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
Kelly Bullwinkle always wanted to see the play Bang,Bang,You’reDead— William Mastrosimone’s examination of school violence — performed at her high school. It finally was last weekend, nearly three years after Bullwinkle’s graduation, but Bullwinkle didn’t live to see it.
Two days earlier, a San Bernardino County jury convicted Bullwinkle’s best friend, 21-year-old Kinzie Noordman, of first-degree murder for the 2003 shooting death of Bullwinkle in a remote citrus grove in Redlands. Noordman is facing 45 years to life in prison. The March 9 verdict came a day after another jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilty in the first-degree murder trial of the suspected Noordman accomplice, 20-year-old Damien Guerrero, who had a brief affair with Bullwinkle.
Bang,Bang,You’reDeadrevolves around a troubled student named Josh who goes on a shooting rampage at school, killing his parents and five of his classmates. Later, Josh is confronted by school officials and police, captured, and sentenced to “Life Without Possibility.” Drama students and members of Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FLAG), a student group that Bullwinkle belonged to, staged the play in her honor at the 500-seat Harry Blackstone Theater. Bullwinkle’s friends chipped in, working the door and selling “Murder Is Not a Joke” T-shirts.
“It was a shock for me to have a friend die, and it was more of a shock to find out that two more of my friends killed her,” said Alycia Garcia, a friend of Bullwinkle’s. “Redlands is not exempt from violence.”
At first, school officials were a bit leery of the play’s morbid title.
“We had an assistant principal read the play before we agreed,” said principal John Maloney. “It was well-written, and as long as it wasn’t simulating real violence, we were okay with it. If kids can learn a lesson from it, then it is a good thing.”
Bullwinkle’s disappearance on September 13, after a shift at Baker’s Burgers, triggered a countywide manhunt. On October 4, three weeks after the 98-pound teen disappeared, two young men playing paintball along San Timoteo Creek discovered the Crafton Hills College student’s remains down a 28-foot embankment, buried under an orange, weathered couch. The San Bernardino County coroner ruled that Bullwinkle had been shot twice in the head.
A few weeks later, Noordman and Guerrero, who considered themselves to be “soul mates,” were arrested when ballistics tests connected a bullet casing at the scene to a .25-caliber pistol owned by Guerrero.
Noordman and Guerrero said what happened was a terrible accident, a prank meant to scare Bullwinkle that had gone awry. The two said they had planned to lure Bullwinkle, who was terrified of dying, to a shallow grave they had previously dug near the creek, point a gun at her and tell her that this was the way she was going to die. Guerrero said his gun fired accidentally during the prank, hitting Bullwinkle in the back of the head and knocking her to the ground. Noordman said she picked up the gun in a panic and shot Bullwinkle in the head to put her out of her misery.
Police and prosecutors, however, didn’t buy that it was a prank gone bad and argued that Guerrero and Noordman hatched the plan after Guerrero’s girlfriend found out about his affair with Bullwinkle, which led to an angry confrontation between the teens.
Next to the theater, in a brightly lit gallery, are blown-up photos of Bullwinkle, at graduation and with her horse Banner. On another wall is a big card with personal messages to Kelly and her mother, Diana, a Coast Guard officer.
“I thought I would be glad there was finality,” said Garcia. “But when I saw Diana’s face, there was no closing for her or anyone who knew Kelly. It doesn’t really change anything. Our friend is still gone. She cared about every living thing on Earth. She would have loved to do this play. She would have wanted to open people’s eyes.”
A new trial for Guerrero is being scheduled. Noordman will return to court for sentencing May 13.
For Christine Pelisek’s in-depth feature on the Redland’s murder, please go to: http://www.laweekly.com/ink/04/07/features-pelisek.php