High-profile killer of Redlands teen granted release from prison

A man who has spent nearly 20 years behind bars for the high-profile slaying of Redlands teen Kelly Bullwinkle was granted his freedom this week.

Despite pleas from more than a dozen family members, friends and San Bernardino County prosecutors, the Board of Parole Hearings on Tuesday, July 18, affirmed a panel’s Jan. 31 decision to grant parole to Damien Matthew Guerrero.

The decision followed a review by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who referred the case back to the full board on June 16 to make the final determination.

20-year anniversary

The decision comes nearly two months shy of the 20-year anniversary of Bullwinkle’s slaying in an area of Live Oak Canyon canvassed by orange groves, southeast of Alessandro Road and north of San Timoteo Canyon Road.

Bullwinkle, a student at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa who loved horses, was last seen alive on Sept. 13, 2003, when she left her job at Baker’s Burgers in Redlands. Her partially buried and decomposed body was found in the canyon by paintball players more than a month later.

Guerrero and Kinzie Gene Noordman, reportedly Bullwinkle’s best friends at the time, were subsequently arrested and charged with her murder. Guerrero and Noordman, now 39, were 19 and 20, respectively, at the time of the brutal slaying.

The crime made national headlines because of the sensational nature of the killing and the Gothic subculture in which Guerrero, Noordman and Bullwinkle were immersed. It has been the subject of several true-crime television shows and documentaries.

Convictions

A jury came close to convicting Guerrero in March 2005, but deadlocked on a first-degree murder verdict. Noordman, however, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 45 years in prison. The two were tried together, but had separate juries.

Guerrero averted a second trial by pleading guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He has been serving his sentence at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe since September 2008.

Noordman has been serving her sentence at the California Institution for Women in Chino since May 2005.

In this file photo Damien Guerrero looks toward his family during his sentencing hearing in a San Bernardino courtroom in 2008. Guerrero was sentenced to 15 years to life for his part in the September 13, 2003 shooting death of Kelly Bullwinkle, pictured in background. He was granted parole in January 2023, and Guerrero now awaits officials word from the Board of Parole Hearings and Governor Gavin Newsom. (File photo by Gabriel Luis Acosta, The Sun/SCNG)
In this file photo Damien Guerrero looks toward his family during his sentencing hearing in a San Bernardino courtroom in 2008. Guerrero was sentenced to 15 years to life for his part in the September 13, 2003 shooting death of Kelly Bullwinkle, pictured in background. He was granted parole in January 2023, and Guerrero now awaits officials word from the Board of Parole Hearings and Governor Gavin Newsom. (File photo by Gabriel Luis Acosta, The Sun/SCNG)

During a 2021 parole hearing, Guerrero said he overcame a sense of entitlement he felt in his youth and had come to learn empathy during his time in prison. He said he worked on the core issues that drove him to commit the crime, expressing his remorse by writing letters to Bullwinkle’s grandfather and donating his works of art to a horse sanctuary in San Diego because Bullwinkle loved horses.

He has earned two associate degrees while in prison, and during his October 2019 hearing, said he was on track to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business via college correspondence courses, according to the hearing transcript.

‘Still a danger’

Despite Guerrero’s claims of rehabilitation, friends and family of Bullwinkle at Tuesday’s hearing called Guerrero “dangerous,” a “monster” and a “psychopath” who still has not taken responsibility for his actions.

“I am here to again implore this board to keep this murderer incarcerated. He’s dangerous,” said a cousin of Bullwinkle’s who asked not to be identified. “He’s a cold-blooded killer. He blames everyone for what he did — being a latchkey kid, he blames the Goth scene, he blames his co-defendant, he even blames a movie.”

Kinzie Noordman, 20, left, and Damien Guerrero, 19, right, sit in San Bernardino Superior Court, in Redlands on Dec. 16, 2003 prior to a pretrial hearing. The two were charged with the Sept. 13, 2003, murder of Kelly Bullwinkle. (Staff file photo/The Sun)
Kinzie Noordman, 20, left, and Damien Guerrero, 19, right, sit in San Bernardino Superior Court, in Redlands on Dec. 16, 2003 prior to a pretrial hearing. The two were charged with the Sept. 13, 2003, murder of Kelly Bullwinkle. (Staff file photo/The Sun)

Following the arrests of Guerrero and Noordman, information surfaced that the two were obsessed with the film “Natural Born Killers,” so much so that Noordman and Guerrero bought and wore matching rings with intertwined snakes, identical to the ones worn by the film’s main characters, Mickey and Mallory.

A cousin of Bullwinkle’s read a statement on behalf of the victim’s maternal grandmother, Dolores Fuller.

“I have no one now. My granddaughter and my daughter were all I had,” Fuller said in her statement. “(Guerrero) murdered Kelly and then my daughter died of a broken heart. My daughter Diana said, ‘I have nothing to live for anymore.’ After he murdered Kelly, he destroyed my family. He’s a hate-filled monster.”

Diana Bullwinkle, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, died on Feb. 1, 2014, at the age of 54.

Tamara Carlson, a lifelong friend of the Bullwinkle family, noted the cold and calculated manner in which Guerreo carried out the crime.

“He planned the murder for days. He lied in wait. He predug a shallow grave and then shot Kelly in the head, covered her body with dirt, and then went out to dinner and a movie,” Carlson said.

Kelly Bullwinkle (Courtesy)
Kelly Bullwinkle (Courtesy)

Carlson read a statement on behalf of Bullwinkle’s grandfather, Jesus Gonzalez, who was not present for the hearing.

Gonzalez said his granddaughter was a “beautiful girl with a quirky sense of humor and a warm smile” — a kind soul who had dreams of working with animals or helping people.

“Damien Guerrero masqueraded as a friend, planned Kelly’s murder for days, took a gun to the orange grove, pulled the trigger, and then took great pains to cover up his crime,” Gonzalez said in his statement.

He said Kelly Bullwinkle was his only grandchild.

“Her mother, my daughter, died of a broken heart after Kelly’s death,” Gonzalez said. “I have no more children or grandchildren. Damien Guerrero left me with no family when he took Kelly’s life.”

Prosecutors weigh in

Prosecutors from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office also weighed in during Tuesday’s hearing.

“The inmate has not come to terms with, or at least admitted, the causative factors of the murder of Kelly Bullwinkle,” Deputy District Attorney Connie Lasky said.

She said Guerrero changed his story several times when interviewed by investigators, first saying he had no knowledge of the crime, then admitting culpability in Bullwinkle’s death but then chalking it up to a joke that had gone wrong. Then he put all the blame on his co-defendant, Noordman.

Lasky called Guerrero a master manipulator. And still, after nearly 20 years, Guerrero still has neither disclosed the motive behind the crime nor come to terms with it, she said.

“The first question the inmate needs to answer is why he killed Kelly Bullwinkle. He either does not know, or he knows and is unwilling to admit the truth to this board,” Lasky said. “Instead of helping his friend live, he cleared the jam from the gun so that Kinzie Noordman could fire the kill shot.”

Deputy District Attorney Katherine Norman said Guerrero has “psychopathic personality characteristics of being cunning and manipulative, lacking remorse and guilt, having a shallow affect, callousness and lack of empathy.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday, District Attorney Jason Anderson said Newsom should have reversed the parole board’s January decision, like he did in 2020. But he forfeited that power after bouncing the matter back to the parole board to decide Guerrero’s fate.

“It’s unfortunate that the process of dealing with people’s lives has turned into nothing more than a political process. And that’s what this was,” Anderson said. “This affects us at a local level, because it’s still so raw for people living in and around the Redlands community.”

Anderson said prisoners typically are released from custody within 120 days of being granted parole, meaning Guerrero likely will be home for the holidays.

For safety and security reasons, the CDCR does not provide information on a prisoner’s time or location of parole release, said Mary Xjimenez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Logo-favicon

Sign up to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Sign up today to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site