Notorious killer of Redlands teen awaits fourth parole hearing

A Highland man who has spent 19 years behind bars for the 2003 murder of a Redlands teen that generated national media attention is up for his fourth parole hearing this month.

Damien Matthew Guerrero, 38, was convicted in 2008 of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Kelly Bullwinkle in a Redlands orange grove in September 2003. His parole hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.

Guerrero and his accomplice, Kinzie Gene Noordman, 39, of Redlands, each took turns shooting Bullwinkle in the head before burying her in a shallow grave they had dug the day before in Live Oak Canyon, east of Alessandro Road. They later characterized the killing to police as a prank gone horribly wrong.

Kelly Bullwinkle (Courtesy)

The murder of the Crafton Hills College freshman made national headlines because of the sensational nature of the killing and the Gothic subculture in which Guerrero, Noordman and Bullwinkle were immersed. It also triggered one of the most intensive homicide investigations in the history of the Redlands Police Department.

‘Pulled out all the stops’

Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren was three weeks into his assignment as a crimes-against-persons detective when he became the lead investigator on the Bullwinkle case in 2003.

“We pulled out all the stops. We had all people available to us to work on it,” Catren said.

He said he spent the first four days working the case nonstop, fueled by caffeine and adrenaline.

“It was monumentally time-consuming, and early on it was very frustrating, because the first couple of months we didn’t know what happened to her — until she was found in the orange groves,” Catren said.

Damien Matthew Guerrero in 2022. (Photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

A couple of men playing paintball in the canyon discovered Bullwinkle’s remains about a month after she was last seen alive.

Kelly’s mother, Diana Bullwinkle, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, formed a search party of her own, including friends and military comrades who fanned out across Redlands, the San Bernardino Valley and the High Desert in search of her daughter, with the help of a Black Hawk helicopter on loan from the Coast Guard.

Diana Bullwinkle died on Feb. 1, 2014, at the age of 54.

Personal note

“I truly believe it was from a broken heart,” former San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said of her death. He said he knew Bullwinkle, worked out at the same gym as she did, and had coached his daughter’s and Kelly’s soccer team at Moore Middle School in Redlands.

Kinzie Noordman sits in San Bernardino Superior Court in Redlands on Dec. 16, 2003, during a pretrial hearing. (Staff file photo/The Sun)

“Every time I saw her it looked like she lost more and more weight. One can only imagine how a mom with a single child who had been murdered so brutally in that way could feel,” said Ramos, who was one year into his role as district attorney when Bullwinkle was killed.

“It was not only a very important case, but was very personal to me,” he said.


A jury came close to convicting Guerrero in March 2005, but deadlocked 11-1 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.

Instead of taking his chances at a second trial and a potential lengthier prison sentence if convicted by a jury, Guerrero pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, with an enhancement for using a firearm, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Guerrero and Noordman were 19 and 20 years old, respectively, at the time of the killing.

Guerrero has been incarcerated at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe since September 2008; Noordman has been housed at the California Institution for Women in Chino since May 2005.

Hearings and reversal

Guerrero first became eligible for parole in 2018 — 15 years after his arrest — but was denied release in May of that year. After his second hearing in October 2019, he was granted parole.

However, Gov. Gavin Newsom reversed the parole board’s decision on March 5, 2020, saying in a memo that he believed Guerrero was “only in the beginning stages of understanding how he came to commit the brutal crime,” and that he did not believe Guerrero could safely be released from custody.

“Mr. Guerrero participated in a disturbing crime, luring a young woman who believed she was going out with friends, killing her, and leaving her body in a shallow grave, allowing her family to search in vain for her for a month,” Newsom said in his decision. “Mr. Guerrero’s explanations for his willingness to participate in this crime continue to be inadequate.”

Denied again

Guerrero was denied parole again in June 2021. During the hearing, he said it was Noordman’s idea to kill Bullwinkle, that she asked him to assist, and that he went along with it because of his own insecurity and because he wanted to be respected and accepted by her.

“I don’t understand why she wanted to kill Kelly. I said, ‘sure,’ ” Guerrero told presiding Parole Commissioner Arthur Anderson, according to the hearing transcript. “For a lot of other things were going on in my mind,  you know, I wanted this goth, I wanted this powerful Gothic person image and I wanted to be a dangerous person. Because I thought that that was what strength was or what respect was.”

In a telephone interview Friday, District Attorney Jason Anderson said he believes the motive for the killing was Noordman’s jealousy of Bullwinkle, who had driven a wedge between Noordman and Guerrero.

Guerrero acknowledged Noordman was his best friend and closest confidante, but didn’t describe the relationship as sexual. He did, however, admit to having sexual relations with Bullwinkle.

Guerrero and Noordman shared many of the same interests, including the film “Natural Born Killers.” The two wore matching, intertwined snake rings like the characters Mickey and Mallory in the film.

“It was a love triangle where the co-defendant wanted to cut one of the angles out,” Anderson said. “Kinzie did not want Guerrero to be around Bullwinkle.”

Youth offender

Guerrero’s age at the time of Bullwinkle’s death made him a “youth offender” in the criminal justice system, meaning parole commissioners have to assess how much Guerrero has matured during his time in prison and decide whether he still poses an unreasonable danger to society.

During his 2021 parole hearing, Guerrero said that while in prison he overcame the sense of entitlement he felt in his youth and came to learn empathy. 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 of arts degrees while in prison, and during his October 2019 hearing said he was on track to obtaining a bachelor of science degree in business via college correspondence courses, according to the hearing transcript.

Despite Guerrero’s progress in the nearly two decades he’s been incarcerated, the full parole board sided with Newsom in June 2021, denying Guerrero parole after concluding that he still had not come to terms with his culpability in the crime and why it happened.

Anderson believes Guerrero remains a danger to society and should spend the rest of his life in prison. He is hopeful that the parole board continues looking closely at the actions of Guerrero and Bullwinkle before and after the killing.

“This was planned at least a day ahead of time. A grave was dug, the shovel was left at the graveside, which was covered with a couch after they buried her,” Anderson said. “The family was left to look for their daughter for a month. They moved (Bullwinkle’s) car. Guerrero said he had a change of clothes, and they went out to dinner and a movie afterward to create an alibi.

“There’s no recognition by the parole board about how calculated that was. That’s not diminished capacity. That’s sophisticated in terms of its planning.”

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