The Board of Parole at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recommended on Thursday, Oct. 24, that one of the suspects convicted in the murder of then 18-year-old Kelly Bullwinkle be granted parole.
Damien Matthew Guerrero, 35, sentenced to 15 years to life in the murder of Bullwinkle in 2003, was granted parole during the Parole Suitability Hearing.
The decision becomes final 150 days from the day of the hearing, said Parole Board spokesman Luis Patino. The board’s legal division has 120 days to review the decision, while the governor’s office has 30 days to do so, said Patino.
“The governor has five options: Allowing the decision to stand by taking no action, approving the decision for parole, modifying the decision, reversing the decision or referring the decision back to the board,” said Patino to the Redlands Community News.
If an inmate was convicted of murder, the governor — in this case Gavin Newsom — may reverse or modify the board’s decision without referring it back to the board for review.
The idea of the hearing is to see whether an inmate is suitable for life outside of prison or remains a danger to society. According to the department, some of the factors the board consider when determining whether an inmate is eligible for parole include the circumstances of the crime, the inmate’s level of remorse for the crime and the inmate’s behavior in prison, among others.
The decision generated an immediate uproar among the Redlands community, especially among residents who suffer first-hand from the effects of the crime.
Robb McDermott, creator of a campaign to stop Guerrero’s release from prison, urged residents to contact the governor’s office, “our last and best chance.”
“It is worth a try — a few minutes to help achieve some justice for Kelly and her surviving family,” said McDermott. “We hope this murderer won’t be released back into our area, and he will have a lot of restrictions placed on him. I have to say that justice was not served in any of this.”
McDermott called Guerrero a pre-meditated murderer who deserves to remain in prison for the rest of his life.
The murder of Bullwinkle in 2003 made national headlines and was the subject of episode 22 on Lifetime’s “I Killed my BFF” under the title “Under a Deadly Spell.”
According to a debriefing by the Redlands Police Department, Bullwinkle was reported missing on Sept. 15, 2003, by family friend Laura Williams after she noticed her dog had not been fed.
On Oct. 4, 2003, three paintballers discovered a human body badly decomposed in the San Timoteo Canyon, east of Alessandro Road under an old couch. “Detectives and the coroner’s office determined Kelly was shot twice in the head and buried at the site weeks before the discovery,” said the debriefing.
During the investigation, detectives learned that Bullwinkle was a student at Crafton Hills College and was attending classes regularly. She had a part-time job at Baker’s Drive-Thru and was a “model employee.”
Detectives also found that Bullwinkle was a responsible member of her household and had recently purchased her own car. The car, a 1992 Mazda Protégé, was found at Ontario Mills.
The investigation led to Bullwinkle’s best friend Kinzie Noordman, who argued Bullwinkle was a heavy drug user who obtained drugs from a co-worker. After intense interrogations, authorities cleared two individuals who had provided Bullwinkle with drugs on more than one occasion.
Detectives shifted the attention to Bullwinkle’s former’s boyfriend, Guerrero, after finding out that he had bought a handgun of the same caliber as the one fired near Bullwinkle’s gravesite, where a .25-caliber bullet was found in the shallow grave. Ballistics confirmed the fired bullet from the gravesite matched the bullets fires at a Live Oak Canyon by Guerrero, and both matched the markings on the bullet found in Guerrero’s jewelry box.
Armed with evidence, detectives once again questioned Noordman, who admitted she and Guerrero shot and killed Bullwinkle on Sept. 13, 2003.
Noordman was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 45 years to life in prison. Noordman, 36, is serving her time at the California Institution for Women in Corona. According to the Parole Board, Noordman has a tentative date for consultation scheduled for November 2022. She is eligible for parole on November 2027. To contact the governor’s office, visit govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/