the exception to almost everything. She would rule everyone else, but when he said something, she would follow him.”
Guerrero was not a member of FLAG, or any other group in high school, but he was a good student, graduating in 2002 with a 3.23 GPA, the same as Noordman. In their high school yearbook, Noordman and Guerrero borrowed quotes from Nine Inch Nails and the 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson. Below Noordman’s senior picture is a verse from the Nine Inch Nails song “The Becoming”: “The me that you know he had some second thoughts / he’s covered with scabs his is broken and sore. The me that you know he doesn’t come around much / that part of me isn’t there anymore.” Under Guerrero’s senior photo is the Johnson quote: “He who makes a beast of himself loses the pain of being a man.”
Guerrero collected knives and sometimes carried a small blade. His newest hobby was piercing, and he had recently pierced a friend’s ears.
Bullwinkle’s relationships with Guerrero and Noordman showed signs of cracking as early as the prom. Meagan Leigh Smith recalled that the best friends were at first in good spirits and bragged that they were on coke, speed and heroin that night. They also told Smith about the argument with Guerrero and Bullwinkle’s confrontation with Guerrero’s girlfriend, Elody Romero. Bullwinkle and Romero were once friends, but were antagonists by prom night. According to Smith and police reports, after Romero called Bullwinkle a poseur and dissed Bullwinkle for shopping at the same goth clothing store, Hot Topic, as her, and for wearing the same shoes. Not one to back down, Bullwinkle called Romero a bitch. Smith passed it off then as typical teenage behavior.
Things got worse in August when Romero found out about Bullwinkle’s relationship with her boyfriend of two years. The information was laid out in an instant message in which Bullwinkle divulged to Romero that she had performed oral sex on Guerrero, which Guerrero later told police occurred on three occasions. Shortly after that, Guerrero broke things off with Bullwinkle.
“He didn’t think it was a good idea to hang out with her,” said Bullwinkle’s friend Amy Locust. “She was upset, but after a while she was saying, ‘Who cares about Damien.’ He didn’t treat her well.”
In late August, things were still festering between Romero and Bullwinkle. According to Patrice Engel, the mother of one of Romero’s close friends, “Elody and Damien were frustrated with Kelly because Kelly wouldn’t leave Damien alone, that she was obsessed with him and he wouldn’t reciprocate. Elody and Damien were tired of Kelly hanging around and interfering with what they were doing.”
Around the same time, the three got into a spat at Denny’s. Bullwinkle came up to Guerrero, and was very upset and began to raise her voice. Guerrero said he brought Bullwinkle outside to explain to her that he was back with Romero. Bullwinkle left with friends.
Noordman and Bullwinkle were fighting more often too. In July, they had a fight that lasted four days. Noordman told police the argument started when her parents discovered Noordman’s drug use. According to Noordman, Bullwinkle was afraid they wouldn’t be friends anymore if they stopped doing drugs together. Friends, though, say that Noordman was simply getting tired of Bullwinkle pining over Guerrero and Bullwinkle was getting sick of her friend’s lack of sympathy. Despite that, Bullwinkle was, by all accounts, chatty and in a good mood during her shift at Baker’s Burgers on Thursday, September 11. She even saw Noordman briefly that night when Noordman and Kovalsky stopped in to see her.