The parole hearing date for Damien Guerrero was advanced; a prosecutor says that was expected.
A parole hearing date has been moved up to November for Damien Guerrero, the Highland man sentenced in 2008 for the slaying of Redlands teen Kelly Bullwinkle, who was shot and buried in a shallow grave in 2003 by Guerrero and co-defendant Kinzie Noordman.
At his first hearing in May 2018, Guerrero, now 34, was denied release, and his next hearing was set for three years later, in May 2021.
Earlier this year the state Board of Parole Hearings listed that date as under review, and on Tuesday it was re-set for November 2019.
No specific November day for the hearing has yet been set, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patino said Thursday.
No other information was available from the parole board Thursday on the change of dates, but the prosecutor who handles what are called “lifer hearings” for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said the advanced hearing date was not unusual.
“We were actually expecting that,” Deputy District Attorney Connie Lasky said in a phone interview. “I discussed it with the (Bullwinkle) family at the time we got the three-year denial…in the world of parole hearings, three years means 18 months.”
Lasky, who attends parole hearings for the prosecutor’s office by video or in person, said “95 percent” of three-year dates wind up have hearings 18 months later. “Unfortunately,” she said, that means the family “has to go through this again, 18 months later.”
Guerrero pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Bullwinkle’s slaying in 2008 after jurors in his 2005 trial deadlocked at 11-1 for a first-degree murder conviction. He was sentenced to 15-years-to life, with five years credit for time served after his arrest.
A different 2005 jury convicted Noordman of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison.
Bullwinkle, Guerrero and Noordman had attended Redlands East Valley High School together.
Guerrero and Noordman claimed Bullwinkle’s slaying in San Timoteo Canyon south of Redlands was a prank gone wrong. The site included a shallow grave they claimed to have dug the day before, as part of the plan to scare Bullwinkle.
Police said Guerrero and Noordman intended to hoax their friend because Bullwinkle had discussed her former relationship with Guerrero with Guerrero’s new girlfriend.
Bullwinkle, 18 and a freshman at Crafton Hills College, was last seen on Sept. 13, 2003 leaving her job at Baker’s Burgers in Redlands. Investigators said Guerrero, then 19 and Noordman, 20, lured Bullwinkle to the canyon, shot her and buried her there.
Guerrero claimed in 2005 testimony that a .25-caliber handgun he had fired accidentally as he pulled the gun from his pocket. The round hit Bullwinkle in the head. She survived, but fell to the ground, he said.
Guerrero dropped the gun, and Noordman told him to shoot her again, he said. He refused and said Noordman picked up the gun and fired at Bullwinkle’s head, killing her.
Guerrero said he put Bullwinkle’s body in the hole and then sat nearby while Noordman used a shovel to cover Bullwinkle’s body with dirt.
Noordman was described at trial as a friend of Bullwinkle’s who had helped put up missing-person posters around Redlands after her disappearance and attended candlelight vigils for Bullwinkle.
Noordman, 35, will be eligible for her first parole hearing in in November 2027. That’s earlier than the 45-year front-end of her sentence. Noordman’s age at the time of the slaying makes her eligible for the early hearing, Lasky said.
Lasky said Thursday she will be prepared for Guerrero’s next hearing in November. “We will try to keep the community safe from him,” she said.