Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Six – Conclusion)

It was obvious something important was happening at the courthouse on the morning of September 11, 2018. Media cameras were set up in a certain courtroom. Since filming was only permitted on the first and last days of proceedings, this was a clear sign it was the final day of Rachel Buffett’s accessory to murder (after the fact) trial.

Seating Arrangements

Back on the first day of the trial, I’d found myself a safe little corner seat in the back row on the right side of the spectator section. Most of the press people and Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones sat on this side. It had the added benefit of an electrical outlet in the wall next to the seat. I have an iPhone, so I always appreciate a charging opportunity.

On the final day of the trial, there was camera equipment on my corner seat, and cords plugged into my outlet. Major Bailiff (remember him?) told the spectators to sit on the left. Today, only loved ones would sit on the right.

I found a seat in the back row on the opposite side of the aisle. The Blonde Coalition took up the first three rows, and I wanted to give Rachel’s people their space.

Who’s Who In the Blonde Coalition

The family resemblance is strong in this group, so it wasn’t difficult to pick them out of the crowd. I saw Rachel’s parents and her younger sister Hannah.

I had trouble figuring out which of the twenty-something blond/redheaded men were Nate, Noah and Abraham Buffett, since there were more than enough present to account for Rachel’s brothers.

A little later, podcaster Linda Sawyer sat in the seat next to mine and identified the brothers for me. I had guessed completely wrong. If I’d been on a game show, I would have heard some kind of angry buzzer telling me I’m not coming back next week to play “Name that Buffett.”

A View to a Jury

Along with phone charging capabilities, my corner had afforded me a good view of the low quality video screen. My new seat had a bad view of a higher quality, smaller, TV screen, which duplicated the view on the large screen.

This side of the courtroom also had a solid view of the jury. It’s always interesting to see if their faces give away any of their thoughts. They didn’t. Poker faces were strong with them.

Rachel Buffett Testifies?

In the last post, I wrote that Vylet Randolph was the final witness in the trial. I guess I should have written “spoiler alert” when so glibly glossing over the defense. After all, we’d only seen prosecution witnesses up to this point. Now was the time when Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, had the opportunity to put on witnesses whose testimony might sway the jury to believe Rachel Buffett was a victim, not a perpetrator.

Daniel and I have had numerous conversations about whether or not Rachel Buffett would testify in her own defense. She waited eight years to clear her name. She turned down offers to make a deal with the prosecution. Had she accepted, she would have served very little, or no, time at all.

One could ask why she even took the case to trial if she didn’t want to use her own words to clear herself. Rachel could have  taken the stand to explain not telling the police about Chris Williams. She could tell the jury how she accidentally gave false information to the CMPD about seeing a mysterious man in a black hat. Maybe she could have told the jury she took an Ambien on Friday night, and that’s why she didn’t notice Dan’s numerous and unexplained late night comings and goings.

David Medina put on a solid defense during the cross examinations of prosecution witnesses. At the very least, he must have put some doubt into the minds of the jury. Medina and his client clearly believed that was enough to sway the jury to a not-guilty vote for Rachel.

Court started with Judge Hanson going over Rachel’s right to testify in her trial or not. If Rachel was nervous, her voice didn’t betray a note as she answered, “I don’t think I need to,” when Judge Hanson officially asked her if she wanted to take the stand.

I won’t lie; at that point I thought it was quite possible Rachel would walk out of the courtroom a free woman. The mostly male jury had me wondering if they could imagine a pretty former Disney Princess committing a crime like this.

If any jurors are reading this, I apologize. You folks took this gig very seriously. I know that now.

Trimming Time

The next part of the trial was a process I’d never seen used before. In order to cut down on some time-consuming testimony, the defense and the prosecution made an agreement about some of the witnesses. Both sides accepted how these witnesses would answer questions if they were called to the stand.

Instead, Matt Murphy gave a quick overview of any pertinent information Rachel’s jury needed to know for her case.

Wesley Freilich, for example, didn’t need to testify about taking money out of Sam’s bank account.

Matt Murphy summarized the testimony of Bob Castillo; making sure the jury knew that Tim Wozniak and his friend Bob Castillo went to the Long Beach Police Department and turned in the murder weapon not long after Tim and Rachel talked. Even if Rachel hadn’t done the right thing, the case would still have been solved quickly.

The prosecution and the defense agreed that the gun used in both murders was a Llama 380 handgun.  Dan’s DNA was found on the gun, but Rachel’s wasn’t. No silencer for the gun was located. Rachel’s DNA was not found on any of the evidence from the backpack.

No witness would be called to tell how lividity proved Julie Kibuishi’s body was moved two to four hours after she was murdered. Julie’s body wasn’t staged to look like she’d been sexually assaulted until hours after she was shot. This information was summarized for the jury, accepted, and added to the official record.

Closing Arguments

After that, the defense officially ended its case without calling any witnesses. Judge Hanson gave the jury some basic instructions, and then it was time for closing arguments.

Matt Murphy’s Close

Following the normal procedure, Matt Murphy would speak first and last. Murphy would have the chance to make final comments about any questions brought up during David Medina’s closing arguments.

Matt Murphy started his address to the jury explaining how some prosecutors will hold off sharing nuggets of evidence until after the defense’s closing argument,  making it impossible for the defense to explain away any incriminating information.

It’s called “sandbagging,” but that was not Matt’s plan. He didn’t need to do that.

Added all together, the jury had over “500 years experience studying human behavior,” and Murphy had no doubt they could look at all the evidence objectively. Even if Dan attempted to hide the murders from Rachel, was it possible Rachel Buffett was completely in the dark? Matt Murphy reminded the jury it was only their job to decide guilt or innocence. They were not to consider punishment. That is the judge’s job.

If This Then That

Murphy asked the jury if lies and hiding information is the same as helping with the crime, and then he went into a typical Matt Murphy example tangent.

Summarized:

  • If your neighbor is growing weed, do you have to call the police? No. You don’t.
  • If the cops show up at your house and ask about your neighbor, you don’t have to cooperate.
  • But if you agree to cooperate and then lie – that is a crime.
  • And if you are growing weed, and the cops show up to ask about it, you will be committing a crime if you lie to them.

In Toto (Not a Band That Sings About the Rains Down in Africa)

Matt Murphy went over the “totality of the evidence” with the jury so they could see how many times Rachel Buffett either lied about or hid information from the police during the early investigation of Julie Kibuishi’s murder.

According to numerous witnesses, Dan and Rachel were inseparable. Rachel knew she and Dan were in a grave financial situation, but she saw Dan with cash after Sam’s murder. According to Murphy, Dan Wozniak was a terrible liar and Rachel knew it. So how did he explain his comings and goings during the weekend of the murders?

Dan Wozniak wasn’t doing a great job of hiding evidence from Rachel, either. When the police searched Dan and Rachel’s apartment, they found Sam Herr’s laptop sitting out on their bookshelf. Rachel told the police she frequently used both the computers that were in her and Dan’s apartment., but she didn’t see this third computer sitting out in the open in her living room. Additionally, how could Dan have sent texts using Sam’s old flip phone without Rachel ever noticing?

If Dan Wozniak was attempting to hide his deeds from his fiancée, why did he even bring Sam Herr into their apartment on the morning of Sam’s murder? Why not leave from Sam’s place?

Why Was Julie Murdered?

The questions regarding the murder of Julie Kibuishi also cast doubt on Rachel’s claims she knew nothing about either murder. Matt Murphy acknowledged that the Julie Kibuishi’s murder made no sense if Dan wanted to steal Sam’s money via ATM withdrawals. Murphy explained that without the discovery of Julie’s body, Dan might have been able to “drain the account” before the police even cared Sam was missing.

Side note – I’ve made this point numerous times in my blog. If Dan Wozniak planned to empty Sam Herr’s bank account, he would not want the police searching for Sam. Steve and Raquel Herr were worried about their son, but the authorities weren’t immediately interested in a “missing” 26 year old Army vet. When Steve Herr found a dead body in his son’s apartment, his 911 call resulted in immediate action from the Costa Mesa Police.  If his son’s apartment had been empty, only Sam’s parents would have been looking for him. Why bring on the attention of the authorities with Julie Kibuishi’s murder?

I know – lots of questions. I plan to answer them in my book.

Just Some Stuff Dan Left Around the House

If Dan Wozniak was trying to keep his fiancée Rachel in the dark, Matt Murphy thought he should have done a better job at it.

  • Dan left his blood-splattered tennis shoes out in the open in the couple’s bedroom.
  • Dan made no effort to hide his loan from Chris Williams.
  • Dan took Rachel with him to Wesley’s house twice (on the phone with Dan, she asked him, “Who’s Wesley?” as though she’d never heard the name before).
  • Dan had cash when he came home on Friday after murdering Sam.
  • Dan was extremely upset and worked up–heart-attack-like–when he came home.
  • Dan used Sam’s cell phone to send numerous texts back and forth to Julie Kibuishi. Sam had an old flip phone that vibrated every time it got a text, and it looked nothing like Dan’s smart phone.
  • Dan and Rachel were almost always together.

Side note – Murphy suggested Rachel Buffett wasn’t just aware of Julie Kibuishi’s murder, but likely culpable in the deed as well. There was no attempt made to lure Julie over to the Camdens until Dan and Sam’s cell phone arrived back at the apartment with Rachel.

Ironically, Dan’s defense attorney Scott Sanders made the exact same point in his closing arguments.

  • Dan shot Julie in an apartment that was only three floors up from Dan and Rachel’s (it was the month of May, so maybe windows were open).
  • Moments after shooting Julie Kibuishi, Dan returned to his apartment. Since Dan was so visibly upset for hours after shooting Sam, how could he seem perfectly normal to Rachel right after killing Julie?

A Little Dig at Scott Sanders… and A Hint of What’s To Come

On more than one occasion during Rachel’s trial, Matt Murphy made mention of the actions of unethical attorneys. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to know Murphy was alluding to Daniel’s defense attorney, Scott Sanders.

Opposing attorneys often appear to be fierce combatants when court is in order, but out in the hallway, there is comradery with the fellow lawyer. They don’t actually hate each other. They are just doing their jobs.

I think Matt Murphy genuinely hates Scott Sanders. Murphy told Rachel’s jury he’d make sure to say nothing during this trial that could be used to help Daniel Wozniak’s appeal.

With a foreboding, “winter is coming” vibe, Murphy warned us all that Dan Wozniak’s appeals are inevitable. Murphy was already mentally prepping for the unavoidable storm.

Nineteen Lies

Murphy continued to point a suspicious finger at Rachel Buffett.

Dan Wozniak had told her he was teaching an insurance class on the Saturday morning of May 21.  Yet when Rachel learned Dan had actually been to the faux-partment to borrow tools from her brother Noah, she didn’t question him about his change of plans. Murphy made a joke here about how it seemed like Dan was teaching a “lumberjack class” (he borrowed a saw and ax).

“How could she not know?” Matt Murphy asked the jury. He believed Rachel Buffett knew a lot. Even if she thought Sam murdered Julie, and Dan was just an accomplice, Rachel broke the law by lying to the police.

By Murphy’s count, there were nineteen lies in total, but he only needed the jury to convict Rachel Buffett of one of them.

David Medina’s Closing

Attorney David Medina began the defense with a thought-provoking statement: To find Rachel guilty, the jury had to believe she knew her fiancée butchered two of her friends, and she was okay with it.

Lies Lies Lies Yeah-ah

Dan and Rachel’s entire relationship was based on lies. Dan didn’t feel worthy of Rachel.  He constantly lied to her so she wouldn’t know he was a failure. Why, Medina argued, would he tell her the truth about the murders?

When Dan and Rachel were first questioned outside the faux-partment, according to the detectives, Dan was visibly nervous. Rachel was perfectly calm. Her behavior shows she knows nothing because she has nothing to hide. If Rachel was trying to help Dan, why tell the police he was with Sam at all?

You know that story about a “third man?” The guy with the black baseball cap who Rachel told the police she “saw” in her apartment? Well, Medina reasoned, Rachel could have been referring to Chris Williams.

Maybe Chris was the third man and Rachel didn’t tell the authorities about him because she was afraid. Rachel might have believed Chris Williams had actual Mafia connections. The man stayed in her apartment for hours and wouldn’t leave until he got his money.  That could be scary.

Chris Williams testified about Rachel’s desperation to make money. She certainly wasn’t acting like someone who was about to come into sixty thousand dollars.

It sure didn’t seem like Rachel was trying to protect Daniel Wozniak as she bad-mouthed him to detectives.

It’s true, Rachel Buffett seemed emotionless when being interviewed, but Dan’s own father had a similar response. She shouldn’t be judged, Medina claimed, for how she responds to shock and stress. Rachel’s fiancée had just been arrested. Rachel had been planning her wedding for months and now it would need to be cancelled. She was questioned at three o’clock in the morning.

David Medina wanted the jury to consider all these details so they would understand Rachel’s mistakes and omissions during her interview.

When Rachel learned Tim Wozniak was in possession of a murder weapon, she contacted the Costa Mesa detectives. She didn’t know Tim was going to take the gun to the Long Beach Police. Rachel didn’t have to tell Vylet about the murder weapon. If she were trying to help Dan, she would have kept that information a secret.

David Medina also noted that Tim Wozniak could have been charged as an accessory to murder because he had knowledge of a crime and he was trying to protect Dan. There was direct evidence to prove this, but there was only circumstantial evidence against Rachel Buffett.

If You Doubt, She Gets Out

David Medina ended his closing arguments by reminding the jury if they had any doubts about Rachel’s guilt; they had to find her not guilty. If there was more than one explanation for circumstantial evidence, the jury needed to “choose innocence.”

Most importantly, Medina explained that the jury didn’t have to like Rachel Buffett to find her not guilty.

Murphy’s Counter

As is the practice, the prosecution had the final say in closing arguments. Murphy responded to Medina’s points one by one.

Circumstantial evidence holds the same weight as direct evidence.  Maybe it’s supposed to, but does it really?

Rachel said the “third man” was a friend of Sam’s and he left with Sam and Dan. Murphy told the jury there was no way Rachel was referring to Chris Williams when she told the police about a third man. That did seem like a stretch.

Tim Wozniak was not on trial. He testified against his brother. In a way, “Tim is a victim.” Evil Spicoli is now a victim? That’s a big turn around from day one of the trial.

Rachel was interviewed at three in the morning because she wouldn’t come in earlier. She had an appointment at a tanning salon and a bachelorette party to attend.

Then, Matt Murphy dropped a bomb on the defense’s claim that Rachel told Vylet about the murder weapon because Rachel planned to do the right thing.

From her testimony, we know Vylet Randolph did not overhear the conversation between Rachel and Tim. But when Vylet exited the Mazda Miata and headed toward Rachel with Rachel’s phone in her hand, there was no way to know what Vylet did or didn’t hear. Rachel’s hand was forced, according to Murphy; she couldn’t chance lying to Vylet.

Matt Murphy ended his closing with a strong reminder to the jury: Rachel Buffett was not on trial for murder. He only needed them to find Rachel guilty of one of the nineteen lies.

“Take your time, but take care of business.”

The Jury Deliberates

It was past 4:00 pm when the jury went into deliberations. I decided to stick around until they went home just in case this jury was as zippy as Dan’s.

They weren’t.

I got to the courthouse at 9:00 am the next morning and spent the entire day writing on my iPad and checking my watch. Most of that time, I was sitting on a bench down the hall from the courtroom. It was the only way I’d know when the jury came back.

A Kind Gesture From Steve Herr

Late that afternoon, I saw Steve and Raquel Herr coming off the elevator and heading toward the courtroom.  As they walked by, Steve looked over at me and gave me a “Come on. It’s time,” head tilt. I quickly packed up my belongings and headed to the courtroom.

Thanks Steve. I really appreciated that.

The Verdict

You already know how this ends.

The jury found Rachel Buffett guilty of all charges.

The relief from Julie’s and Sam’s loved ones was palpable.

David Medina attempted to get Rachel released on bail until her sentencing in November. This was denied. When Rachel was out on bail in the past, she had a presumption of innocence. That was gone now.

Rachel was put in handcuffs. She didn’t turn back to look at her family. The Buffetts looked devastated as they watched Rachel, her head low and her hair covering the side of her face, being led through a door at the back of the courtroom.

Next Up: The Sentencing Hearing

Rachel Buffett’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday November 8th. I plan to be there.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Five)

It’s time to go back into the courtroom for the trial of The People vs. Rachel Buffett.

A Recap of the Prosecution’s Examination of Christopher Williams

Chris was an important witness in both Rachel’s and Daniel Wozniak’s trials. He loaned money to the couple, and he was with Rachel Buffett when Sam Herr was murdered.

During Matt Murphy’s questioning, the jury learned how Williams and Dan Wozniak spoke on the phone around 10 am on Friday, May 21, 2010. Dan told Chris to come to his and Rachel’s apartment because he could pay Chris back some of the two thousand dollars Chris loaned to them.

To his chagrin, Chris Williams ended up waiting at that apartment for hours. He later learned that during that time, Dan Wozniak murdered Sam Herr.

Chris Williams was Rachel’s alibi, but instead of rushing this information to the police, Rachel went out of her way to avoid any mention of Chris Williams. A video of one of Rachel Buffett’s interviews with Costa Mesa Police showed Rachel repeatedly misleading or outright lying about who had loaned the couple money.

She knew it was Chris Williams because and she’d spent half the day with him while he waited for the money. Even if Rachel knew nothing about the murder of Sam Herr, and so didn’t know she needed an alibi, she still gave false answers to specific questions about how she spent Friday, May 21.

Chris Williams learned about the investigation on May 28, when he immediately contacted the authorities. Chris thought the police might have some questions for the guy who was at Dan’s apartment all day.

They did. They had about nine hours worth of questions. They also had some new questions for Rachel Buffet.

Matt Murphy wanted the jury to view Rachel’s behavior as suspicious and indicative of her knowledge of the murders. Chris Williams testified to feeling a “weird vibe” from both Dan and Rachel, and she seemed very angry with Dan when he got back to apartment on Friday afternoon.

The Defense Questions Christopher Williams

When it was defense attorney David Medina’s turn to question Chris Williams, he definitely needed to do some damage control. But it seemed like Medina was just trying to do some damage to Chris Williams’ credibility.

There was a line of questioning that focused entirely on Chris Williams’ personal relationships in March of 2010.

Chris was officially still married at that time, but his relationship with Jenny Jones had turned romantic.

Medina grilled Williams about statements he’d made when first questioned back in 2010.

One of the storylines in the play Nine focuses on the lead character’s extramarital affair. In 2010, Williams told the police he became emotional after seeing the show because it touched on his own relationship issues. At Rachel’s trial, Williams could not recall feeling that way, but he believed he could have said it.

Personally, I cannot see how Chris Williams’ love life is actually pertinent to this case unless David Medina wanted to jury to see Chris as untrustworthy and dishonest.

These Are The Mafia People Who Don’t Break Legs, So Don’t Sweat It, You Guys

David Medina asked Chris Williams a series of questions suggesting Williams “maintained a lie” during his time spent with Rachel Buffett:

  • Did Chris Williams at any point insinuate to Dan and Rachel the money he loaned them came from some disreputable and possibly Mafia-related sources? Yes.
  • Was Rachel aware Dan had borrowed money from Chris? Yes.
  • Did Chris ever suggest that legs could be broken if the money wasn’t paid back? No.
  • Was Chris Williams charging Dan and Rachel interest on the loan? Two- hundred dollars (one hundred for each thousand loaned).
  • Did Chris eventually tell Rachel the money was not Mafia money? Can’t recall.
  • While Chris was with Rachel, did he fake a phone call saying the people who loaned the money (possibly Mafia) would give her and Dan more time to pay back the money? Can’t recall.
  • Did Rachel tell Chris that Dan Wozniak is a pathological liar? Remembers hearing this at some point, but he’s not sure who told him or when he was told.

During his testimony, Chris Williams repeatedly stated he was quite clear with Dan and Rachel that there was no threat to anyone’s safety.

Picture Time

Medina asked about Rachel Buffett’s actions during the time she and Chris waited around the apartment:

  • Did Rachel Buffett seem worried about getting money? Yes.
  • Was Rachel Buffett on the computer searching for a job during the hours they spent waiting for Dan to come back to the apartment? Yes.
  • Was Rachel looking into selling some photos of herself online? Yes.
  • Did Chris Williams take any photos of Rachel for this purpose? Can’t recall taking photos, but remembers seeing photos.

The underlying point being if Rachel knew Dan was going to steal Sam’s money, she had no reason to be so desperate to find employment. The defense wanted the jury to see Rachel’s behavior as proof she had no knowledge of Dan’s plan. There were plenty of other reasons for Rachel to be angry with Dan Wozniak. Her attitude did not necessarily prove she knew about Sam’s murder.

David Medina asked Williams what his opinion of Dan and Rachel’s relationship. Did Chris tell the police it didn’t seem like Rachel actually loved Dan?

Chris couldn’t recall.

Hey, Nine is a Tear-Jerker, All Right?

Chris Williams had no doubts about his conversation with Rachel after the Friday night performance of Nine. He praised Rachel for her ability to cry onstage, and noticed Rachel wore sunglasses during the entire show.  Rachel told him the tears were real, and she told Chris she was not upset over money problems. It was something else that had Rachel so upset.

Side note – From talking to Daniel, I believe Rachel didn’t know about Sam’s murder until after it happened, but she found out soon after.

 Defense attorney David Medina finished by asking Chris Williams a question I didn’t expect. Medina wanted to make sure Chris was emotional that Friday night because the play brought on feelings about his own relationships.  Williams wasn’t upset because he knew something about Sam’s murder, correct?

He knew nothing.

It turns out you can be upset without having knowledge of a murder. Was that what David Medina was trying to get through to the jury?

Murphy’s Rebuttal

In Matt Murphy’s rebuttal, he wanted to clarify that Chris Williams knew nothing about the murders on Friday May 21, but he did know about them when he called the police on May 28.

Murphy also wanted to make sure the jury heard Chris Williams’ story about the late night Thursday barbecue. Dan’s neighbor called down from his balcony three floors up and jokingly asked why he hadn’t been invited to the barbecue.  Dan told Chris the man was “his friend Sam.”

Side note – This story seems completely unrelated to proving Rachel Buffett was an accessory to murder. It serves the same purpose as the Taylor Swift ringtone.

Information like this is all about emotions. To “get your ire up,” as my dad used to say. I wonder why this wasn’t part of Dan’s trial. It makes him look bad, but it doesn’t comment on Rachel.

Vylet Randolph For the Prosecution

The final witness in the case was Vylet Randolph.

I’d been very curious to hear her testimony.  She wasn’t called in Dan Wozniak’s trial, but Vylet was essential for the case against Rachel Buffett.

Vylet and her then-husband John became close friends with Dan and Rachel soon after the engaged couple moved into the Camden Martinique Apartments.

Vylet described the complex as having a very social atmosphere. The majority of the tenants were college-aged people who had numerous parties, gatherings by the pool, and Taco Tuesdays.

When Matt Murphy questioned Vylet about Dan and Rachel, she talked about being glad when another couple moved into the complex. Vylet and John were friendly with everyone, but it was nice to spend some grown-up time with soon-to-be-married neighbors. In fact, the foursome became so close that John Randolph was going to perform Dan and Rachel’s wedding ceremony.

Matt Murphy asked Vylet Randolph about Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett’s relationship.

She described Dan as being very submissive to Rachel. He treated her like a princess. He would cut her food for her. He’d fetch her glasses of wine. According to Vylet, Rachel most definitely “wore the pants” in that relationship, and there was nothing Dan wouldn’t do for her.

When asked to describe her friends Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, Vylet called them both amazing and friendly people. Sam Herr would do anything to make his friends laugh, and Julie never stopped dancing.

Shocked Reactions At the Camden

Then the questions got around to the night of Julie Kibuishi’s murder. Vylet Randolph described the shock and fear experienced by their group of friends when the news broke about a body being found in Sam Herr’s apartment. Initially, they didn’t know the identity of the victim, but they were aware the person was “a friend,” and Sam was nowhere to be found.

A phone call was made to Dan and Rachel, who were in Long Beach after the Saturday night performance of Nine. Their plan was to spend the night with Rachel’s family at the faux-partment because wedding planning activities were scheduled for the next morning.

Dan and Rachel needed to come back to Costa Mesa immediately.

The two of them probably wanted to be as far from the Camden as possible.

 Vylet and John went to Dan and Rachel’s place around two in the morning. Matt Murphy had questions regarding the behavior of Dan and Rachel while the group waited for more information.

The Dan and Rachel Story

Dan and Rachel knew the body of one of their friends was three floors above them. Vylet described Dan as seeming extremely stressed out and possibly high on drugs. He was pulling at his hair and rambling about possibly being the last person to have seen Sam. An exasperated Rachel repeatedly told her fiancée to “shut up.”

Vylet wasn’t positive of the exact wording, but Rachel told Dan his messed up memories were messing up her story.

She was certain Rachel used the word “story.”

The One With The Murder Weapon

If you have followed this case for a while, you probably know about the recorded phone calls between Dan and Rachel that took place just after his arrest for, at that point, accessory to murder.

On March 27, Dan called Rachel from the Orange County Jail. It was no secret the calls were being recorded, yet Rachel told Dan how his brother Tim was in possession of a murder weapon. In spite of Dan’s pleading, Rachel was going to contact the detective and report this incriminating evidence.

The case blew open soon after. Dan became the lead suspect in Julie Kibuishi’s murder, and soon confessed to killing her and Sam Herr.

Vylet Randolph was with Rachel that day.

The morning after Dan Wozniak was officially arrested, Rachel turned to her friend Vylet for consolation.

Rachel Twirling

Vylet was just about to leave for work around 7 am when she heard a knock at her front door.  Through the peephole, Vylet saw Rachel spin around dramatically and then fall to the ground. When Vylet opened the door, Rachel popped back up and grabbed her.

Rachel’s whole body was shaking. Through her sobs, Rachel told Vylet that Dan was in jail and the wedding was off. Rachel’s family needed to be notified. All the plans needed to be cancelled. And Dan’s parents needed to be contacted immediately.

There was no way Vylet Randolph was going to leave Rachel to deal with all of this alone, so the two women got into Rachel’s Mazda Miata and headed to the faux-partment in Long Beach to see Rachel’s family.

Matt Murphy didn’t ask any details about telling Rachel’s family to cancel the wedding. He wanted to get to the next stop.

Mr. Wozniak Is Unmoved

Rachel and Vylet headed to the home of Daryl and MaryAnne Wozniak. They found Dan’s dad alone in the spacious Long Beach house where Dan Wozniak grew up. The elder Wozniak seemed unsurprised by the news about his son. Murphy didn’t spend a lot of time here, either. He wanted to ask Vylet about when they left the house.

Tim’s Cargo

Vylet and Rachel were back in the Miata and about to drive away from the Wozniak house when a little red car pulled up and parked behind them. “Oh shit,” was Rachel’s reaction to seeing Tim Wozniak behind the wheel.

Rachel got back out of her car and went to speak with Tim and his girlfriend. Vylet Randolph testified that Rachel seemed very upset about whatever Tim was telling her. She was covering her ears and telling Tim that she didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

At that same moment, Rachel’s phone rang in the car. Seeing it was Rachel’s mom calling, Vylet grabbed the phone and got out of the car just as Rachel started back to the Miata.

Vylet asked about the conversation, and as Rachel started driving (to the CMPD, I believe), she told Vylet about Tim Wozniak being in possession of a murder weapon.

There was no question in Vylet’s mind: Rachel had to notify the authorities at once!

However, Rachel did not hop-to-it as quickly as Vylet would have liked. Rachel wanted to call Tim first, and Vylet pointed out the obvious result of that call would be the disappearance of the evidence.

Vylet Insists

Taking matters into her own hand, Vylet called her own mom and led her through a Google search for the phone number of the detectives on Julie Kibuishi’s murder case.  If Rachel wasn’t going to call the police immediately, then Vylet would.

Matt Murphy wanted the jury to see how Vylet Randolph was a force to be reckoned with. Her testimony would be another hurdle for the defense.

Realizing she needed gas, Rachel exited the freeway to find a nearby station. At that moment, Dan Wozniak called Rachel collect from the Orange County Jail.

Matt Murphy left it at that for the time being. He turned the witness over to David Medina.

The Defense Questions Vylet

Medina started with an attention grabber: “How startling was it when you got the news there was a dead body at the Camdens?”

To which Vylet replied that the word startling didn’t come close to summing up her feelings the night she and her husband sat in Dan and Rachel’s living room waiting for news about the murder victim a couple floors above them.

David Medina wanted to revisit Vylet’s description of Rachel’s behavior that night. Dan was stressed out and kept talking about being the last person to see Sam Herr, and Rachel yelled at him about messing up her story. Medina wanted to focus on Rachel’s complaint that she had a terrible headache that night.

Not tonight Dan, I have a headache?

Vylet agreed Rachel was sitting on a sofa and complaining about having a tremendous headache (and its name was Dan). Medina suggested it was possible Rachel just had a headache that night, and that’s why she was upset and snapping at Dan. She simply wanted him to shut up because of the headache.

Vylet didn’t appear to give that theory much weight. Rachel used the word “story.”

Make Sure You Ask For The Deposits Back; We Need the Money

Medina then jumped to March 27 and asked Vylet about that visit to break the news to Rachel’s family. Dan had been arrested and the wedding was canceled. Vylet admitted that Rachel’s family was in shock, but she also described Rachel’s behavior as “methodical” when she handed out tasks for her family members to complete.

Cancel the chairs. Cancel the cake. Cancel the guests.

Logically, the defense wanted the jury to see Rachel as another one of Dan Wozniak’s victims. She was in love and about to get married. She was shocked and mortified when she learned her fiancée murdered two people. Like everyone else in Dan’s life, Rachel was completely duped.

But Vylet described someone who was calm, collected, and businesslike. I’m sure Medina preferred descriptions of Rachel where she came off as a victim.

The Wozniak Schism

The defense headed to Dan’s parents’ house next.

Vylet had watched as Rachel told Daryl Wozniak “Danny’s been arrested.” Vylet was surprised when Dan’s dad was aloof and unemotional. The weight of what he was being told didn’t seem to be sinking in. Vylet Randolph also testified that Dan’s parents didn’t even know their son was getting married. Dan gave Rachel’s mom and dad a fake email when they wanted to communicate with Dan’s parents.

Medina continued his questioning about the visit with Daryl Wozniak. Dan’s dad enlightened Rachel how Dan’s own actions caused the break between Dan and his parents.

Classy Dan

Dan had lied about attending college classes so he could pocket the tuition money. He stole cash from his parents on more than one occasion. Dan tried to take ownership of a family car so he could sell it.

Still, Dan left home on his own. His parents didn’t kick him out. Dan decided to leave because he didn’t want to be told what to do anymore.

Side note – What he wanted to do was marry Rachel Buffet.

Just Why Did Rachel Make the Call?

In Rachel Buffett’s trial, the prosecution wanted the jury to believe Rachel only went to the Costa Mesa Police because she knew if she didn’t, Vylet would.  Her hand was forced.

Side note – In Dan’s trial, the jury was led to think Rachel reported Tim’s evidence to the police immediately and on her own accord; that Rachel had nothing to hide because she’d done nothing wrong.

  • Did Rachel tell Vylet that Tim said he had a murder weapon? Yes.
  • Would Vylet have known this information otherwise? No.
  • Did Vylet overhear the conversation between Rachel and Tim? No.
  • Vylet was making moves to call the police herself. Did Rachel try to stop Vylet from doing this? No.
  • Did Rachel call a detective while driving to the Costa Mesa Police Department? Yes.

I thought the defense scored some points. Rachel didn’t seem to be hiding anything from Vylet Randolph. Rachel chose to tell Vylet about Tim and the murder weapon.

But when Medina asked Vylet why she and Rachel were driving to the CMPD, and was it for the purpose of reporting the information to the police, her answer was “Mine was. Yes.”

That threw a light dusting of doubt on Rachel’s apparent plans to be forthcoming with the police.

Everything Is Horrible and At Least One of Us Is Totally Broke, So Let’s Get… Sushi?

After Rachel’s interview, Vylet and John were waiting to pick her up outside the police station. Rachel told them Daniel “spilled everything.” He confessed to both murders (this would be when Vylet and John first learned Sam was dead).

The threesome decided to grab some sushi before heading back to the Camdens. Vylet rode in Rachel’s car and John drove his vehicle. Vylet went inside the restaurant and Rachel stayed in the car. When John arrived, he saw Rachel “losing it” inside her car, so he went inside the restaurant to tell his wife they needed to leave. Vylet saw Rachel was in hysterics, so she returned to the car.

What Was Said?

Back at John and Vylet’s apartment, Rachel and John went into another room together, where Vylet assumed Rachel was telling John the details of Dan’s confession.

They came out of the room and John announced, “Rachel needs to tell you something,” and then left their apartment.

Vylet believes her husband went to tell Dave and Jake (other friends from the Camdens) the terrible news, because they all came back to the apartment together, and everyone was angry and upset.

Instead of asking Vylet what Rachel then told her about Dan and the murders, he put out a strangely worded question in order to show Rachel did tell Vylet something. We were not going to hear what that was.

Medina: Did Rachel then explain any particulars to anyone else?

Vylet: Anyone else besides myself?

Medina: Right.

Vylet: Not at that moment.

Murphy Cross-Examines

On Matt Murphy’s cross-examination of Vylet Randolph, he asked her about the jail phone calls between Dan and Rachel. Vylet couldn’t recall Rachel’s side of the conversation, and she couldn’t hear Dan at all.

Murphy had Vylet tell the jury how Rachel lived with her and her husband for a month after the murders. Vylet got to know Rachel very well. Vylet believes Rachel knew something. Dan and Rachel were “inseparable.” You never saw one without the other. It didn’t seem like Dan could accomplish all he did without Rachel knowing something.

As he did with Chris William, Murphy asked Vylet if she had known anything about the murders beforehand. She knew nothing until Rachel told her.

Next up: Closing arguments!

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Four)

Hi readers! I’m sorry it took so long to get this post out. I needed to go out of town for a family thing.

The Next Prosecution Witness: Christopher John Williams

Rachel and Dan Wozniak met Chris Williams, undoubtedly one of the most interesting and important witnesses in Rachel Buffett’s trial, only two weeks before the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

In May of 2010, Chris was living with his parents in the city of Anaheim, where he was recovering from health issues.

In his testimony, Williams explained he’d had some gall bladder problems and intestinal growths.

When Chris became ill, he didn’t have any health insurance and his bills were piling up. Lucky for Williams, a group of his musician friends held a benefit concert to help him with the expenses. They raised enough money to get Chris back on his feet, and have some left over.

Soon, Chris was on the mend. He started spending time with a young woman named Jenny Jones. She happened to be performing in a production of the musical Nine at the Hunger Artists Theatre in Fullerton, California.

Side note – There are two common spellings of the word theatre / theater. I spent my formative years in Canada, where the word is always spelled theatre. Most of us involved in the art use the “re” spelling.  The official name of the theatre where I met Daniel was The Hunger Artists Theatre Company. If I use the “er” spelling, it is likely I’m writing the proper name of a location that uses that spelling in its name. For example:  The Liberty Theater.

Hunger Artists was a tiny theatre in a converted warehouse located in an industrial park. If we had forty-five people in the audience, it was a sold-out show.

Hungry Artists, Broke Actors

When Chris Williams attended a performance of Nine in early May, he had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett.

After most performances, it was common to find the actors and tech people hanging out in the lobby or outside smoking cigarettes.  Often, plans were being made for after-show activities at a local bar or at someone’s home.

After seeing Nine, Chris Williams was outside chatting with the cast members. That is when he heard Rachel Buffett lamenting about how the show almost didn’t go on that evening because her fiancée and the star of the production, Dan Wozniak, had been sitting in a jail cell overnight after being arrested on a failure to appear for a DUI. Rachel had spent all night borrowing and scrounging to get the bail money in time for Dan to make curtain.

Side note – Dan has told me he attended the assigned classes, but forgot about the court date.

Side note two – Actors are expected to arrive at the theatre at least an hour before the show starts. This is referred to as “call time.” When we talk about “making curtain,” that means the actor JUST makes it on time for the actual start of the show.

Matt Murphy asked Chris Williams how he responded to hearing Rachel’s tale of woe.

Chris was feeling intensely grateful after people had just held a benefit to help him with his own money problems. In an attempt to make friends and pay it forward, Williams threw out an offer to the couple. He told Dan and Rachel to give him a call the next time they needed a quick loan. He would be more than happy to help them out a jam.

Bank of Chris

That call came two weeks later. Dan Wozniak wanted to borrow two thousand dollars

During Dan’s trial, the loan request was said to be three thousand dollars. Either way, Williams only loaned Dan two thousand dollars.

Chris Williams testified he had some apprehension about loaning two thousand dollars to these people he’d only just met. Now romantically involved with Jenny Jones, Chris asked her advice about the situation. Chris said Jenny vouched for her cast mates, and offered to put a thousand dollars of her own money toward the short-term loan.

Chris met Dan at a nearby Del Taco to hand over the two grand. But Williams was still concerned about getting his money back and in a timely fashion.

So, Chris made up a story about having family ties to “the mob,” and explained to Dan that the money was not actually his own money, but was borrowed from disreputable people who could easily cause physical harm to anyone trying to rip them off.

Summary:

  • Chris Williams meets Dan and Rachel through Jenny Jones.
  • Chris offers to help Dan and Rachel if they need a quick loan.
  • Chris and Jenny each pony up a thousand dollars and Chris gives the money to Dan.
  • Chris tells Dan the money came from “bad people” who want their money back ASAP, and the topic of broken legs may have come up.

At Hunger Artists, we had performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sunday shows at 7 pm. Each production also had one 8 pm Thursday performance.

For Nine, it was on Thursday May 20. After that show, a small group of people from the audience and cast went to Dan and Rachel’s place for a late night barbecue. I’m not certain if Chris Williams had attended the show that night or not, but he was at the barbecue.

Dan grilled sausages out on the first floor patio and boisterously reassured Chris Williams he’d have his money returned the next morning. Ironically, Dan’s booming actor’s voice carried up to Sam Herr’s fourth floor apartment. Sam jokingly called down from his balcony asking why he hadn’t been invited to the party. Sam then turned down Dan’s offer to join them, saying he wanted to get some sleep.

Side note / dark thought: I’m really glad Dan didn’t say, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

Chris Williams went home around 1:00 am and planned to return about ten thirty Friday morning to collect his money.

Sam I Am? Or… Not?

I’m going to jump ahead here for a second.

When it was defense attorney David Medina’s opportunity to question Chris Williams, we learned for the very first time in either trial that Chris was charging Dan and Rachel interest on this loan: “One hundred dollars for every thousand borrowed.”

Chris Williams testified that he returned to the Camden Apartments that Friday morning around 10:30 am. He was under the impression he’d get his money and be back on the road in minutes.

Instead, there was another man in the couple’s apartment who Dan introduced to Chris as “his brother.”  Chris Williams now believes that man was actually Sam Herr.

Dan told Chris to wait at the apartment with Rachel while he and the other man ran an errand to pick up some of Chris’ money.

What Dan told Chris and Rachel depends on whom you ask (Chris or Rachel)… and when you ask them.

  • The other man was going to give Dan the money.
  • Dan told Chris, “This guy is going to help me out,” with getting some money.
  • Dan and the other man were going to the Wozniak’s parents’ house to either find some cash or take some valuable “memorabilia” that could be easily pawned.
  • Dan and the other man were going to the Liberty Theater (Catch the “er?”), where they planned to hit up the director for a loan.

If Chris Williams is correct and the man introduced as Dan’s “brother” was actually Sam Herr, this would mean Sam was there when Dan told Chris they were headed out to get money to pay Chris back.

However, in the official story gleaned directly from Dan’s confession and used for both trials, the trip to the Liberty was so Sam could help Dan “move some stuff” that was stored in the theatre’s attic.  There was no mention Sam was going to help Dan get money on this day.

Maybe Chris Williams didn’t meet Sam Herr. Maybe he met someone else? Why would Sam let Dan introduce him as his brother..?

Just Kickin’ It With Rachel

Chris Williams testified that he offered to accompany the two men, but Dan told Chris to stay at the apartment with Rachel. Dan and his brother / “Sam” left soon after Williams arrived.

Time, Time, Who’s Got the (Correct) Time

During Rachel Buffett’s trial, Matt Murphy said the cameras at the Los Alamitos Base recorded Sam Herr’s car arriving for the first time at 1:15 pm. I couldn’t read the time stamp from where I was sitting in the courtroom, but I have to admit this time frame doesn’t make sense to me.

I didn’t notice this during Dan’s trial, and I wonder if Matt Murphy meant to say Sam’s car arrived on the base at 11:15 am. Otherwise, it took Sam and Dan two and a half hours to drive sixteen miles. Even in Southern California, that is excessive, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time on the base before Dan heads out again to pick up Wesley.

I asked Daniel about this time discrepancy, and he believes they entered the base at a little past eleven in the morning. It’s not impossible that Matt Murphy accidentally gave the wrong time. At one point during his opening statement, he said “Steve” instead of “Sam” in regards to Sam’s murder. This did not go unnoticed by Sam’s loved ones.

Chris Williams said he ended up waiting for approximately three hours. I think it was a lot longer than that, though. He arrived at the Camden apartments around 10:30 am and left soon before sending a text to Dan at 4:14 pm.

Rachel’s Retail Schemes

Matt Murphy led Williams through a few vague questions about how Chris and Rachel passed the time. For Murphy, it was important to prove Rachel Buffett was completely aware she and Dan were in at huge financial mess.

On the stand, Chris Williams said Rachel was clearly upset that Friday morning and extremely concerned about money. Rachel was looking for a job on Craigslist. She was re-packing a new vacuum cleaner with the thought of returning it for cash. She might also have said something about stealing a vacuum and taking it back to the store for the refund.

Chris Williams had to acknowledge that his memory wasn’t perfectly clear this many years later. It wasn’t even as good as it was in 2015, when he testified in Dan’s trial. In Rachel Buffett’s trial, Chris admitted he could “not recall” numerous details from the time of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

You… Must… Chill.

Williams’ memory was sharp, however, when he described Dan Wozniak’s mental state upon returning (alone) to the Camden Apartments.

Chris said he’d, “never seen anybody so upset” as Wozniak was at that time. Dan threw four hundred dollars cash down in front of Williams and told him the rest of the money owed would come in a couple days. Dan was “super stressed,” and Rachel was obviously angry at him about something.

According to Williams, there was a “weird tension” between Dan and Rachel that made him want to get out of their apartment as quickly as possible. On the stand, he emphasized that he repeatedly told both Dan and Rachel there was no need for them to be so upset about owing him money.

“Everything about my demeanor…everything out of my mouth the whole day was, ‘this does not need to be so stressful. It will be ok.’”

Before making his hasty exit, Chris Williams asked Dan if the four hundred dollars was all the money the couple had. It was. Williams said he gave them back a twenty-dollar bill so they could buy themselves some dinner. He also sent a text to Dan’s phone at 4:14 pm: “Hey man try not to stress so much. It will be fine.”

Step Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly…

Right around the same time, a phone call took place between Chris Williams and Rachel Buffett, who was using Dan’s phone.

In his opening statement, Matt Murphy said Chris Williams initiated the phone call. But during Daniel Wozniak’s trial and in his recent testimony, Williams stated it was Rachel (using Dan’s phone) who called him. I’m not sure what difference it makes, but Murphy did get Williams to say he wasn’t positive who made the call.

Nonetheless, Rachel told Chris Williams that he’d dropped twenty dollars and should return to their apartment to get the money. Williams reminded Rachel that he had given them that money to get dinner, but Rachel said it was another twenty that “roll(ed) onto the floor” (that’s a quote from Matt Murphy).

Chris had no intention of going back to that apartment. He had a bad feeling about Rachel trying to get him to return. He said he would see them at the play that night.

He asked Rachel if she was okay. Was she upset about the money? Rachel said it was about “something else.”

The Show Must Go On.

According to Chris Williams, both Rachel and Dan gave excellent performances in Nine that night. He noticed that Rachel wore sunglasses her entire time on the stage, and he asked Jenny about it. Rachel’s sunglasses were not normally part of the show.

When Chris complemented Rachel on her acting skills and her ability to cry onstage, Rachel told him the tears were real.

Maybe Facebook’s Good For Something After All..?

On March 28, Chris Williams was getting ready to attend the wedding of Daniel Wozniak and Rachel Buffett. He’d just gotten out of the shower when he learned that “one of his Facebook friends was arrested for murder.”

He called the police immediately. They had never even heard the name Chris Williams and they now knew Rachel Buffett had lied to them.

Next Time…

In the next post, I’ll cover the defense’s questioning of Chris Williams and the crucial testimony of Vylet Randolph.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Three)

Lieutenant Ed Everett was the next witness for the prosecution.

I’m going to skip all the questioning about the case against Daniel Wozniak, and get right to the information related to Rachel’s charges.

Lieutenant Ed Everett For the Prosecution

When the police were on the hunt for Sam Herr, it was ATM activity in Long Beach that led them to Dan Wozniak. They hadn’t spoken with Wesley Freilich yet, but they knew Dan was the only Camden connection to Long Beach.

Detective Everett and his partner Lt. Keith Davis learned of an address associated with Dan and decided to check it out. When the detectives arrived, they thought the address was a business, not a residence. This is why they just walked in the door without knocking.

Lofty Livin’

Noah and Nate Buffett had converted a warehouse business into a loft (or faux-partment, as I like to call it). Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett happened to be visiting the Buffett brothers when Everett and Davis waltzed in the front door.

Dan and Rachel had lived there with Rachel’s brothers until the couple moved into the Camden Apartments three months earlier.  The faux-partment had become very crowded at that time, because the entire of the Buffett clan had all moved in there together.

For years previously, the Buffett family rented a lovely Seal Beach home from an elderly woman who went to their church. Out of the goodness of her heart, the woman only asked that the family pay the property taxes on the home.

When their generous landlady passed away, her son decided to sell the house. The Buffetts needed to move. This is when parents Dave and Marianne and their two youngest children decided to join Nate, Noah, Dan and Rachel in the faux-partment.

Interviews of Opportunity

The officers immediately realized their mistake, but finding Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett sitting on the sofa, they grabbed the opportunity to talk to them.

It seemed especially strange that Dan said, “How did you guys find me here?” the moment he saw the police in the doorway.

Dan requested to speak with the two detectives outside. The three of them stood about six feet away from the closed front door.

Shaking

According to Everett, Dan seemed extremely nervous and was shaking and trembling. He explained this was a result of pre-wedding jitters.

Remember: the police are searching for Sam Herr. Sam is the suspect in Julie’s murder.

Outside the faux-partment, Dan told the detectives he last saw Sam driving away with a third guy. Dan didn’t know the guy. He was Sam’s friend. Dan’s description was limited to “he was wearing a black baseball cap.”

Rachel Buffett popped her head out the door to check on her fiancée. Everett told her to go back inside and they would talk to her soon.

A Mis-Step?

When Rachel was questioned, she told the police her first and most problematic falsehood. Rachel also saw the guy with the black baseball cap. She told the detectives that Dan, Sam and the third man had been in her apartment on the afternoon of May 21.

She saw the three of them leave together. Rachel didn’t know the guy. He was Sam’s friend. And now Sam was missing.

Rachel Buffett didn’t seem the least bit nervous when talking to the two detectives. Both Everett and Davis testified that Dan was shaking and Rachel was calm. Is that proof Rachel was completely in the dark about Sam and Julie’s murders, or was she just a better liar than Dan?

It is interesting to note that the detectives say they were not planning to interview anyone when they walked in that door. This is their explanation of why there are no audio recordings of these particular conversations with Dan or Rachel. So the jury was expected to trust the memories and hand-written notes from conversations that happened over eight years ago.

Pencil Us In Between Tanning and Sushi

Lt. Everett continued his testimony, stating that neither Dan nor Rachel was very accommodating when it came to having an official interview with the police.

Dan explained he couldn’t go down to the station because he had his bachelor party later that evening. Rachel also had a bachelorette event, and had a tanning appointment set up.

The police thought it was very peculiar that Dan and Rachel wouldn’t bend over backwards to help solve the murder of their own friend.

Devil’s advocate side note: We know Daniel was avoiding being questioned because he was guilty.

Rachel’s defense attorney made some valid points about the amount of stress she was going through at that time. She was in her twenties and getting married the next day, so maybe she just wasn’t thinking clearly. Rachel did ask the detectives what “time they closed,” and she voluntarily showed up to be interviewed at the station around three AM.

Disney Princess Screen Test

At this point in Matt Murphy’s questioning of Detective Everett, he showed the jury extensive portions of Rachel’s police interview and sections of the interview with both Dan and Rachel together. Before starting the video, the jury members were each given a transcript of the interviews in case it was difficult to discern what was being said.

I wanted one of those transcripts so badly! For two people who were trained stage actors, Dan and Rachel were almost impossible to decipher. The stage director inside me wanted to yell, “Open your damn mouths and stop mumbling.”

I know, they weren’t on stage — they were being questioned about a murder — so those of us without transcripts missed at least fifty percent of what was being said on the videos.

Here is what I managed to get from the three AM solo interview of Rachel:

  • Rachel and Dan were stressed out because of money problems and wedding planning.
  • Dan’s parents told him if he married Rachel, he would be completely cut off financially.
  • On Friday, May 21, Dan and Rachel were trying to get some money to pay back a loan. They needed to pay it back by five PM.
  • Rachel was home all day on May 21.
  • Rachel didn’t know from whom Dan borrowed money (Chris Williams would contradict Rachel’s claims later, in his testimony). Dan did tell her he borrowed the money from someone Rachel knew.
  • Friday morning Dan was acting “really really weird,” and told Rachel he lied to her and he actually had borrowed money from “bad people,” and was afraid of getting his “legs broken” if he didn’t pay back the money by five PM.
  • Dan cashed some checks that were early wedding presents.
  • There was a lot of drug use at the Camden apartments. Ecstasy and crystal meth were both popular. Rachel “accidentally” tried crystal meth one time. Rachel didn’t know anyone from the Camden apartments who hadn’t used drugs and “half of the people at the pool were on E.”
  • Rachel and Julie had become friends over their mutual love of dance.
  • Julie seemed very excited about her new online boyfriend.
  • Julie occasionally hung out at Dan and Rachel’s apartment. She took a shower there at one point.
  • Rachel admitted she had probably been in Sam’s apartment in the past week.
  • Rachel suggested that Dan couldn’t remember who was in the car on Friday because Dan was very stressed out.

Betrayed by an Empathy Deficit?

Here is an interesting fact: While Jose Morales was interrogating Rachel in one room, Dan was being questioned in another.  Everett went back and forth between the two rooms, watching the video feed. He payed very careful attention to both Dan and Rachel and any changes or differences in their stories.

From an observer’s point of view (me) at that point, it seemed like the detectives didn’t suspect Rachel.

But when Everett threw out a prophetic theory to Rachel, “I think Sam is dead and Dan killed him,” her lack of emotional response made them wary of her.

“Why do you think that?” she asked calmly.

Right at that moment, I expected Everett to give a deadpan look directly to the camera (like Jim in The Office).

Time for lunch. I had a spinach salad.  

After lunch, Matt Murphy continued to question Detective Ed Everett as he showed video footage of Jose Morales questioning Rachel.

  • Rachel told Morales that she last saw Sam on Friday. Sam was driving Dan to the Liberty Theater so Dan could borrow money from the theatre’s director. (I had not heard this explanation before. In Dan’s interrogation, he stated that Sam was coming to help him move “stuff” in the attic.)
  • Rachel said that Sam suggested Dan join the Coast Guard.
  • Sam was not Dan and Rachel’s closest friend in the Camdens.
  • Sam had anger issues.
  • Even though Dan supposedly told Rachel he was teaching an insurance class on Saturday morning, she knew he actually showed up at the faux-partment during that time. Dan borrowed cutting tools and might have been driving Noah’s truck.

Barbara Stanwyk’s Got Nothing on Her

Lt. Everett and Jose Morales tried to get Rachel to understand the seriousness of this situation.

Everett: “Should you marry this guy?”

Rachel: “I can deal with heartache.”

Everett: “One day he might get insurance on you, and then you go missing.”

Rachel: “I don’t see Dan killing anyone. Is he telling you something he’s not telling me?”

On the video, Detective Everett asked Rachel about her sex life with Dan:

  • Yes, Rachel and Dan had an open sex life (sex with Dan isn’t “that awesome”).
  • No, Dan and Sam were not having a sexual relationship (even though “everyone jokes about Dan being gay”).

Rachel Buffett had some questions of her own during the interview.

She wanted to know if the police knew exactly when Julie Kibuishi had been murdered, and if Julie had also been raped. These questions raised the detectives’ suspicion. There had been no public mention that when Julie’s body was found, she’d appeared to have been sexually assaulted.

In the video, Rachel worried about telling her family, friends and neighbors about the accusations building up against Dan. Rachel couldn’t figure out how Dan would have the time to do anything without her knowing. The two of them were always together.

With regard to helping Sam avoid the police, Rachel guaranteed she wouldn’t risk spending fifteen years of her life in jail to help someone she’d just met.

Rachel was concerned about the arrest of her brother Noah. She was told that Noah had given some false information to the police early on in the investigation, but they had no evidence to prove Noah was involved in Julie’s murder or Sam’s disappearance.

The video was stopped and Judge Hanson gave us our afternoon break.

I noticed that Rachel’s dad, David Buffett, had his face in his hands. It was the first time I saw stress in someone in Rachel’s family. If the members of the “blonde coalition” were worried about Rachel’s fate, they usually did a very good job of hiding it.

When court resumed around 3:11 PM, DA Matt Murphy continued his questioning of Detective Everett.

Video Testimony Continues

Now the jury would see video of Dan Wozniak telling Rachel Buffett what he’d confessed to the detectives. I’m guessing the jury was grateful for the written transcripts, because it was impossible to understand a word that Dan said on that video.

This was when Dan claimed to be accessory to murder, and Everett was giving Dan the opportunity to come clean with his presumably unaware fiancée.

Not a Wet Eye in the House

At one point, the detective offered Rachel a box of tissues, but put them away when he realized there were no tears to dab. On the video, Rachel showed a complete lack of emotion upon hearing the “truth” that her betrothed helped Sam get away after the vet murdered Julie.

The interview footage was grainy and wrought with audio problems. Still, it was obvious those detectives didn’t believe Dan and Rachel were telling the truth about the whereabouts of Sam Herr or the details of Julie’s murder.

Defense Cross-Examination

It was time for defense attorney David Medina to question Lt. Everett.

Medina wasn’t going to add any more weight to the importance of the interrogation videos. He asked the detective if there were other videos of Rachel being questioned, and Everett acknowledged there were probably around fifty more videos the jury didn’t see.

The Vanishing Third Man

Medina asked Everett about the informal interviews that took place outside of the faux-partment. The jury was reminded that the detectives were relying solely on their memories, as they did not record the conversations. Medina also pointed out that Rachel may have overheard what Dan told the police about a third man, and she didn’t mean to say she actually saw a third man herself.

When Rachel appeared on the Dr. Phil show, she gave an interesting explanation of how she made that mistake.

Defense attorney David Medina ended his questioning of Detective Everett with the suggestion that Rachel only asked about Julie Kibuishi being raped was because Dan had told her Sam “wanted to have sex” with Julie during one of their jail phone calls.

Lieutenant Keith Davis Corroborates

Lt. Keith Davis was the next witness up, and he wasn’t on the stand very long.

Lt. Davis was Detective Everett’s partner in 2010. His role in the trial was to corroborate Everett’s memories of the informal interviews that happened outside the faux-partment.

Medina got Davis to admit he’d reviewed his notes about that day for the first time just before the trial started.

Matt Murphy came back with a statement about how there were so few brutal homicides in the city of Costa Mesa, the detectives remembered the details of this case quite clearly.  Lt. Davis agreed.

Next Time: Chris Williams Takes the Stand

The next witness was Chris Williams. He was Rachel’s alibi for the murder of Sam Herr, and a witness to some very odd behavior from Dan and Rachel on the weekend of the murders. I’ll cover him in part four.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Two)

The Prosecution Presents Their Case

On the afternoon of September 5, 2018, assistant district attorney Matt Murphy called the first prosecution witness in the case of The People vs. Rachel Buffett.

Cellphone Shenanigans

Carlos Diaz, a member of the Costa Mesa Police and partner of detective Jose Morales, was questioned about the cellphone activity that led up to the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

On the night Julie was murdered, she received numerous texts from the cellphone of her close friend Sam Herr.

We now know that Sam had already been brutally murdered by that time, and he was not sending those texts. Daniel Wozniak would later confess he had sent the texts to Julie, with the intention of luring the young woman to Sam Herr’s apartment, to murder her and frame Sam.

Rachel Buffett claimed she knew nothing about Dan’s involvement in either murder until Dan confessed. This meant that Rachel had to be completely unaware of texts sent to Julie Kibuishi using Sam’s phone.

During police questioning, Rachel admitted she and Dan were together during the time the texts were sent, but she never noticed Dan using Sam’s cell phone.

Carlos Diaz was there to show the jury how unlikely a possibility that was.

A Tech Technicality

In May of 2010, Sam Herr was still using an early-generation flip phone, while Daniel Wozniak owned one of the first touchscreen smartphones.

Dan’s phone had a keyboard. Sam’s phone used an alphanumeric keypad, the kind where you have to press the number keys repeatedly select the desired letter.

Dan’s phone could be put on silent mode. Sam’s lit up and vibrated when he received texts.

The broke guy had the brand-new phone.

There were twelve texts back and forth between Sam Herr’s phone and Julie Kibuishi’s… but Rachel Buffett said she never saw or heard Sam’s cell phone.

During his cross-examination, defense attorney David Medina asked the witness about other brands of flip phones in use in 2010.  This was possibly an attempt to show the jury how Sam’s phone wouldn’t have drawn Rachel’s attention because, at the time, flip phones were quite common.

Detective Morales Investigates

The next witness was Costa Mesa Police Detective Jose Morales, who had a lead role in the investigation of the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

Detective Morales arrived at Sam Herr’s apartment soon after the 911 call came in from Steve Herr on the night of May 22, 2010. Steve had reported finding the body of a young woman in his son’s apartment, and the distraught father immediately knew his missing son would become a suspect in her murder.

Matt Murphy’s questions led Morales through a detailed explanation of the initial investigation into Julie’s murder. The detective explained how Julie’s purse and cellphone were found in Sam’s apartment, and an examination of Julie’s cellphone led the Costa Mesa police department to a series of text messages back and forth with Sam Herr’s cellphone.

In spite of Steve Herr’s protests that his son would never hurt a woman, least of all his close friend Julie, a police report was immediately circulated regarding murder suspect Sam Herr. The report did not mention the possible sexual assault of Julie Kibuishi… and that would become important later.

From Suspect To Victim

Rachel Buffett’s jury was given a full rundown of how Sam Herr turned from suspect to victim.

They were told about Daniel Wozniak’s plan to murder Sam for his money. They heard how ATM transactions led to teenager Wesley Freilich, who immediately explained that Dan Wozniak gave him the card and told him to withdraw money every day. That was when Dan Wozniak became a possible accessory suspect in Julie’s murder, and a hopeful lead to the Sam Herr.

Matt Murphy and Detective Morales took the jury through Dan Wozniak’s arrest at his bachelor party, and Dan’s subsequent lies about Sam and his whereabouts.

This is when we got back to the case against Rachel Buffett.

At one point during the investigation, Dan and Rachel were each questioned in separate rooms at the Costa Mesa Police Department. This was before Dan’s confession. The police were still searching for Sam Herr, and Steve and Raquel Herr were suffering the torment of having a missing son who was a murder suspect.

Matt Murphy jumps around a lot when he’s going through the details of this case, and I sometimes wonder if he’s difficult to follow for jurors who are completely new to this story.

I’m sure they got the most important information: Dan Wozniak is a monster. Dan Wozniak is a murderer. There is a lot of physical evidence pointing to Dan Wozniak. There is no physical evidence pointing to Rachel Buffett. Dan Wozniak confessed – eventually – and claimed to be the only person involved in both murders.

The jury saw photos of the ax and saw used to dismember Sam’s body. These tools had been borrowed from Noah Buffett, and Dan made no attempt to sneak around when doing so.

Heavy Sleeper

Photos taken in Dan and Rachel’s apartment showed Sam Herr’s laptop on the couple’s bookshelf, and Dan’s blood-splattered shoes next to the bed.

A picture of the couple’s bed showed it was only twin-sized. Matt Murphy pointed out that the six foot two, 210-pound Wozniak couldn’t possibly leave that bed without Rachel waking up or noticing him missing.

During questioning, Rachel said she and Dan were together the entire evening of May 22… but she later said she had been asleep when Dan left to murder Julie.

At 11:35 pm on May 21, Rachel went on Facebook and replied to a message sent to her from Julie Kibuishi that afternoon.

This was proof Rachel was awake only twenty-five minutes before her fiancée supposedly snuck out of their apartment to commit murder.  It also appeared to the police that Rachel was trying to create an electronic alibi for herself.

The biggest issue for Rachel Buffett was information she gave the police during the early days of Julie’s murder investigation. Rachel stated that she saw a third man with Sam and Dan.

The police know there was no third man.

Collaborators?

Jose Morales told the jury how Rachel was eventually brought into the interrogation room with Dan, so Dan could “confess” to his fiancée that he and Sam had a credit card scam going. Dan also told Rachel how he had helped Sam elude the police after Sam killed Julie. The CMPD didn’t believe any of it, and it was clear to them that Dan was trying to help Rachel keep all the lies straight.

Drug Use Revealed

In his cross-examination, David Medina asked about drug use at the Camden apartments. Detective Morales acknowledged that a group of about a dozen or so residents (including Dan, Rachel and Sam) partied and regularly used drugs together.

Side note – Daniel admitted drug use to me in our very first correspondences, but during Daniel’s trial, Matt Murphy implied there was no drug use at the Camden.  Medina’s line of questioning didn’t really lead to a defense of Rachel Buffett, but it may have reduced any blowback expected to come from the jury, who later saw recorded video questioning of Rachel wherein she admitted to rampant drug use amongst the “Taco Tuesday” group.

Snow White

David Medina also asked Detective Morales about interviews with Wesley Freilich, and Morales admitted that Wesley didn’t say anything about Rachel being involved in the ATM activity.

More importantly, Daniel Wozniak never implicated Rachel during any interviews with the police or on any of their recorded telephone calls from the Orange County Jail. (He has implicated her to me).

When Rachel learned that Tim Wozniak had incriminating evidence including a murder weapon he’d been given by Dan, Rachel called Detective Morales to inform the CMPD.

Just before court adjourned for the day, David Medina got Detective Morales to agree that Rachel Buffett did help him “figure out” the case.

September 6, 2018

Thursday morning began with the continued questioning of Detective Carlos Morales by the defense. David Medina hammered at two major points:

  1. Daniel Wozniak was in fear of losing Rachel Buffett because she was “his light,” and he would lie, steal, and murder if that’s what it took to keep Rachel happy.
  2. Rachel had not lied to the police to protect Daniel, and she helped lead police to important evidence.

Throughout the entire trial and with numerous witnesses, there was a great deal of back and forth about when Rachel called the police about that evidence, and her motives for doing so.

Hot Potato

In case you don’t remember this part from Daniel’s trial:

  • Dan gave his brother, Tim, a box, and asked Tim to get rid of the contents. The box held the gun used in both murders, and a backpack chock-full of very incriminating evidence: Sam’s passport, ID, checkbook, blood covered clothing… and Dan’s DNA wass all over it.
  • Tim took the backpack and threw it into his parents’ backyard. Then he went to a friend for advice about the gun, and the friend took the gun to the Long Beach Police Department the next day (May 27, I believe).
  • Later that same day (I think) Rachel went to Long Beach to tell Daniel’s parents their son had been arrested. When she was about to drive away from the house, Tim Wozniak drove up and parked behind Rachel’s car. Rachel got out of the car and walked to Tim’s car. Rachel says this this was the first time she learned that Dan had any connection to a “murder weapon.” (I’m not positive if the backpack was also discussed at that time.)
  • Minutes later, Rachel received a call from Dan from the Orange County Jail. Rachel was quite aware the call was being recorded. Rachel told Dan about her conversation with Tim, and then revealed to her stupefied fiancée that she was going to call Detective Morales to tell him what she’d just learned. Dan freaked out and told Rachel that if this evidence is found, he would be “doomed.”
  • Rachel got off the phone and called the CMPD. The police soon got a search warrant for the Wozniak home in Long Beach, and that was when the backpack was recovered.

Rachel Buffett wasn’t alone that day.  Her close friend Vylet Randolph had joined Rachel to give moral support (this was new to me). Vylet would soon testify about what Rachel did next.

We’ll get to that…

So Helpful

Rachel’s defense attorney made sure to emphasize how much Rachel helped out the investigation, especially since Rachel supposedly didn’t know Tim’s friend had already turned the murder weapon in to the Long Beach Police.

Side note – Matt Murphy ended up crediting “evil Jeff Spicoli” for his assistance and cooperation with the police.

Next Time…

The next witness up was Lt. Ed Everett, who was the big boss overseeing the entire investigation. In the next post, I’ll go into the details of his testimony and his belief that Rachel Buffett knew of, and assisted in, the entire plan to murder Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part One)

It’s Monday, September 10, 2018. I just got home from the courthouse.

Today’s session of the Rachel Buffett trial ended before eleven.  This wasn’t because of any issues or attorney arguments. It appears that the witness portion of the trial will be soon be ending. Judge Hanson excused the jury, explaining that the remainder of the day would be used by the attorneys to work on stipulations for final jury instructions.

During Daniel’s trial, I stuck around for all the attorney interactions, but Asst. DA Matt Murphy and Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, are so cordial with each other, it didn’t seem like there would be much of a battle.  I won’t lie: Murphy and Scott Sanders were more entertaining when they went head to head.

As I have been watching Rachel’s trial, I can’t help wondering how I personally would vote if I were on the jury and had no previous knowledge of this case. Right now, I would be on the fence.

Day One (9/5/18)

Matt Murphy gave his opening argument, and lucky for me, in order to look at the jury, he turned toward where I sat in the courtroom. This meant I was able to hear him a lot better than I could during Daniel’s trial. Matt Murphy can be so mumbly, each day there are at least six people wearing headphones provided for the court because they have difficulty hearing the proceedings.

Side note – I like to sit in the far back corner because I feel hidden away AND there is an electrical outlet right next to me where I can charge my phone during the trial.

DA Murphy’s Opening Statement

Assistant DA Matt Murphy’s opening statement was so similar to the one he gave during Daniel’s trial that I thought I was having déjà vu.  He made the same joke / reference to the TV show Melrose Place when describing the Camden Apartments complex where Dan Wozniak, Rachel Buffett and murder victim Sam Herr were all living in May of 2010. It was necessary for Matt Murphy to tell the entire disturbing story again because this is an entirely new jury.

Side note – The brutal murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi have been so much a part of my everyday life for the past three years that it always surprises me when Orange County residents know nothing about the case of the “Gruesome Groom” who murdered two people so he could go on an amazing honeymoon.

Still, Murphy’s opening felt like Daniel was on trial again.  I’d expected more changes that related specifically to Rachel’s charges. I get it, though. There are a lot of twists and turns to this story no matter what you believe actually happened.

In Rachel’s trial, Matt Murphy also brought out some “evidence” that he used during Daniel’s trial, and he once again made some unproven claims during his opening/closing arguments.

  • An envelope containing an invitation to Dan and Rachel’s wedding was found in Sam’s apartment. The “S” in the name Sam looked like a lightning bolt. Julie Kibuishi had the words “All yours fuck you” scrawled on her sweater when her body was found in Sam’s apartment. The “s” on her sweater looked like a lightning bolt. Matt Murphy has told two juries that Daniel Wozniak wrote the invitation and the words on Julie’s sweater. However, there has never been any actual proof put forth to prove Daniel wrote either. Rachel could have written them both. I have a tendency to believe she did. However, we were never shown any other proven examples of Dan’s or Rachel’s writing to compare those lightning bolts.
  • A sketchpad was found in Sam Herr’s apartment. On one of the pages was a disturbing and rudimentary charcoal drawing that appeared to be of an Asian woman lying down surrounded by flames. It had words to the effect of “I’m done,” written next the drawing. Matt Murphy has emphatically stated that Daniel Wozniak made this drawing. But I want the proof. Fingerprints? DNA? I know they can test hands for gunshot residue. Ummm… charcoal residue test?

Evidence Optional

Before Daniel Wozniak’s trial, I knew very little about the legal system. I honestly had no idea that during opening and closing arguments lawyers can make any claims and purport any theories they wish, but they don’t actually have to prove them.

This fact is pointed out to the the jury during instructions, but do they all remember this when Murphy is dramatically flashing a disturbing drawing in front of them? Perhaps Matt could have used the “S” and the drawing against Rachel too if, during Dan’s trial, he had just suggested that either one of them was responsible.

But, any tiny hint of Rachel’s culpability during Dan Wozniak’s trial may have lost Murphy his coveted death penalty verdict.

If it seems like I’m writing about Daniel’s trial instead of Rachel’s, it’s because Matt Murphy was putting on the same show. For example, I still don’t understand why he made sure both juries knew that murder victim Julie Kibuishi had a Taylor Swift ringtone on her cell phone.  That is sad as hell, but not evidence of anything.

The One About Rachel Buffett

Finally, Matt got around to talking about Rachel Buffett. He told the jury Rachel grew up in Long Beach, was home schooled, and took dance and acting classes at a local community college. Matt Murphy also emphasized that in the relationship between Rachel and Dan, it was she who “wore the pants.”

Later, he even called witnesses to corroborate that claim on the stand.

 I’ve personally spoken to quite a few people who all say Rachel was the boss. When I’ve brought this up to Daniel Wozniak himself, he denies it and still believes the two of them were equals.

 It’s important to remember that Rachel Buffett professes to be just another one of Daniel Wozniak’s victims. She says she knew nothing about their bank debt, rent issues or the money borrowed from friends.

But during Matt’s opening, he pointed out that Rachel knew she and Daniel were being evicted from their apartment only two months after moving in. They had received an official warning from the Orange County Sheriffs, and had been told to vacate the apartment.

Matt Murphy told the jury that Dan and Rachel moved into the Camden Apartments on February 14. My eyes immediately darted to Julie Kibuishi’s parents.

Julie was born on Valentine’s Day, and I suspected the mention of that date wouldn’t slip past them. I saw June Kibuishi wince at the mention of what was her daughter’s final birthday.

Soon after that, it was Sam’s mother in tears when Matt Murphy showed photos of the ax and saw used to dismember her only child.

Matt Murphy went on to tell the jury about Daniel and Rachel’s mutual debt. Both had individual bank accounts and shared accounts that were in the red. The total debt accrued, including back rent and Dan’s DUI charges, came out to about $3,000. Neither Dan nor Rachel had any credit card debt, and I do wonder how many couples in their twenties have similar debt.

Side note: Murphy wondered why Dan didn’t just get a job acting in TV commercials instead of murdering for money. Ummm, Matt – I can’t count the number of times you and the Costa Mesa Police have commented on Dan’s “bad” acting. Commercial jobs are hard to get even for good actors.

Our Cast of Characters

The DA’s opening argument continued with an introduction to some of the key players, complete with nicknames:

  • “Our hero,” Dan Wozniak
  • “Evil Jeff Spicoli,” Dan’s older brother Tim Wozniak
  • “Naïve teenager,” and ATM dupe Wesley Freilich
  • “Money lender and all around great guy,” Chris Williams
  • Rachel’s brother Noah Buffett (He didn’t get a fun nickname)

When Matt Murphy talked about victims Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, he described the two young people as kind, generous, and beloved by their families and friends.

Casting a Shadow

However, unlike during Dan Wozniak’s trial, this time Murphy introduced Sam Herr’s past legal problems during his opening.

Sam was once on trial for murder. Dan’s jury knew nothing about it (in spite of defense attorney Scott Sanders’ hard fight to have the information brought to light.) I can’t imagine Dan’s jury would have been swayed in any way by this information, but Judge Conley’s ruling to keep it out will probably be one of the MANY appellate claims to come forth in Dan’s legal future.

Reviewing the Investigation

Matt Murphy led this new jury through the beginning of the investigation step by step:

  • Steve Herr, father of Sam, is concerned that he can’t reach his son.
  • Steve drives to Sam’s Costa Mesa apartment to check on his son, who had been known to suffer PTSD from his combat time in Afghanistan.
  • When Steve arrives at his son’s apartment, he makes a devastating discovery: the body of a young woman lying on his son’s bed. The woman looks as though she has been sexually assaulted. Steve immediately calls 911.
  • Soon after, the Costa Mesa Police arrive, and the young woman is identified as Sam’s friend Julie Kibuishi.
  • Sam Herr becomes the prime suspect in the murder and possible rape of Julie Kibuishi.
  • Sam Herr’s ATM card is used in the city of Long Beach, and stakeouts are set up in hopes of finding Sam. This leads the police to teenager Wesley Freilich, who is using Sam’s card to order pizza.
  • Wesley tells the police it was Dan Wozniak who gave him the card.
  • Dan Wozniak is followed, questioned, and eventually arrested during his own bachelor party.
  • After giving the police numerous false statements, Dan Wozniak finally confesses that he murdered both Sam and Julie in order to steal Sam’s money and frame Sam for Julie’s murder.

The Evidence Against Rachel

Matt Murphy then started to dig into the charges against Rachel Buffett. One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against Rachel regarded information she told the Costa Mesa PD during early questioning.

In order to throw the police off his track early on, Daniel told the Costa Mesa PD that he last saw Sam Herr on the afternoon of May 21, 2010, driving away with a third man after dropping off Dan at the Camden Apartments.

This was a big ol’ lie, and during Dan’s later interrogation, he admitted there was no third man at all.

The problem for Rachel was that she also claimed to see Sam with this mysterious man in a black baseball cap. Rachel told the Costa Mesa Police that this third man was a friend of Sam’s and she didn’t personally know the guy even though she said the man was in her apartment on the morning Sam “went missing.” At that point, the police already knew the story was a lie. There was no third man.

Oh… No She Didn’t

I’m going to jump ahead for a minute so you don’t get your hopes up for some big bombshell. Rachel Buffett did not testify during her trial. She did not personally give a reason as to why she lied to the police. That was left up to her attorney to explain.

Considering that Rachel Buffett waited years for her day in court, I have to wonder if she now regrets not getting on the stand. A defendant does not have to testify, and the jury isn’t supposed to hold that against her.

But why didn’t Rachel Buffett face Matt Murphy on the stand? Why did she turn down a plea deal to testify against Daniel Wozniak during his trial?

She wanted the world to know she was also one of his victims, but she wasn’t willing to testify to that claim.

Yes, I will explain my theories (based on numerous conversations with Dan) in my book.

Daniel’s Confession

Matt Murphy gave Rachel’s jury (which was predominantly male) the story of Daniel Wozniak’s confession.

  • Sam was murdered for his money. Dan was going to use Wesley to empty out Sam’s account $400 a day. Dan wanted the money to take Rachel on an amazing honeymoon.
  • Dan murdered Sam Herr in the attic of the Liberty Theater, which was located on a military base in Los Alamitos.
  • Dan cut off Sam’s head and hands and disposed of them in a park.
  • Dan then lured Julie Kibuishi to Sam’s apartment using Sam’s cell phone. Julie Kibuishi went to Sam’s apartment thinking she was there to help her friend who supposedly was going through some emotional turmoil.
  • Dan Wozniak met Julie at Sam’s apartment and led her inside.
  • Dan shot Julie twice in the head.
  • Dan set the scene to look as though Sam had murdered and raped Julie Kibuishi and then disappeared.

During Dan Wozniak’s trial, Matt Murphy asked the jury to believe the entirety of Dan’s confession. However, during Rachel Buffett’s trial, Murphy made accusations that in that confession were lies regarding Rachel’s involvement with the murders of Sam and Julie.

During Daniel’s trial, Rachel Buffett was made out to be a hero who helped solve two murders, but it seemed like Murphy’s opinion of Rachel changed a bit when it came time to put her on trial.

Even texts from Sam Herr’s cell phone were analyzed during Murphy’s opening statement. He pointed out that when Dan Wozniak was alone with the phone, the texts to Julie were innocuous. But as soon as Dan was home with Rachel, the “Sam” texts turned into desperate requests for Julie to come over to the Camden Apartments.

Ironically, this exact point was made by Scott Sanders while defending Dan Wozniak.

When it was time for defense attorney, David Medina, to give his opening statement, Matt Murphy introduced Medina as an extremely professional attorney for which Matt has the upmost respect.

Side note – This was one of many not-so-subtle digs at Scott Sanders.

Defense Attorney David Medina’s Opening Statement

David Medina started off telling the jury that Daniel Wozniak is a monster, a psychopath, and a pathological liar. Dan is a loser. Dan is evil. Dan Wozniak couldn’t properly provide for Rachel Buffett, and he knew it. He lied to Rachel about every aspect of their lives together because he didn’t feel worthy of her.

Medina said Rachel knew absolutely nothing about Dan’s involvement with the murders of Sam and Julie before his arrest and confession. That it was Rachel who led the police to a treasure trove of evidence against Dan and “blew the case wide open.” It was Rachel who “got Dan to confess on the phone.” And it was Rachel Buffett who “assisted the police in eventually convicting” Dan Wozniak of two murders (even though she refused to testify against him).

Hmmm – I wonder if that argument sounded familiar to Matt Murphy?

Next Up…

…I will get into the witnesses for the prosecution.

Rachel Buffett: Guilty

Today (September 12, 2018) at approximately 4:30 pm, Rachel Buffett was found guilty of both charges for accessory to murder after the fact.

Rachel was placed in handcuffs and she did not look back at her family before being taken out of the courtroom by an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Rachel will remain in custody until her sentencing, which is scheduled to take place in eight weeks.

Keep your eyes on the blog because I will have complete trial coverage coming soon!

Rachel Buffett’s Trial For Accessory to Murder (After the Fact) Begins

Rachel Buffett’s accessory (after the fact) to murder trial began on Friday, September 5, 2018, and is well underway.

The jury was chosen. District Attorney Matt Murphy made an opening statement. Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, also made an opening statement.

The trial is scheduled to last until next Friday, September 14, 2018.

I have taken copious notes, but Judge Hanson made a statement about the media coverage of this trial on day one, and I took that to mean, “Wait until the trial is over before you tell the world every little detail.” I will honor that request.

I will say this:

  • Matt Murphy likes David Medina a LOT more than he did Scott Sanders. He makes little comments about how “professional” Mr. Medina is in the courtroom, and it’s so obvious that he’s sending out little digs to an absent Scott Sanders that I have to stifle a laugh when it happens. I miss the Scott and Matt courtroom quarrels, but Medina seems like he definitely has his sh*t together.
  • Before the trial started, I couldn’t imagine Rachel Buffett being found not guilty, but now I can. It’s not a pleasant thought.
  • We are not in Mike the Bailiff’s courtroom anymore! I don’t know the name of Judge Hanson’s main bailiff, but in my head I’ve nicknamed him Major Bailiff. If that man hasn’t been in the military I will eat my hat. (What a strange expression, right?) Remember how I told you there was none of that “all rise” formality during Daniel’s trial? Well Major Bailiff makes sure we rise, and turn off our phones, and have drinks with lids, and sit up straight and pay attention, and not wear sunglasses even if they are just sitting on the top of someone’s head. I don’t dislike Major Bailiff. He’s just a guy who takes his job very seriously. You have to respect that. And Mike the Bailiff, if you’re reading this, please don’t be offended — I enjoy the ritual of standing up before the judge enters. I’m used to seeing that on TV.  But Mike was a lot a friendlier.
  • We’ve seen some familiar witnesses. We’ve heard some familiar questioning and some unfamiliar questioning.
  • We’ve watched interrogation footage of Rachel being interviewed by the Costa Mesa Police. I’ve seen some short clips of her interview, but this was a lot more footage and it was eye opening. (Truth be told, my eyes were already opened, but Rachel made quite a few statements giving me confirmation of stories Daniel Wozniak has often shared with me.)
  • We are in a smaller courtroom and it’s a lot easier to hear Matt Murphy in this space. But some of the video footage is virtually impossible to make out. The jury gets a written transcript, so it doesn’t matter if Rachel and Daniel are mumbling like crazy, but I’d really appreciate some subtitles for those of us in the cheaper seats. (For a couple of actors, they certainly didn’t know how to enunciate or project.)
  • One constant from both Daniel’s and Rachel’s trials has been Sam Herr’s and Julie Kibuishi’s loved ones, ever-present. Their heartbreak is palpable.

That’s about all I’ll go into right now. I promise to give you the complete story when the trial finishes, and until then, I’ll get updates out as much as possible.

Thanks for reading the blog.

Rachel Buffett’s August 29, 2018 Court Appearance

First, I’m going to admit I was wrong when I suggested in my last post that Rachel Buffett might be choosing to have a bench trial instead of a jury trial. I only wondered about this when I noticed there had been no mention of a jury in Rachel’s previous two hearings.  Maybe I watch too much TV, but it would be an interesting defense strategy to leave Rachel Buffett’s fate entirely in the hands of Judge Sheila Hanson.

That is not the case. The jury selection process for Rachel’s trial will begin on Tuesday, September fourth, at nine am.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’ve probably gotten your hopes up in the past, but folks, I really think this time it’s going to happen. After eight years, Rachel Buffett will finally have her day in court. This will be her chance to clear her name and prove she was not an accessory (after the fact) to the murders of Sam Herr or Julie Kibuishi.

It’s important to point out that Rachel is not being charged for the actual murders of Sam or Julie. A thorough and arduous investigation by the Costa Mesa Police hasn’t turned up enough evidence to prove Rachel’s involvement was equal to Daniel Wozniak’s.

However, even during Wozniak’s trial, lead investigator Lt. Ed Everett admitted on the stand that he believed Rachel Buffett should be facing the same capital murder charges as her ex-fiancée.

Admittedly, I’m more curious to hear about the investigation into Rachel’s case than I was about Daniel’s.

I had a lot more information about Daniel and his murder investigation. I also knew Daniel Wozniak was not going to take the stand, and that meant his own confession was going to weigh heavily on the jury’s decision.  I was sure Daniel would be found guilty and that he’d likely get the death penalty.  Daniel Wozniak’s trial held very few surprises for me.

Rachel’s Buffett’s trial is a complete unknown.

During the August 29th hearing, it was established that her trial is expected to take ten days. The amount of time surprised me, considering her charges aren’t that complicated.

The police say she lied to them during their investigation into Sam’s and Julie’s murders. Rachel has claimed this was all a misunderstanding. She had no knowledge and gave no intentional assistance to Daniel Wozniak regarding either of the murders.  Rachel Buffett didn’t confess to anything. Daniel Wozniak confessed to everything.

I have no doubt that Rachel and her defense team will strongly fight any charges against her.

If Rachel or any of her supporters (whom I’ve nicknamed “The Blonde Coalition”) are worried about Rachel’s fate, they certainly aren’t showing any signs of concern while in the courtroom.  I believe both her parents and all three of her siblings were in court on Wednesday showing united support from behind Rachel, who was now officially sitting at the defendants’ table (I believe she stood at a podium previously, but I haven’t been to every one of Rachel’s court appearances).

Steve and Raquel Herr, the parents of murder victim Sam Herr, would be the ones to ask. They have been to every court appearance.  Steve was recently quoted in The LA Times, saying, “We’re ready for another jury trial.”

I don’t doubt that for one minute.

Despite of my friendship with the man who murdered their only son, they’ve shown me nothing but politeness and consideration. Sitting outside of Courtroom 41 last Wednesday morning, I wished Raquel Herr “good luck,” regarding the upcoming hearing. It was the best I could think of at the time.

She smiled at me and thanked me. She also said something I couldn’t quite make out because of her Spanish accent… but I understood the gist of it.

She appreciated my sentiment, but luck wouldn’t be necessary.  Jesus has got this.

I don’t doubt that either.

More updates to come as the trial progresses.

Rachel Buffett’s August 23, 2018 Court Appearance

On Thursday, August 23, 2018, there was yet another court appearance for Rachel Buffett.

There was another trial taking place in courtroom C41 when I arrived. This was a pretty good sign that Rachel’s trial would not begin that morning.

Steve and Raquel Herr sat on a bench across from the courtroom door. I’d be concerned if I didn’t see them there. They’re always there. Seeking justice. It can’t be how they imagined spending their retirement years.

I said “good morning,” and sat on a different bench around a hallway corner.  I never want to encroach upon their personal space.

The courtroom door opened and those involved in the other trial filed out into the hallway for a morning break.  Steve, Raquel, and a few others made there way into the courtroom. I followed a moment later and sat in the back corner of the spectator seats. Pretty much all the same people were in attendance. Masa Kibuishi arrived a few minutes later.

Always there. Seeking justice.

The “blond coalition” (Rachel Buffett and her family and friends) always enter as a group just before the proceedings are set to begin.

District Attorney Matt Murphy was the only expected face missing, but he was able to make a dramatic last minute entrance, explaining he’d been delayed by a freeway closure on the I-5.

When court was called to order, Judge Hanson said her current trial would be finished that afternoon and the Buffett trial would commence on Wednesday, August 29th at 9 am, and she would be ready to “hear arguments” from the attorneys at that time.

There was no mention at all about a jury.

All you True Crime fans know that a defendant has the right to choose a bench trial instead of a jury trial. This means the decision of guilt or innocence is entirely left up to the judge.

It would be an interesting strategy on the part of Rachel’s defense attorney. A bench trial is a way to make sure emotions don’t influence the results. I had to wonder if that’s why there was no talk of seating a jury on Wednesday morning.

I’ll keep you all updated as soon as I know something.