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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Vylet: Not at that moment.
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!