By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
For her senior prom, the most exciting night of her life, Kelly Bullwinkle, just 17 at the time, decided on a knee-length red dress to complement her shoulder-length red hair. Bullwinkle’s date was an older woman — her best friend Kinzie Noordman, then 19. Even in socially conservative Redlands, girls can go with girls to the prom, and when they started kissing each other on the dance floor, that too was all in fun. Still, going to the prom and making out with each other represented a declaration of purpose and independence for Bullwinkle and Noordman, who had both recently been through intense periods of change and struggle for identity. Their appearance together at the prom could have easily been the start of something positive; instead it was the beginning of the end.
Their mutual friend Damien Guerrero was happily taking in the scene with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Elody Romero. They all, it seemed, had a lot to look forward to. Bullwinkle would be graduating from Redlands East Valley High School in two weeks, while Guerrero and Noordman would be starting their second year of college in September.
Then things began to go wrong on that May evening last year. An argument broke out when Bullwinkle and Noordman, who had bragged about being on heroin and coke that evening, wanted Guerrero to do coke with them. Friends say he turned them down because Romero didn’t want him to do it. The girls had words. At one point, Romero called Bullwinkle a “poseur.” Though emotions ran high, it was not the sort of fight that other prom-goers noticed from more than a few feet away as the DJ rocked the Yorba Linda Community Center. It certainly wasn’t enough to inspire suspicion when Bullwinkle suddenly disappeared nearly four months later.
But that argument, according to friends and police reports, was one of a series of spiraling events that climaxed with Guerrero and Noordman luring Bullwinkle to a remote citrus grove and then shooting her twice in the head. Noordman and Guerrero say it was all an accident, but they’ve been charged with murder, possibly punishable by death. Both Noordman and Guerrero have pleaded not guilty, and a trial awaits. Meanwhile, friends and family members trying to make sense of Bullwinkle’s death talk of a love triangle, scorned affections and drug use, but most of all, they speak of their disbelief that a bright young girl should die at such a whim.
Bullwinkle’s death shocked the tiny city of 63,591. Murder was something that happened in L.A., not in Redlands, a middle-class enclave 70 miles east of downtown L.A. that proudly proclaims itself the Navel Orange Capital of the World. In 2002, there were no murders here. Bullwinkle’s was the only murder in 2003. It’s so rare for kids to die in Redlands that when one goes missing, murder is about the last thing people suspect, and it was about the last thing people thought Noordman and Guerrero would do to their friend.
In fact, when Bullwinkle disappeared on September 13 after a shift at her part-time job at Baker’s Burgers, the last place she was seen alive, Noordman told friends and police that Bullwinkle had just vanished. Her disappearance was initially treated as a missing-persons case. Bullwinkle’s mother pleaded on TV for whoever took her daughter to “Please send her home. Don’t hurt her. She’s a great kid.” Meanwhile, Noordman reportedly assisted in a massive manhunt near a mall in Ontario where she and Guerrero had dumped Bullwinkle’s car. Police would find out that act was just one of many deceptions the Crafton Hills College student would use to lead the investigation away from her and Guerrero, whom Noordman considered to be her “soul mate.” Police would also learn that the petite 5-foot-1-inch Bullwinkle and the lanky 5-foot-10-inch Guerrero were more than just the friends they purported to be and were involved in a love triangle that would end bitterly just weeks before Bullwinkle disappeared.
Kelly Bullwinkle was a modern-day Annie Hall. She liked to shop at secondhand stores with her girlfriends and make her own clothes. She once made a skirt out of a flour sack. She loved her small town, but like most teens she was starting to outgrow it and planned to move away and study psychology and creative writing at Sonoma State in Northern California.Kinzie Noordman and “Soul Mate” Damien Guerrero in Police Custody(Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov)
She had a natural talent for writing. When she was a junior, she received an honorable-mention award for an essay on the danger of drugs. She shared a love of writing with her best friend Kinzie Noordman, who won an essay contest that allowed her to meet Olympic gold-medal winner Carl Lewis. Noordman’s essay, which promoted organ donation, focused on her friend Cassie Ranus, an 11-year-old Redlands girl who died in April 1995 in an all-terrain vehicle accident.
When not writing, working or going to school, Bullwinkle was either riding her show horse Banner or hanging out with Noordman and Guerrero at Del Taco or at Jazz and Java, a popular coffee shop in downtown Redlands. On Thursday nights, the three were regulars at Market Night, a weekly street fair that turns downtown Redlands into something akin to L.A.’s Olvera Street. They made plans, as most teens do these days, through instant messaging. Bullwinkle’s AOL screen names were Sagepony and Londonhors. Guerrero’s included Necro Maniac and Undertwotracks4.
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.”
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.
On Friday, September 12, the day before she disappeared, Bullwinkle bumped into her old high school friend Heather Hill at the Crafton Hills College library, and the two spent a few minutes chatting. They talked about going to raves and doing Ecstasy and planned to meet up later that night and do coke. “It was a drug that I hadn’t done before,” said Hill. “Kelly said she had done it. But she never called me.” Bullwinkle also talked to her college friend Daniel Fanica. Fanica later told police that Bullwinkle vented about losing $100 on a drug deal because her co-worker Cassandra Oniveros’ friends had “screwed her over.” That night, Bullwinkle had an intimate gathering of around 10 friends at her home. An acquaintance who attended the party said it was “mellow” and Bullwinkle seemed happy. She bought a $20 bag of weed for the occasion.
That same Friday night, Guerrero was back out with Romero. They dined at another Baker’s restaurant in Redlands. They had their usual: Guerrero ordered the Papa Meal, and Romero ate the Mama Meal. After Baker’s, they went to see Matchstick Men at the Cinema Star movie theater.
Bullwinkle planned to go hiking with Noordman after work on Saturday. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell friends or family. Noordman told police she never showed up.
Ever since Diana Bullwinkle separated from Kelly’s father when Kelly was 3, she and her daughter were very close. The two hopped around to different cities, following Diana’s orders with the U.S. Coast Guard, with whom she had made chief petty officer and health services technician. “We lived in Alaska for three years,” said Diana. “I decided that when we came home we would stop and smell the roses and make it count.” Home was Redlands, where Diana spent her summers with her remarried father and where they settled in 1997.
Diana didn’t get to see her daughter on prom night, though. She was on her first shipboard detail with the Coast Guard in Central America. The assignment would cause Diana to miss half of Kelly’s senior year, starting in January with training for ship detail in Texas and then off to pursue drug traffickers in the waters off Central America. Leaving Kelly alone wasn’t a big deal, though. Bullwinkle was generally considered conscientious by friends, teachers and employers. Besides, her mother’s friend, Laura Williams, whom Kelly considered to be one of her parents, lived with them in their three-bedroom Spanish-style home on La Feliz, a quaint street about five miles from downtown.
Mother and daughter’s last words were by e-mail on the Saturday morning before Kelly went to work. Later that night Diana e-mailed Kelly and did so again the following morning — she was excited to tell her about a large drug bust that she was a part of that day while on patrol — but there was no response from Kelly.
Kelly Bullwinkle finished her shift as a cashier at Baker’s Burgers at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday, September 13. She wasn’t scheduled that day but took the shift when one of her co-workers got sick. It was typical of Bullwinkle to help out a friend in need, and she didn’t complain about having to work. In fact, Bullwinkle covered half the cost of her recently purchased 1992 Mazda Protégé with money she saved up from working at the burger joint. After work, she drove off to go “hang out with friends.” When she didn’t show up for her shifts the next two days, her employer called and left messages on her answering machine, wondering why the usually responsible teen hadn’t shown up to work.
Laura Williams heard the phone messages left by Bullwinkle’s employers on September 15 when she returned from a five-day visit with her parents in Northern California. Bullwinkle’s 9-year-old Australian shepherd, Blaze, and four cats hadn’t been fed. Nor had her goldfish Jesse. Her diabetic dog had not received its twice-daily insulin shots. “She would never do something like that. She loved her animals,” said Williams. The porch lights were still on and the newspapers were still lying at the bottom of the stairs.
Williams drove the five miles through downtown Redlands to the one-story tan brick police station on September 15 to report Bullwinkle missing. There, she told an officer that Bullwinkle had been hanging around with new friends and was recently using cocaine and other drugs. She believed that Bullwinkle had thrown a party sometime over the weekend, because there were empty liquor bottles scattered around the kitchen. Like most teens, Bullwinkle had bouts of depression. Under the category “mental condition,” the detective wrote, “depressed.”
Bullwinkle had been depressed. Last spring, she told classmate Meagan Leigh Smith that she wanted to commit suicide. When Smith asked her why, Bullwinkle wouldn’t elaborate. She would only say she had a “problem.” She also remarked to others that she had been fighting with friends. Again, she didn’t elaborate. Noordman, for her part, told police that Bullwinkle was “closed off due to the whole drug thing.”
When Bullwinkle went missing, Noordman played the role of loyal friend to the girl with whom she had been inseparable as recently as Bullwinkle’s senior year. Noordman passed out “Missing Persons” fliers. Police and friends say she even joined in on the two-day search, which involved over 100 members of the U.S. Coast Guard and focused around the area where Bullwinkle’s car was found at the Ontario Mills Mall on September 14. She even spent time at Bullwinkle’s mother’s house, lending her support, especially in the first week after Bullwinkle disappeared. It was one of many disingenuous acts — including helping to construct a moving memorial at the murder site — Noordman performed to misdirect police and belie the true nature of the former friends’ relationship, which seemed to be near the end.
In fact, on Livejournal.com, Bullwinkle posted entries up to a week before she vanished that mentioned a crisis she was having with some friends. She appeared ready to move ‰ on and make new relationships. “Now it is time for me to move on from those things and those horrible people that I somehow was friends with and go find my real friends, the ones that I didn’t listen to when they tried to steer me in the right direction.”
On October 4, three weeks after the 98-pound teen disappeared, two Redlands residents playing paintball along San Timoteo Creek, about a half mile from the intersection of San Timoteo Canyon and Allessandro roads, discovered Bullwinkle’s remains down a 28-foot embankment buried under an orange, weathered couch. The two men drove the two miles to the Redlands Police station to report their grisly findings. Bullwinkle was partially buried in a shallow grave and was still wearing the clothes she went to work in: a Juxtapose blue tank top, a “Chico” camouflage colored jacket and a pair of size three Levi’s 518 blue jeans. What looked like marijuana was found tucked between her pants and underwear in a Ziploc baggy. Also discovered at the scene was an “O” ring, a broken cell phone, writings, a green canvas bag, a shovel handle, cassette tapes, rubber and leather gloves, as well as a bullet casing from a .25-caliber pistol.
A few days later, the San Bernardino County coroner ruled that the teen died from a gunshot wound to the head. The first shot was non-fatal and was one inch long by one inch wide and grazed the top left side of her head. The second was fatal, entering the right rear side of her head.
It was probably the worst place possible for Bullwinkle to die. Not that there ever is a good place, but Bullwinkle especially hated that area, known to residents as “Ghost Town.” That part of the citrus grove is filled with burned-down and abandoned homes and a railroad track that winds its way through the canyon. She had previously been to the site with her friend Austin Martin and was so terrified she clung to him the entire time and made him leave after 10 to 15 minutes. Noordman told police that Bullwinkle would not have gone back there unless she was with people she knew or if cocaine was involved. “She would have done anything for coke. She would have walked back there if she had to,” said Noordman.
In retrospect, it was strange to some that Bullwinkle and Noordman would become so tight, since Noordman was especially fond of scaring her friends. Bullwinkle definitely didn’t like to be scared. Classmate Heather Hill was a victim of such a prank when she went over to hang out with Noordman and Noordman’s then-boyfriend Marco Diaz at Noordman’s house. The two locked her in a closet, and while she pleaded to be let out, they laughed outside the door. “I was terrified,” said Hill. “She thought it was a joke.” Noordman liked to put bugs in Hill’s face too. “She liked to see people freak out. It would give her satisfaction.”
More than 400 family members and friends, including Noordman and Guerrero, attended Bullwinkle’s memorial service at Memorial Chapel at the University of Redlands. In his eulogy, Bullwinkle’s friend Richard Tanner jokingly remarked on Bullwinkle’s eclectic style: “She wanted to be a designer of ugly dresses,” he said.
Around the same time, a makeshift memorial was erected by the San Timoteo Canyon train tracks a half-mile from where Bullwinkle’s body was found, just two miles from her home. The memorial, built by Noordman, is still standing and is decorated with large painted rocks, flowers and candles. A photo of Bullwinkle, a male friend and Noordman, who has been recently cut out of it, is propped up next to a rock with the lyrics from “1,000 Oceans” by Tori Amos, one of Bullwinkle’s favorite songs. Written above the photograph are the words “Sorry I couldn’t protect you” and “I would have died 4 you.” The message was written “with love by Kinzie Noordman.”
NOORDMAN TOLD HER BOYFRIEND that on the day Bullwinkle disappeared she had received a call from Bullwinkle, who asked her to take her car to the Ontario Mills Mall and drop it off. She did in fact drive Bullwinkle’s car to the mall, where Guerrero would pick her up.
But when Bullwinkle went missing that Saturday, Noordman told police a slightly different tale. She said she had plans with Bullwinkle and became concerned when she didn’t return her phone calls. Noordman told police she was so concerned that she dragged mutual friend Daniel Fanica along to drive by her home the next day. Fanica, who was oblivious to the red herring, verified this to police.
Noordman also told police of a dicey encounter she and Bullwinkle had with Mike McMillan and Eric McGloughlin when looking to score drugs weeks earlier at Noordman’s home in Redlands. According to Noordman, the two best friends were with Bullwinkle’s co-worker Cassandra Oniveros, McMillan, who is Oniveros’ cousin, and McGloughlin. According to Noordman’s police statement, the girls became worried the men were going to do “something sexual.” They were supposedly so fearful they called over a friend, Ryan Guy, who agreed to standby as a bodyguard.
Just as they were leaving to get the drugs, Guy showed up. Then, McMillan and McGloughlin left abruptly without an explanation. Noordman told police the two girls wondered what would have happened if they had left with the two men. This story, the basic facts of which police confirmed with Guy, added fuel to the existing flame of suspicion surrounding McMillan and McGloughlin. Oniveros told police on September 17 that she had been supplying Bullwinkle with cocaine and that McMillan bragged that he robbed Bullwinkle of $100 and later killed her.
Redlands police honed in on McGloughlin and McMillan, holding McGloughlin on unrelated auto-theft charges and searching their apartments and crash pads. Inside a safe house the two used, police found a bloodied white T-shirt and jeans. A portion of carpet with blood splatter was also taken as evidence. In both homes were scattered clippings of Bullwinkle’s disappearance and homicide.
They also searched Bullwinkle’s three-bedroom home and found two pocket knives, Camel cigarettes, five unknown blue pills, one scalpel blade, and bloodstains on a white tank top, the source of which has yet to be determined. Also found was a piece of paper with blood splatter and the words “Everything always fails, but this won’t,” “Set Them All Free Yesterday,” and “Not so Bad.”
It was looking bad for McMillan and McGloughlin, but the investigation took a dramatic turn when the Redlands Police, following up on a lead, brought in Noordman’s cousin Scott Simonson for questioning. His statements would change the course of the investigation. Sometime between last January and March, Simonson saw a small silver gun in the glove compartment of Guerrero’s black 2001 Honda Civic.
When police questioned Guerrero, he admitted to owning a .25-caliber Raven Arms Model P-25 pistol that he said he dumped months earlier in a storm drain near Center Street and Cypress Avenue. (After scouring the storm drain, police could not find the gun.) Guerrero’s older brother bought the gun for Guerrero a year earlier from a Yucaipa man for $70. “Since he already had a .357 [magnum] he thought that his brother might like the gun because his brother was into swords and different stuff like that,” according to police transcripts.
Guerrero told police that he didn’t like owning the gun and thought it best to get rid of it. “I thought it was neat, then it became a pain in my ass because I didn’t feel safe with it around. It was a worry for me,” he told police.
The Yucaipa man told police that he had used the gun for target practice at his mother’s house. The police then searched the back yard and found three shell casings that positively matched the shell casing found at the scene of Bullwinkle’s death.
There were signs that Guerrero was beginning to crack. On one occasion after a fight with Romero at her house, he broke down in front of her mother and started screaming, crying uncontrollably and hitting their garage door. Friends say he wasn’t taking Bullwinkle’s death well. However, he still was savvy enough to point his finger at the Yucaipa man who sold the gun to his brother. At the memorial, Guerrero told Bullwinkle’s close friend Amy Locust that a week before Bullwinkle was murdered his brother told him that the Yucaipa man told his brother he wanted to kill Bullwinkle. Thinking that she was being helpful, Locust would relay this conversation to the police.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Guerrero and Noordman was starting to fray because, according to Noordman, he was acting like he didn’t have time for her. Noordman blamed this on Elody Romero, who Noordman said, “hates my guts.” Noordman’s behavior after the murder was described as “best friends one day, bitchy the next,”according to Simonson.
POLICE DECIDED to go after Noordman first when they found out that Noordman was with Guerrero on the day Bullwinkle disappeared. Noordman confessed her part in the crime while being interrogated by Redlands police detectives. Then she was allowed to go home. The next day she confessed again to her boyfriend Peter Kovalsky. “We really fucked up,” she said to Kovalsky on the morning of November 5 at 9 a.m. “Damien and I shot Kelly. It was an accident.” Noordman told Kovalsky that the police had already arrested two other guys and “we figured that they would be busted for it.”
When the cops showed up at Guerrero’s house to tell him that Noordman had confessed, he replied, “I do not want to answer any questions, and I am going to get up and walk into the house and take a nap.”
The Redlands police arrested Noordman as she was driving southbound with her parents on Interstate 15 at the Jurupa Street offramp on November 5 at 12:34 p.m. When Noordman had confessed her part in the murder, her mother told her, “You need to be put away,” and was angry at the police for not arresting her daughter immediately.
Police say in retrospect that Noordman had cleverly manipulated details of the encounter with McMillan and McGloughlin to lead police toward them. McMillan told police that he was just making a joke about killing Bullwinkle. Guerrero was arrested at 1:45 p.m. while watching Matrix Revolutions at San Bernardino’s Cinema Star on E Street.
In custody, Noordman told the police that what happened on September 13 was a terrible accident, a practical joke gone awry. The plot was hatched two weeks earlier. Bullwinkle was to pick up Noordman after her shift at Baker’s Burgers. The two would drive to San Timoteo Canyon, hike a little bit, smoke pot and wait for Guerrero’s arrival. When Guerrero arrived, the two would lure the terrified Bullwinkle over to a shallow grave they dug the day before. They would point a gun at her head and tell her that this was the way she was going to die. However, Guerrero was two hours late and almost missed the two as they were driving out of the canyon at 7 p.m. Guerrero was able to persuade the two to stay and go for yet another walk, this time in the direction of the 1-foot-deep grave. While Bullwinkle was standing near the shallow grave with her back to her two friends, the gun went off. Noordman said she was shocked because she didn’t think Guerrero would bring a gun. Guerrero said the gun went off accidentally.
“Kinzie stated it was supposed to be a joke. Kelly was supposed to turn around, and they were going to tell her that this was how they were going to kill her. Kelly was supposed to freak out, and that was supposed to be it,” according to police reports.
While Bullwinkle was on the ground moaning, Guerrero — one week shy of his 19th birthday — handed Noordman the gun, saying he didn’t have the stomach to shoot her again. Noordman took the gun and fired the second and fatal shot. Noordman’s mother, Deborah, who was present during Noordman’s confession, asked her why she didn’t use a cell phone to call for help. Noordman replied that there was poor reception in the canyon.
“So you shot her and put her out of her misery?” asked Deborah.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“What were your plans?” Deborah asked.
Noordman replied that Guerrero thought that they would be able to get away with it, but she wasn’t so sure. She said she didn’t question why Damien shot her.
“I was shocked and on autopilot,” said Noordman.
“I must be missing something,” replied Deborah.
“It is a generation gap,” said Noordman. “People do this all the time as a practical joke.” She then told police that she had not told her shrink about the murder.
Guerrero placed Bullwinkle into the shallow grave while Noordman scooped dirt on her with her hands and feet. They smoothed the top of the grave with Noordman’s father’s shovel the two had left at the scene the day earlier. A nearby tattered orange couch was dragged over her body, excluding her right leg, which was still exposed when the paintballers found her three weeks later. Noordman drove her dead best friend’s car to the Ontario Mills Mall and abandoned it in the parking lot. Guerrero, in his 2001 Honda Civic, followed behind. They both changed clothes, threw Bullwinkle’s car keys in a dumpster and went to dinner at Denny’s, where Noordman had a hickory cheeseburger with a salad and Guerrero ate the French Slam. They went Dutch. They even had time to take in a 9:20 p.m. movie, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, at the Krikorian Theatres.
That evening, Guerrero went back to Romero’s house and stayed until 2 a.m., her curfew. The next day, the couple dined at McDonald’s and drove to Six Flags Magic Mountain, where they had season passes. They decided not to go in because the park would be open for only two more hours and they didn’t want to waste money on parking. Instead they drove around Hollywood and returned home before Romero’s curfew. She told police that Guerrero was acting “normal, and that means goofy, joking around” and was making funny voices “from movies.”
Police didn’t buy Noordman’s tale of a joke gone awry. At a press conference on November 6, they stopped short of providing a motive and would only say that the murder was over a “personal dispute” between the three. Guerrero and Noordman were charged with murder and with personal and intentional use of a firearm causing death. The District Attorney’s office is also considering “lying in wait,” a special-circumstances charge that could make them eligible for the death penalty.
Friends and family members have not been able to make sense of what happened. All three had so much to look forward to.
In addition to her classes at Crafton Hills College, Noordman was working as a receptionist with Realty Executives in Moreno Valley. “I don’t regret knowing her,” said Hill. “She was really unique and interesting.”
Guerrero was a psychology major at UC Riverside and a part-time receptionist with Realty Executives in Redlands. “I liked Damien,” added Hill. “He is kinda like a smart ass but I liked him. He was very sarcastic. If you made yourself look weaker he would make fun of you, but he was probably one of the smartest guys I know.”
Bullwinkle, who had only been at Crafton Hills College with her friend Noordman for two weeks before her death, dreamed of a career as a writer or psychologist. “Kelly was looking forward to starting her new life,” said Williams. “It is very overwhelming. It doesn’t seem real. I still expect to come home at night and see her eating her popcorn and watching TV.”
That Kelly Bullwinkle would be killed by her best friends was way beyond the pale of Diana Bullwinkle’s, or any mother’s, concerns. But she did wish she had been home when her daughter went missing for three weeks before those paintballers stumbled upon her body. “At least I would have been able to find her sooner.”
Now she’s left to think about what could have been: “I was looking forward to her writing and to see what she would have become. I looked forward to grandkids.”