Redlands Woman Convicted of Murdering a Friend, 18
A San Bernardino County jury on Wednesday convicted a Redlands woman of first-degree murder for luring an old high school friend to a remote citrus grove where she was shot to death, dismissing her claim that it was a practical joke gone awry.
Kinzie Noordman, 21, and her alleged accomplice, Damien Guerrero, 20, were accused of killing community college student Kelly Bullwinkle, 18, in September 2003 over a seemingly harmless teenage love triangle. After killing Bullwinkle, the two suspects went out to dinner and a movie, according to testimony.
Noordman’s conviction came a day after a mistrial was declared in the murder case against Guerrero. The two were tried together but had separate juries. Guerrero’s deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of conviction.
Prosecutor Jon Ferguson, a deputy district attorney, said the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office would retry Guerrero. Noordman could get 45 years to life in prison; Ferguson did not pursue the death penalty in either case.
Bullwinkle, a college student and part-time waitress from Redlands, was shot to death Sept. 13, 2003, in a Redlands orange grove. Guerrero and Noordman later admitted each firing one shot and having dug a shallow grave the day before.
The pair said they were playing a joke on Bullwinkle, because of her fear of graves, when the gun accidentally went off.
Noordman said she fired a second shot into Bullwinkle’s head because she wanted to put her friend “out of her misery.”
On Oct. 4, 2003, three weeks after Bullwinkle’s disappearance, two paintball players discovered her remains, covered by an old couch. Weeks later, Noordman and Guerrero were arrested when ballistics tests linked a bullet casing at the scene to a gun in Guerrero’s possession.
Jurors in the Noordman case said they didn’t believe the “joke” alibi and that her culpability was apparent when she decided to shoot Bullwinkle instead of summoning help.
“The first shot could have been an accident, but the second shot by Kinzie certainly wasn’t,” said juror Ana Carlone of Rialto. “Kinzie had a choice: to pick up the gun and shoot it again, or call 911. I don’t believe she freaked out when she decided to shoot. I think what she did was cold and calculated.”
Dressed in a black jacket and blue top with her legs chained, Noordman maintained a somber expression as a court clerk announced the guilty verdict. Noordman’s mother was sitting behind her, her eyes moist and her hands clasped.
Bullwinkle’s mother, Diana, dabbed away tears as friends and family surrounding her shouted, “Yes!”
Diana Bullwinkle said Noordman’s most reprehensible actions came in the days after the murder, when Kelly Bullwinkle’s disappearance triggered a countywide manhunt.
“[Noordman] was able to look us in the eyes inside my own home and say she didn’t know where Kelly was,” Diana Bullwinkle said.
During the trial, the prosecutor detailed how Bullwinkle’s romantic feelings toward Guerrero led to the murder.
The plot was set in motion after Bullwinkle told Guerrero’s girlfriend, Elody Romero, that she once had an intimate relationship with Guerrero, which led to an angry confrontation between the suspect and his girlfriend, Ferguson alleged. He also said Guerrero sought Noordman’s help in ridding him of Bullwinkle’s affections.
Ferguson also read an e-mail exchange between Bullwinkle and Noordman to show that their relationship was strained, and that luring Bullwinkle to the orange grove was not an innocent joke.
“You treat me as if you’re the work of God’s hands.... You always rub it in my face that you have a boyfriend and I don’t. You go off and call me dumb,” Bullwinkle wrote to Noordman on Sept. 10, 2003.
Noordman replied: “I’m sorry if that’s how you see me. I’ll try to be more considerate. Thank you for staying with me. Do you want to hang out Saturday [Sept. 13]?”
Ferguson asked jurors, “Is that the time to plan a ‘joke’ like this? How is that timing appropriate? It shows what a lie this is.”
Noordman brought a change of clothes to the orange grove, then she and Guerrero drove Bullwinkle’s car to hide it at Ontario Mills mall, Ferguson said. The two then went out for a hamburger at a Redlands Denny’s restaurant and later that night saw a movie, he told jurors.
“She wasn’t upset or traumatized,” he said. “She was hungry.”
Sentencing is set for May 13.
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