Acknowledging that she "made a bad decision that unfortunately took my best friend's life," Kinzie Noordman was sentenced Friday to 45 years to life in prison for the 2003 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Kelly Bullwinkle in a remote Redlands orange grove.
"I know in my heart that there is no excuse for what I did," Noordman, 21, said in a three-page statement she read to a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge and a packed courtroom. "I know in my heart of hearts that I never meant for Kelly to be hurt and I would give anything to bring her back."
Judge Michael A. Smith, who called this "one of the most tragic and senseless cases" of his 18 years on the bench, delivered a sentence that won't allow Noordman a parole hearing for nearly 44 years.
In March, she was convicted of first-degree murder and discharging a handgun during a murder.
On Sept. 13, 2003, Noordman and her friend, Damien Guerrero, then 18, lured Bullwinkle to orange groves in San Timoteo Canyon after Bullwinkle, a Crafton Hills College student from Redlands, had finished her part-time shift at a Redlands fast-food restaurant.
Evidence showed that Guerrero fired one fatal shot that struck Bullwinkle in the head. Noordman fired a second shot at Bullwinkle, with the bullet grazing her head as she lay dying. The pair then covered Bullwinkle in a prepared grave, drove her car to Ontario Mills mall, ate a Saturday night dinner and watched "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" at a Redlands movie theater.
Noordman later claimed Guerrero's shot was an accident intended to be part of a practical joke, and that she decided to shoot only because she wanted to put her friend out of her misery.
But law enforcement officials painted the shootings as a far more sinister teenage drama, saying that Guerrero was angry at Bullwinkle because she had told Guerrero's girlfriend that she had been intimate with him.
A strain between Bullwinkle and Noordman was revealed in an e-mail Bullwinkle sent to Noordman three days before the killing: "You treat me as if you're the work of God's hands," Bullwinkle wrote. "You always rub it in my face that you have a boyfriend and I don't."
Noordman consoled Bullwinkle's mother, posted "missing" signs around Redlands and directed police toward other suspects in the days following the killing, an act Bullwinkle's mother, Diana, said she believed clinched the notion that "this was no accident ... Kinzie had every opportunity to come clean, even by calling 911 [after Guerrero fired his first shot], and she didn't."
On Oct. 4, 2003, paintball players found Bullwinkle's body in a partial grave covered by a thrown-away couch. Ballistics tests linked bullet casings found at the scene to a gun owned by Guerrero.
A separate San Bernardino County jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Guerrero of first-degree murder in March, and he will be retried.