Teen’s ‘Crush’ Was Fatal, Jury Told
Redlands college student Kelly Bullwinkle had an innocent crush on a former high school classmate, and because of it she was lured to a remote citrus grove and killed, a prosecutor told a San Bernardino County jury Wednesday.
Damien Guerrero and Kinzie Noordman, who are on trial for first-degree murder, say they accidentally shot Bullwinkle during a prank. When they made her stand by a freshly dug grave that night 16 months ago and pointed a handgun at her, it was merely a mock death threat, their attorneys argued.
“This was no joke,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jon Ferguson. “This was murder.”
Bullwinkle, a Crafton Hills College freshman and part-time waitress, was found dead in a shallow grave in San Timoteo Canyon three weeks after her disappearance.
Redlands police, who arrested Guerrero and Noordman about a month after Bullwinkle’s body was found, say they linked bullet casings at the scene to a gun used by Guerrero and unraveled a teenage drama that centered on a brief romantic relationship between Guerrero and Bullwinkle.
On the first day of testimony, Bullwinkle’s mother, Diana, described Noordman as her daughter’s best friend. Noordman also was close friends with Guerrero, who was looking for help to end Bullwinkle’s “crush and infatuation” with him, Ferguson told jurors.
“This is a case about an 18-year-old girl who lost her life, a typical girl who kept a horse at a stable and a diabetic dog at home that she cared for,” Ferguson told jurors.
“Unfortunately, she also cared for Kinzie Noordman and Damien Guerrero, and those affections cost her her life.”
Ferguson said Guerrero feared losing his longtime girlfriend when she discovered his relationship with Bullwinkle.
The girlfriend, Elody Romero, testified that Bullwinkle confirmed the affair to her in an e-mail. That prompted a confrontation between Romero and Guerrero, she said.
Guerrero sought to rid himself of Bullwinkle’s affection and called on Noordman, whom he considered his “soul mate,” the prosecutor said. Ferguson said the pair concocted a plan to dig a shallow grave among the orange groves and lure Bullwinkle there.
Attorneys for Guerrero and Noordman said their clients only showed the grave to Bullwinkle as a practical joke, designed to play upon her fear of graves.
Allan Sandquist, Guerrero’s attorney, conceded to jurors that Guerrero fired a shot that struck Bullwinkle in the head but said Guerrero never meant to pull the trigger. The gun fired accidentally because Guerrero was inexperienced in carrying the semiautomatic pistol, he said.
Richard Leonard, Noordman’s attorney, argued that Guerrero fired the first and fatal shot -- the bullet that entered behind Bullwinkle’s right ear and lodged in her skull. Noordman fired a second shot at Bullwinkle as she lay on the ground “moaning and in spasms,” to “put [Bullwinkle] out of her misery,” he said.
Noordman’s shot was not fatal; it only grazed her skull, Leonard said.
Ferguson told jurors not to be swayed by those arguments. He said the pair went to great lengths to deceive authorities about their involvement.
Noordman left a telephone message on Bullwinkle’s home answering machine the day after they buried her, asking “if Kelly wanted to do something,” according to testimony by Bullwinkle’s roommate.
Later, Noordman passed out missing-persons fliers of Bullwinkle at their local Redlands hangouts and denied to police that she saw Bullwinkle on the day of her disappearance.
Ferguson said DNA tests showed that Noordman drove Bullwinkle’s car to Ontario Mills mall after the slaying and abandoned the vehicle. Then, the prosecutor said, she and Guerrero drove back to Redlands, where they had dinner and saw a movie.
A cousin of Noordman’s helped investigators when he told police he once saw Guerrero carrying a silver gun.
Authorities found the gun’s original owner and some of the gun’s fired casings and compared them to one casing found by Bullwinkle’s body to establish a match.
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.