Killing Was a Joke Gone Bad, Slain Girl's Friends Say

Times Staff Writer

Saying it started as a practical joke, one of two friends accused of killing Redlands college student Kelly Bullwinkle said they lured her to a freshly dug grave in a remote citrus grove and planned to scare her with a mock death threat, according to court records.

"But then the gun went off," Kinzie Gene Noordman, 20, told her boyfriend in a Nov. 5 telephone conversation taped by police.

Her friend, Damien Matthew Guerrero, fired the first shot by accident, she alleged, but then she admitted taking the handgun and shooting Bullwinkle again as she lay on the ground in agony.

"I shot her in the head.... didn't want her to suffer anymore," Noordman said, according to a partial transcript of the phone call, which was among hundreds of pages of police records filed in San Bernardino Superior Court in Redlands.

Noordman and Guerrero, 19, were former classmates with Bullwinkle, 18, at Redlands East Valley High School. Last week they were charged with murdering her on the night of Sept. 13 and burying her body in a shallow grave they had dug the day before.

People interviewed by police said the three had been close friends and were associated with a goth subculture in Redlands. Bullwinkle and Guerrero also had a brief romantic relationship shortly before the killing, one that Guerrero broke off, according to statements by friends.

According to court records, Noordman gave details of the killing in two conversations recorded by Redlands police -- one a wiretapped phone call to her boyfriend and the other a conversation she had with her mother in front of a detective.

Noordman gave the following account:

She said that Bullwinkle was killed by accident, and that she and Guerrero only wanted to see their "gullible" friend's reaction when they threatened to shoot her. They had been planning the practical joke for two weeks.

Noordman brought Bullwinkle to San Timoteo Canyon on the outskirts of Redlands, where they hiked up the hills and smoked marijuana. Guerrero arrived two hours later, and urged them to walk toward the shallow grave. He and Noordman had left a shovel nearby.

Noordman said she didn't know Guerrero was going to bring his gun, and was surprised when she heard the shot.

"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 a court report filed by Det. Travis Martinez.

When Bullwinkle was on the ground moaning, Guerrero handed Noordman the gun, saying he didn't have the stomach to shoot her again.

Noordman fired the second shot, according to the records. When her mother asked why she didn't use a cell phone to call for help, Noordman said there was poor reception in the canyon.

"I don't know what I was thinking," she said. "We should have told somebody right away, but we didn't think anybody would believe us."

Guerrero later told his girlfriend and his family about the shooting, according to court records.

"Kinzie freaked out and I was in shock," he said, according to a statement to police by his girlfriend. "We put her in the hole. It was the only thing we could think of to do. It wasn't deep enough and we knew that."

Noordman's attorney said Bullwinkle's death was an accident, "a bad joke turned into a nightmare. There's no other motive other than this being a bad joke. All [Noordman] is guilty of is to being an accessory after the fact," attorney Richard Leonard said.

On Oct. 4, three weeks after Bullwinkle was last seen alive, two paintball players discovered her body in the canyon.

Redlands Police Capt. Tom Fitzmaurice said investigators who interviewed more than 200 people learned about the complex relationship of Bullwinkle, Guerrero and Noordman.

"Many, many people, when faced with these types of accusations, will give an initial response that, 'This was accidental,' " Fitzmaurice said.

Guerrero and Noordman emerged as the top suspects Oct. 15, when Noordman's cousin, Scott Simonson, told police investigators he had seen a small chrome pistol in the glove box of Guerrero's Honda Accord earlier in the year.

Simonson also told police that Guerrero and Noordman believed they were "soul mates" and were fans of the violent Oliver Stone film "Natural Born Killers." They wore matching rings similar to those worn by actors Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in the movie.

When Det. Michael Merriman later questioned Guerrero, he said he had a brief relationship with Bullwinkle but broke it off and reunited with his girlfriend.

Bullwinkle "would not get the hint, and she kept calling him and sending him e-mails," Merriman said in his report of the interview.

Several weeks before Bullwinkle's disappearance, she approached Guerrero and his girlfriend at a restaurant and "was very upset and was beginning to raise her voice," Guerrero told the detective, according to court records. Guerrero told Bullwinkle he didn't want to see her anymore, according to Merriman.

Detectives said the suspected murder weapon, which has not been recovered, is registered to Guerrero's brother.

Detectives found a previous owner of the gun, who provided police with spent shell casings left on his mother's property when he fired the gun.

Investigators said those casings matched one found in Bullwinkle's grave, according to court records.

The San Bernardino County coroner's office reported Bullwinkle was shot twice in the head -- a fatal shot that penetrated the brain and an inch-long grazing wound.

Fitzmaurice said police had access to dozens of Internet conversations among Bullwinkle, Guerrero, Noordman and their associates that will more clearly illustrate the motive in the death.

"At some point, though, you have to understand there is no real logic and reason behind this, other than, 'Let's stop our arguing here by eliminating this person,' " Fitzmaurice said. "It's ludicrous, just ludicrous."

Guerrero and Noordman are being held on $5-million bail each at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. They are due to return to court Dec. 16.

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