Daniel Wozniak’s Open Letter to Readers

(Editor’s note: What follows is a transcription, accompanied by images of the original typed letter from Daniel Wozniak. Typos, grammatical errors, and misspellings found in the original are reproduced in the transcription.)

BEFORE EVERYONE GETS MAD…LET’S FACT CHECK A COUPLE THINGS
WHY AM I NOW HERE AT SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON?

Daniel Wozniak’s letter to blog readers, page one of two. Click to open a larger version.

To understand what’s happening a lesson in history is warranted. First when California VOTED to bring back the Death Penalty as a punishment it was done so by means of a Proposition [commonly known as the Briggs Initiative]; which was co-authored by a judge in Orange County! Poorly written…which essentially granted years of legal appeals for all the criminals sentenced to Death. The result of which has entirely clogged the judicial process; robbing the victims of THEIR due process, while you (the taxpayers) have now spent more than $4.5 BILLION DOLLARS ever since its implementation [with just 13 executions to show for!]

Skip ahead to 2016 where a measure which would essential try to ‘fix’ this Death Penalty Problem went on the ballot [PROP 62]. However, this failed to pass due to there being yet ANOTHER poorly written measure [PROP 66]: A bait-and-switch smoke screen giving the illusion of them speeding up the Death Penalty, but without so much as offing how they planned on solving the appellate ‘clog’; which meant the Courts simply shot it down. However, there were three other things that PROP 66 did:

(1) It lowered the cost for the taxpayers by not REQUIRING inmates to be HOUSED in the high-cost setting of San Quentin (Even though we all still have the same Death sentence). (2) It raised our restitution to 77% (from 55%) to pay off Victims Restitution Orders [Which mine is well over $65,000; ordered for ME to pay by no other than the FORMER Orange County District Attorney, Mr. Matt Murphy, himself!]. And (3) Since there was no way for inmates to pay this off, those who wanted to could volunteer to work in/at another prison (if they had no write ups in 5+ years) to pay off the OCDA & OC Court ordered restitution so the burden wouldn’t have to fall to our families and loved ones (who SHOULDN’T be left held responsible for our actions!)

So what am I now doing in Salinas Valley? Well, I’m doing exactly what California VOTED for me to do. So I feel it’s important to put ALL of this into context before everyone starts getting mad. Another thing to ask yourself is who sat on the planning commission making the decision and recommendations for how the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Prog. [CTTPP] was to be implemented? Well, look no further than another fine wonderful person in Orange County – The Honorable Judge Prickett!

Now…I can see and understand why family members are angry (which I’m all but certain is VERY upsetting) but ever since I began this entire process I have continually asked what others would do if they found themselves in my position…and still to this day have not found one person who has been able to offer an answer that differs from the choices I continue to make on a daily basis. I have had and continue to welcome visits from my victims families anytime they wish to see me [I’m more than willing to sit down and allow them to vent ALL their anger, frustration and grief onto me. They more than deserve that right to do so]. I have accepted full responsibility for crimes which I can’t fathom ever being forgiven for! But don’t think for one minute that a day goes by that I don’t suffer living in a perpetual prolonged daily existence with the constant reminder that there’s absolutely NOTHING I can do to repair the damage my actions caused. I can only do the things which I fell CAN make some form of a meaningful difference.

Daniel Wozniak’s letter to blog readers, page two of two. Click to open a larger version.

Understand that nothing has REALLY changed. I’m still in-prison, I’m never leaving prison and…I will eventually face what I was, in fact, sentenced to and die within prison’s walls. This journey I have now found myself on really no longer has anything to do with me. My mind wrote myself off years ago. Living in prison and on Death Row for more than a decade leaves you faced with a daily paradox each and every morning: “If I’m already dead, why do I continue to wake up each day?”

Something you first need to forget about are those ridiculous notions that prison is filled with all these evil, hate-filled, dangerous and violent predators. (I blame Hollywood and those shock-factor (UN)True Crime TV Shows – which are comical in the way they stage and film all these embellished stereotypes). In REALITY…the prison population is just a bunch of guys who the world has abandoned; lost souls who have given up since they no longer believe they have any semblance of value whatsoever. They lack direction, think they have no purpose and think themselves to be all alone in this world. [Why wouldn’t they? Nobody truly cares whether they live or die!] Society no longer wants to deal with them so it’s simply easier and convenient for them to cast labels on them: “Scary, Dangerous, Evil, Monsters, etc.) Again, in REALITY.. being treated like that for so long takes most (if not ALL) fight out of them and leaves the majority in severe states of chronic depression

[You want a real “visual”?]: Tune in to any anti-depressant medication commercial. Do you ever see the sad guy in the bit all violent, angry and beating up everyone around him? NO! Most of the time you’ll be lucky if the dude has a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In all my time I’ve known just a couple of fatal attacks in prison; all of which were active gang members handling a ‘snitch’. Yet I’ve known (personally) AT LEAST 50 who have died either by suicide, overdose or medical issues. THIS the sad reality that prison truly is…THIS is the Real Problem that nobody is doing nearly enough about!

I hope you don’t think me to be insensitive to what people “out there” think of me. I’m sorry they feel that way and would gladly take on their burden if there were such a way to do so. Nobody’s quite figured out how to accomplish that yet (but please let me know if you do). At this point I don’t know how to change their warranted feeling for me. But for now I do find myself in a position of doing something unprecedented that’s never been done before. This PROP 66 action CITPP is complete uncharted territory (for everybody). It’s still prison!

I can only continue doing what I feel is the right thing to do at this point. The one thing that prison lacks is HOPE; especially for those who don’t truly deserve to even be here [NOT ME!]. To create it sometimes you have to be the change you want to see. It’s now become both the reason & answer to my daily paradox: To bring light where you only seem to find forgotten darkness. If it’s changing and making a difference in the lives of many others in here, whom the world has forgotten and wants nothing more to do with – I’M SORRY! But I do not see the value in ceasing what I’ve been doing for years now, if it now seems to upset some people who are ALWAYS going to hate me NO MATTER WHAT! People in here need to know that they should continue to have something to hope for and the more who know this fact, the better off this whole thing will be for everyone. I’m only one man and don’t presume to think I can fix this…but it continues to be a problem that exists and I’m in a position to actually do something about it! Making a difference is one of the few living amends I can offer for the damage I’ve caused.

(Editor’s note: End of transcription.)

I hope readers found this interesting. I promise to pass your substantive comments on to Daniel… as long as they are not just hopes for Daniel’s death and the like.

Addendum, September 14, 2021

I recently had direct contact with a reader who would like to remain anonymous but had some interesting and informative questions and comments about Daniel Wozniak’s letter to readers. This reader does have a strong personal connection to this case.

This person pointed out that Daniel used the word “fix” when discussing California’s Proposition 62, but the removal of the death penalty in California would not be a fix for the many people who support keeping the death penalty.

The anonymous commenter also wanted to make sure people understand that Proposition 66 was, overall, meant to speed up the legal process so death row inmates wouldn’t have years and years of appeals. Allowing DR inmates to transfer to other prisons so they could have jobs is actually just “cherry picking” from the less important point of the proposition.

The reader also wondered why death row inmates were moved from San Quentin to be able to work, but didn’t already have jobs set up before even leaving DR? They asked, “It is true that Daniel still has not been assigned a job at Salinas Valley State Prison, but he is enjoying the benefits of not sitting on death row?”

What irked the anonymous reader the most was Daniel’s comment that he has “accepted full responsibility” for his crimes.  According to the reader, “It’s obvious that Daniel has not been honest with the police about the involvement of other people in the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. And until Daniel comes completely clean about all the details of the killings and who was involved – he has no right to claim he’s accepted full responsibility.”

Daniel Has Left San Quentin – Part Two

Daniel Wozniak has been sending me detailed letters about the move from San Quentin since he arrived at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP). I’m probably not the only one interested in a first person look into this strange world, so here you go:

MON 07/12
Right on cue I woke up a little after 1AM. I made myself a strong cup of coffee and got myself ready before packing my remaining items up that had not been TRANS-PACKED [Fan, TV, Cables, Folders, Books, etc. All the miscellaneous hygiene and extras I was not going to be taking with me I set aside in a separate bag (to be dropped off at one of my neighbors upon leaving.

At 4:30AM, I began hearing CO’s rolling property carts on the tier’s above me – collecting everything from the other 19 guys who were also transferring out with me. They finally came to my door around 4:45 AM and told me to leave my property on my bed. He cuffed me up & walked down to one of the holding cells downstairs. All my neighbor’s were up (surprisingly) and all of them bid me a pleasant farewell. WOW!

They had taken the first group of guys over to R+R and the rest of us would be brought over when the next watch came on (5:30-6:00). While in the hold cells I talked to a few of the guys I knew & asked if they were told where they were going. Like me, to one had been told. At 6:00, they finally came and escorted us over. I remember thinking that this was the last time I would be walking this path I normally made going to group(s) each week. Then we passed the building & kept on walking. I hadn’t been on this new path for nearly 5 years. I was oing back out the same way I first came in. Along the way I finally got to see and have a deeper appreciation for the “Dungeon” (the very first building constructed at San Quentin). We kept walking and made it all the way down to the R+R Building.

MON 07/12 cont.

They finally opened all our doors and we were escorted out single file and brought out to the bus. Before boarding they asked up to convirm our CDCR# and then placed us in these ‘specialized’ cuffs with hinges in lieu of chains. The bus was divided into 3 different sections and 4 ‘TOTAL SEP’ caged seates (for ‘ACTIVES’). The 1st area consisted of a bench on the left (which sat 3). The 2nd section was on the right & had 3 rows of 2 individual seats (side-by-side). Then the 3rd zone in the very back of the bus contained 8 double person seats (4 on each side) This is where I sat and since there were only 7 of us left each of us goat an entire bench to ourselves. Hence, it was a very comfortable ride the entire way (to our still unknown destination).

Day to Day Life at Salinas Valley State Prison

I’ve gotten eight fat letters from Daniel, and we’ve been talking regularly on the telephone. It definitely seems like day-to-day life for the inmates at SVSP (at least in his unit) is a big step up for the nineteen men who transferred from San Quentin and death row.

His telephone usage has become a bit more of a free-for all. At San Quentin, Daniel would sign up for a specific time period and a guard would bring a telephone to his cell. He would call me and call his mom. The calls were fifteen minutes each, and he could call two times.

At SVSP, telephone time looks like it does on TV and in the movies. There are two telephones in the unit’s day room. Daniel has to wait in line and return to the back of the line after each call.

The Day Room

A Salinas Valley State Prison Day Room (sketch by Daniel Wozniak) – Click or tap to make bigger

He’s on a tier with about fifty other inmates. They all have access to the day room at some point every day.

The day room isn’t just for phone calls. It also has six single-man shower units, two televisions, and there are tables where inmates visit and play cards, eat, and whatnot.

Daniel is currently living alone in a two-person cell because the prison is still operating under some COVID-19 restrictions and there is currently no need to double up.

Inmates can actually be out of their cells from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm on weekdays. In order to leave their cell, an inmate flicks their light switch, a signal to the guard to press a button that opens the cell door.

Chow

As far as food is concerned, the inmates at SVSP get hot and, according to Daniel, pretty delicious food which is either served in a cafeteria setting. Alternately, hot food is brought to the cells.

At about 6:30 I looked out to see a work crew assemble a little min-serving station table and began to distribute the hot portions into these solid trays in assembly line unison. When the trays reached the end workers/runners began bringing each tray to every cell one by one until everyone was fed. It’s been awhile since having a hot breakfast

  • Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns, Cinnamon Oatmeal, 2 bananas & milk.

Like the night before, when finished they came back around to collect the trays & trash from everyone. The worker who collected mine paused

The Yard

The Salinas Valley State Prison Yard (sketch by Daniel Wozniak) – Click or tap to make bigger

There are many activities available on the large and well-stocked yard. There’s a basketball court, and a soccer field. They have weights available to them in the prison gym.

However, I personally think there would be only four reasons to spend time on the yard: Their names are Kevin (a mocha-colored lab mix), Paloma (who Daniel describes as a “terrieresque furball,”) an aptly-named black lab, Chocolate, and Trixie, the tiny yet terrifying chihuahua. They all have training time out in the yard. Some of the dogs who go through the program are there to learn how to be ESAs (emotional support animals) and others are there to help make them more adoptable.

And since I wrote this – I’m happy to report that Trixie has graduated from the program and has probably gone on to be someone’s emotional support animal.

Groups

Seven days a week, inmates have a wide variety of support groups and informative classes they can attend. The list Daniel sent me included drumming, mariachi, meditation and an improv class. There were also AA and NA groups conducted in English and Spanish, and a group that works to help inmates understand the grief their victims have suffered because of their actions. The prison also offers various vocational training courses since many of these inmates are not serving life sentences and hope to find “honest” work when they are released.

There is no doubt that Daniel is more comfortable and has more freedom now. It’s a big improvement from San Quentin. No one can deny that.

It’s still a prison, though. When an alarm sounds (which happens a couple times every day) he’d better sit down immediately and not move until he’s instructed. Daniel still has no real control over his present life, and he doesn’t have much control over his future. I don’t envy his life, but at least he’s living in a place that is somewhat less terrible. I am personally happy that he’s “being treated humanely,” to quote one of my close friends.

Reactions to the Move

When I learned Daniel had been moved out of San Quentin and wrote the previous blog post, I contacted Steve Herr, Sam Herr’s father, before I posted it. I have great respect for Steve and Raquel Herr, and I try my best to be conscious of their feelings regarding my blog, my yet-to-be-published book, and my friendship with Daniel.

Steve returned the favor by letting me know about an Orange County Register story about Daniel’s move a day before it had been published. Steve was quoted in the article, which you can read here.

Daniel learned about the article from his family, who learned about it from his attorney. As Daniel told it, no one thought it was a particularly good idea to make his change of location public. He asked me to send him a copy of the story, and I did.

Coming Soon: Direct Word from Daniel Wozniak

After reading it, he decided he wanted to clearly explain to my readers why he was moved to another prison. He asked if I’d be willing to post something from him directly without editing it. I agreed, sight unseen. I’m writing a blog and a book about this person, so, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’ll post Daniel’s letter once it arrives, and I’m sure he’ll get some reply comments.

Oh and Hey Also the Book…

I had a commenter recently ask me about my book because I didn’t mention it in the last post. I just figured you were all probably getting tired of hearing me say things like “I had no idea this book would take so long to write” or “I could write a book about what’s it has been like to write this book.”

But don’t worry everyone, I’m plugging away. Thank you for reading the blog

Daniel Wozniak Has Left San Quentin

Daniel Wozniak has left San Quentin. He is no longer housed in California’s only death row prison.

You probably already figured out that Daniel did not “leave” in the same way a Texas death row inmate might leave.

The Pilot Program

Almost a year ago, Daniel signed up for a pilot transfer program to move death row inmates to prisons where they can get prison jobs. He was quickly approved.

This does not change his status as a condemned prisoner. It also doesn’t change the fact that he gets an appeal lawyer / process paid for by the taxpayers.

Death row inmates are being moved to make space for new condemned prisoners. Even though there is a moratorium against executions in California, prosecutors are still pursuing the death penalty and juries continue to choose the ultimate punishment.

Immediately after being accepted to the pilot program, Daniel spent a week going through the majority of his property so he could organize and pack it for easy transfer. For months, he and I were both ready for him to be shipped out any day. If he missed a scheduled phone call or was even an hour late, I was sure he was on that bus, and I was happy for him.

After many months of that… I basically forgot about the whole thing.

Moving Day

But last week, Daniel got the official go-ahead to prepare to leave San Quentin. He was told to pack up his property (it still was) and prepare to turn it over so it could be taken away for inspection.

Daniel was only one of about fifteen other DR inmates being prepared for transfer. None of the prisoners were told their destination, and would not find out where they were going until they were on the bus (a logical safety protocol, because there is always the chance somebody might plan an ambush of the bus in an attempt to escape).

Still, there was a consensus among the prisoners that Monday, July 12th, 2021 would be moving day because it would take a couple of days for all their property to be inspected, and transfers rarely happen on the weekends. Another big clue was that those prisoners were all given COVID-19 tests on Sunday morning.

By the time our scheduled Tuesday phone call came and went without hearing from Daniel, I knew he was on his way someplace.

Daniel Wozniak’s New Location

Three days later, I got my first letter from Daniel in his new “home.” It was a short letter to let me know where he ended up: Salinas Valley State Prison in northern California. This is still a six-hour drive for me, and no longer very close to my friends in San Francisco, but I will visit him there when all the pandemic protocols allow it.

They had indeed traveled on Monday the 12th, and weren’t told they were going to Salinas until the bus started to move. Daniel was glad the trip was only three hours instead of the ten to get to Donovan. He did, however, really enjoy looking out the window during the drive. He hasn’t seen the real world in five years. He told me it was an even more important experience for his buddy “Scooter,” who has been on death row for the past thirty years.

Daniel ended the letter saying he’ll call me (after he calls him mom) as soon as he is processed. He also promised that he’s been taking copious notes and will write and tell me all about his new life ASAP.

He ended with “You’re not going to believe this place!”

I took this to mean Salinas is an improvement to being on death row in San Quentin. He had already expected that because he had been doing research on it and on Donovan for a while. When I know more information, I will give you readers the 411 on Daniel’s new digs.

No Housewarmings

I hope my friend will be happy in his new home.

Still, it’s no condo, and I won’t be bringing a houseplant to his housewarming.

Because… Daniel Wozniak is a murderer.

Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi are dead because of Daniel. Neither of these young people will ever move into a new home, or get to come home at all. There won’t be any housewarmings.

That’s a reality that must be unbearable for all the people who loved Sam and Julie, and I’m pretty sure it will be made worse when they learn this killer won’t even be suffering the punishment of living in a tiny cold cell on death row.

~ To be continued ~

Rhyme or the Crime

The holidays are over and I’m back to work on my upcoming book on Daniel Wozniak and the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. I don’t release blog posts often these days, but when something particularly interesting happens in Daniel’s life, I feel the need to post.

Something Particularly Interesting Happened

I talk to Daniel on the telephone at least four or five times a week. I haven’t been able to see him since the pandemic caused San Quentin to cancel all in-person visits. However, the prison recently started video visits with the inmates. I was scheduled twice, but there were technical issues both times.

While I had Daniel on the phone one day in December, I decided to check my email and see if there was any information about scheduling.

Instead, I noticed a Google Alert letting me know Daniel Wozniak’s name had popped up online again.

During Daniel’s trial, his name appeared regularly, but since then, I’ve learned he isn’t the only person on the internet with the name Daniel Wozniak.

This time, though, when I clicked on the email, there was another name alongside Daniel’s that caught my attention. Google had found the name Daniel Wozniak in the lyrics of a new song from rapper Eminem!

I clicked on the link and skimmed through the lyrics while Daniel was talking about having a good supply of peanut butter.

“Oh my!” I must have sounded like I’d just heard some pretty startling news.

He tentatively asked, “What’s up?”

“I just checked my email, and you know how I get those Google alerts for your name on the net?”

“Yup. Oh, goody. What’s being said about me now?”

“Eminem just released a new album.”

Daniel is used to me jumping from topic to topic during our conversations.

“OK. Is it good? My buddy Rajah is a big fan…”

“It’s called Music to be Murdered By, Side B,” I interrupted, “And there is this song on it called ‘Killer,’ and your name is in that song.”

“Sorry, what? That’s a joke?”

“Nope. I’m pretty damn sure Eminem is talking about you.” I started reading to him.

But for all you know I probably act like I’m Daniel Wozniak

I’m a psycho-chopathic killer

“It sure sounds like he’s referring to you, the Daniel Wozniak who’s a former community theatre actor and on death row for double murder.”

(pause)

“Are you positive?”

I continued reading the lyrics to him, and eventually he accepted this reality.

I pointed out that his name is used in a really entertaining rhyme sequence:

You almost had a heart attack when you met Cardiac

You ran inside, told your boyfriend like, “I’ll be back”

But for all you know I probably act like I’m Daniel Wozniak

“Do you think Eminem found your name by searching for killers whose names rhyme with cardiac and heart attack?”

“No idea.”

“I guess he could be a Dateline fan. I’m trying to picture Eminem watching the ID network. Maybe he scanned the names of all the death row inmates around the country and there you were. Rhyming gold.”

Then Daniel mumbled, “I always wanted a theme song when I was a kid, bud-ump-bump.”

When I asked him if this was something he’d “brag about on the yard,” he said he wouldn’t. He’d tell Rajah, but other than that, he felt no need to draw attention to himself with the rest of the row. He went back to talking about peanut butter.

I told a number of my friends and family members about the Eminem song, and each person asked me if Daniel liked this extra bout with notoriety. I said he seemed rather indifferent about it. It’s another bizarre twist in the never boring life of Daniel Wozniak.

I won’t deny I found the entire situation oddly amusing. I’m writing a book about my friend and his name just showed up in an Eminem song!

Fifteenth of a Second of Fame

Then, as always happens, I’m hit with thoughts of Sam Herr’s and Julie Kibuishi’s loved ones. If they don’t already have their own Google alerts about Daniel, they might be learning about this song through my blog. I can at least say this is not a song about Daniel Wozniak. It’s definitely not his theme song. He’s a throw-away mention. At most.

Hello to New Readers!

If you’re new to my blog, hello! After you finish with this post, please go to the beginning so you can understand how I ended up writing about Daniel in the first place.

More importantly, you can learn about Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi and how Daniel Wozniak is responsible for the tragic murders of these two innocent college students.

New readers often come up with some really useful comments and questions that I plan to answer in the book I’m writing about Daniel as well.

My blog readers are smart, and I do appreciate your “armchair quarterbacking” blog comments. You guys ask the exact same questions I have.

Admittedly, even though my book partially tells Daniel’s version of what “really happened” when Sam and Julie were killed, there are parts of his story that really don’t make a lot of sense to me. There are claims he’s made that have been disputed by trustworthy sources, but when the book is finally finished, you can all decide for yourselves how a middle-class kid from Long Beach can end up a murderer whose name is in an Eminem song.

Answers To Your Comments

Hello readers!

I’ve been getting some really insightful questions from commenters who listened to the Sword and Scale podcast. Margie W and Liz G brought up some interesting points, and each asked great questions that often overlapped.

I’m going to answer some of the questions now… but some will have to wait for the book.

Q: Did Noah and Nate (Rachel’s older brothers) know Dan had borrowed tools from their apartment?

At the time of Sam Herr’s and Julie Kibuishi’s murders, there were five Buffett family members living in that converted office space. It’s likely someone saw Dan borrowing the saw and ax, especially since he didn’t try to hide the fact. Dan has said Noah was present when the tools were returned, and Noah learned at some point how the tools had been used.

Q: The day Sam Herr was murdered, Dan Wozniak firmly believed Sam and Rachel had an affair. He learned this information from Rachel one week earlier. Was jealousy a contributing factor to both Sam’s and Julie’s murders?

YES!

Q: Was there jealousy toward Julie Kibuishi from Rachel Buffett?

YES!

I’m going to quote reader Liz G:

“Dan’s downfall was very likely the fact that Julie got murdered.”

In other words, he may never have been caught if Sam had been the only victim.

I have my own opinions on that:

I think she felt she had to wait out a couple of months just to make sure Dan wasn’t going to tell the police anything about her own involvement in the murders. It looked to me like she jumped ship when she felt secure in Dan’s decision to continue to protect her. However, Dan has his own opinion, and it’s more entertaining. He suggested Rachel may have found a sex tape that Dan made with his ex-girlfriend while engaged to Rachel.

Side Note For Rachel Buffett…

Happy belated birthday! I’m guessing it was much more enjoyable than the one you spent behind bars. I apologize for being one month off when I sent you the birthday card at the OC Jail.

Rachel, if you are at all interested in giving me your side of the story, and you believe Dan is being untruthful, please allow me to interview you.

Q: Why did you make the title of the blog a question?

I added the “?” on the title because a close friend kept begging me to change the name. She was worried about some of the meaner comments I’ve received over the years.

I am aware that calling Daniel Wozniak my friend has caused a lot of anger.

I did not expect people to wish for my death.

Still, I originally chose the title because I knew it would grab people’s attention when they searched the case of Sam’s and Julie’s murders. It has.

But after thinking it over, I realized my friend was right about the blog’s title possibly upsetting people so much they don’t actually read the blog. I’m hopeful the “?” shows that I am asking important questions.

I’ve debated with myself on the title of the book. Same as the blog’s name? With or without a “?”

Q: When will the book be released?

I’m just not sure. I work on the book like it’s a full-time job, but a lot depends on my next panic attack (regarding my own anxiety about putting out the best book possible). Also, my kids are home all the time because of the pandemic, so my writing does get interrupted often.

No worries though; I am motivated! I am lucky that, unlike so many people during this pandemic, I’m not having any financial issue to keep me from writing.

It means a lot to me when readers tell me they are excited about reading my book. I also really appreciate compliments about my writing (more than you know.)

I’m so glad I started with the blog first. It has taken some time, and numerous experiments, to figure out just how to tell you all Daniel’s version of the events leading to the murders, but still show that I’m questioning and analyzing his words like we True Crime lovers do.

You readers and I are going to delve into his story together. I honestly find a lot of credibility in what he’s told me. But it’s all very complicated.

A good example is what Dan has told me about Chris Williams.

If you recall, Chris was an extremely important witness in both Dan’s and Rachel’s trials. He was Rachel’s alibi for Sam Herr’s murder.

According to Daniel, the money borrowed from Chris Williams was for the purpose of buying ecstasy and Oxicontin, and Chris was waiting around all afternoon because he wanted to pick up a purchase. That’s how Daniel tells it.

Daniel also claims Rachel didn’t tell the Costa Mesa Police about her own alibi because she didn’t want to admit to a drug deal. This is just one extra branch on the tree of Daniel’s story that wasn’t brought up in trial at all.

So… how much of the story Daniel has told me will you guys choose to believe once you’ve heard everything?

Side note for Chris Williams…

It would be amazing if you’d let me interview you. Don’t worry, you don’t come off as a bad guy in Dan’s story at all, but he does have you included in drug using and purchasing.

Q: Is the blog and the book you’re working on a collaboration with Daniel Wozniak?

The book is in no way a collaboration with Daniel. I don’t share my work in progress with him at all.

There are places in the book when I’m recreating conversations Daniel told me he had with Rachel, Julie, and Sam. I have occasionally sent him early drafts of those pieces to confirm that I’d grasped the gist of what happened.

However, we both agreed early on that he would answer my questions, but have no involvement in what I write. He has absolutely no editorial or “veto” power.

There are numerous quotes included. I believe readers will appreciate the opportunity to hear some of this story in his own words.

I do actually feel like Daniel is a real friend to me. Even a good friend. I also believe this person isn’t the same man he was in 2010.

I’m not saying, “Oh he’s changed. He deserves to be free.” That wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be justice. I’m sure some of you will doubt my sanity, but without Rachel Buffett in Dan’s life, I don’t believe he is dangerous in any way.

I don’t feel like I can say the same about Rachel Buffett. She could probably find any man to help her be dangerous.

Q: Why did Rachel ask, “Did you kill them?”

Yes, Rachel Buffett did ask Dan Wozniak if he killed “them” when she spoke to him on a recorded telephone conversation from the Orange County Jail. This was before Dan confessed, and before he dropped the bombshell that Sam Herr had also been murdered. Rachel found out about Sam’s killing as soon as Dan arrived back at their apartment, and Chris Williams had left.

Finally…

There has been a surprising amount of interest in my hair color change. I actually find it kind of funny for a number of reasons.

  1. I’m a natural blonde. My real hair color is slightly redder than the current color, but when my roots show, it’s difficult to see much of a difference.
  2. I lived as a blonde for many years before Rachel Buffett was even born.
  3. My hairstylist is my really close friend. Going back to blonde was completely her idea. I took some convincing actually. I was worried that I’d look like a member of the Malfoy family. She now thinks it’s hilarious that my hair color has sparked such interest.
  4. My husband and my kids really like the blonde.

I really haven’t taken this “criticism” with much offense, but it’s nice that some readers were worried about my feelings.

Here is a groovy picture of me and my older brother that was obviously taken before Rachel Buffett was born in 1987.

Hopefully, that will put an end to all the silly rumors.

 

A Recommendation

Have any of you watched the HBO docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, about Michelle McNamara’s book on the Golden State Killer?

McNamara’s book is so beautifully written, but she didn’t live to see it published.

I find this story so heartbreaking, especially for her young daughter and her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. The whole situation resonates with me in a way. She was writing a book about terrible crimes, but in the telling, she was also part of the story.

The HBO series focuses a fair amount on Michelle’s anxiety and stress about her writing the best book she could write. I feel rather connected to her overall story. I actually got to meet Patton Oswalt before his show at the Irvine Improv, because he likes my husband’s art. He was extremely friendly and welcoming. He also blew my mind when he did a bit onstage about his True Crime-obsessed wife. I remember feeling very simpatico with their lives.

Murderer Musings on the Sword and Scale Podcast

The Sword and Scale Podcast recently profiled the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. I was interviewed for the episode (via telephone) in May, and it’s now available here, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

I think the story is covered decently, especially considering all the bizarre twists and turns in the case. They spend the first fifteen minutes or so examining how one of the victims, Sam Herr, was originally considered the prime suspect in the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

The story of Sam’s previous brush with the law has been touched on by the majority of media covering the murders. I wrote about it myself in the early days of this blog.

However, out of respect for Steve and Raquel Herr, Sam Herr’s parents, I wanted to go into a little more detail than provided in the excerpts of my interview used for the podcast. If you’ve come here as a Sword and Scale listener, this might be enlightening and interesting.

More to the Story

Julie Kibuishi’s body was found in Sam’s apartment.   Authorities thought the Army veteran had possibly snapped, murdering his friend.

It was a logical interpretation of a crime scene in which Julie’s clothing was torn and the words “all yours fuck you” were scrawled on the back of her sweater.

In fact, this was Daniel Wozniak’s intention in staging the scene Steve Herr discovered.

Dan had been aware of a dark time in Sam Herr’s life. He knew that when Sam Herr had spent some time in the Los Angeles jail.

When Sam was a teenager, he and a group of other young men had been arrested on a murder charge. So Dan figured the Costa Mesa Police would suspect Sam even more than they already did once they looked into his past.

Sam Herr had been completely acquitted of that original crime. After that, he got away from a bad crowd, joined the Army, and became a highly decorated veteran.

He did everything right. The future stolen from him would likely have been filled with success, family, and happiness.

I hope that extra context adds to your experience of the episode.

Thanks again to The Sword and Scale Podcast for having me on.

‘Rona on the Row – An Update on Daniel Wozniak and COVID-19 at San Quentin Prison

The tests came back, Daniel Wozniak, along with at least 159 other death row inmates, is infected with COVID-19. 

Daniel is, so far, completely asymptomatic. He took the actual test more than five days ago, so it’s unlikely he will end up experiencing any symptoms from the virus. 

Soon after the results came back, a guard with a large roll of red tape walked up and down the tiers, marking the cells of the infected inmates. A friend of Daniel’s who was being walked to the showers commented on seeing that tape on every tier.

Now a nurse comes to his cell twice a day to check his temperature and ask if he’s having any symptoms.

Nurses, guards, and all other non-inmates staff at San Quentin are now dressed in full protective gear at all times.

“They look like Dustin Hoffman in the movie Outbreak,” Daniel remarked.

Daniel hears alarms going off almost hourly. He’s been hearing calls of “man down” from areas throughout the building, but he has no idea if inmates are being removed from their cells. He’s not sure where they would be taken, anyway, since the prison’s hospital is full. 

Daniel did see a stretcher being carried out on a recent Wednesday night. He learned from me that this was probably Richard Eugene Stitely, a 71 year old who had died, but whether or not Stitely was infected is to be determined.

It’s impossible to say how many inmates at San Quentin are actually infected with COVID-19. Daniel Wozniak has no idea of the circumstances on the prison’s mainline. Clearly there are hundreds of positive cases, and overcrowding has to be exacerbating the problem of keeping the healthy separated from the sick. 

Perhaps some readers have trouble sympathizing for men who have been condemned to die, but this prison is filled with so many more people than the 740 or so who are on death row. There are almost 50 sick guards, and the ones that are still healthy are working double and triple shifts to cover for guards who can’t come to work. 

This situation is terrible for everyone in and out of that prison.

Read my previous post on COVID-19 at San Quentin.

COVID-19 In San Quentin

You may have seen some news stories about how many prisons and jails have been dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19 making its way through the inmate population.

In what initially may have seemed like a logical solution, “healthy” inmates have been transferred to prisons with no verified COVID-19 cases. 121 inmates from Chino Prison were taken to San Quentin, and since they were not tested for COVID-19 before arrival… they brought the outbreak with them.

Petri Dish

Within two weeks, San Quentin went from having no cases to — as of this writing — having over four hundred. The number goes up every day.

The question on the mind of Daniel Wozniak and many other prisoners is where, exactly, are the infected prisoners being held? The many guards he’s asked have no answers.

Taking Measures

When it was discovered there were COVID-19 cases in San Quentin, the prison emptied out the Advanced Correction (A.C.) unit in order to safely isolate sick inmates.

The A. C. unit, also known as Solitary, was meant to house those who had broken rules. At San Quentin, that unit only holds a hundred inmates, so that doesn’t even come close to having enough space for all those currently sick, let alone ones who may yet become ill.

Where are the others?

Daniel has noticed that guards now wear clear face plates over their masks, and heavy duty gloves. In fact, while I was talking to him on the telephone yesterday, guards were spraying the air with what looked like a pesticide.

Unlike the San Quentin inmates in general population, Daniel Wozniak gets his own cell. He at least has a semblance of social distancing. Most inmates are stuck sharing cells, which would make it easy for Covid-19 to spread from prisoner to prisoner.

Daniel Wozniak isn’t necessarily concerned about his own health. He doesn’t want to get COVID-19, of course, but he is young and healthy and would likely be just fine. That cannot be said for many of the people around him.

In the Dark

Right around June 19th, 2020, the prison tested every inmate at San Quentin for COVID-19. Even though the number of reported cases continues to rise, as of the 24th, the inmates haven’t been given the results of their own tests.

What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Us?

I have to wonder if there are prisoners who don’t even know they are sick, but are being counted as infected when the numbers are released to the media. I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but having no place to safely house infected inmates could mean the sick are just staying put. If this were the case, would the inmates be kept in the dark for the sake of keeping them calm?

In the 1998 movie Armageddon, an asteroid “the size of Texas” hurtles toward Earth, and when it hits, all life will be obliterated. In the movie, the government chooses to keep this information hidden from the public in order to avoid the complete terror and chaos that would result from people learning of their inevitable destruction. Thankfully, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck lead a misfit team of NASA recruits on a mission to destroy the asteroid and save the world. The people who were in danger never even knew how close they came.

You see where I’m going with this, right? I don’t think it would be that surprising if the warden at San Quentin would attempt to keep the peace for as long as possible.

We’ll see what the future brings. I’ll keep you updated.

And Now, This

On the HBO series Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver did an extensive story on how COVID-19 has been burning through our prisons and jails. He explained how prison outbreaks can be dangerous to so many more people than just the inmates.

I understand if some readers don’t have a great deal of sympathy for the incarcerated, but continued outbreaks of Coronavirus are a threat to everyone.

Here’s the Last Week Tonight segment:

San Quentin Under the Coronavirus Pandemic – An Update

I hope all you readers are all doing well in this new and crazy world of ours.

As of April 22, 2020, it appears that San Quentin State Prison is still keeping COVID-19 from running amok inside its walls. I know there could easily be folks who are asymptomatic or haven’t started to show symptoms yet, but so far, so good. I’m impressed, and I won’t lie, I’m also pleasantly surprised.

Daniel Wozniak has been keeping me updated on how San Quentin has been handling the death row inmates during the pandemic. The prison has some practices in place to keep everyone healthy and safe, but there are still so many ways the virus could quickly spread if it got a foothold.

In the last post, I mentioned a guard who had recently come off a cruise full of passengers who’d tested positive for COVID-19. Rumors had been flying around that he’d been allowed to work, but this was false. He was sent home to quarantine.

Death row inmates are put in handcuffs whenever transferred from one area to another. The likelihood of the cuffs being disinfected between inmates is quite low. On the other hand, since the prison was closed to visitors in March, the inmates only come in contact with guards and other personnel. So, they must be doing a decent job of screening and cleaning overall.

Nothing is perfect.

Click to view larger image.

On March 27th, the inmates received a memorandum from Warden Ron Broomfield that a member of the staff tested positive for COVID-19. Warden Ron Broomfield’s letter to the inmates was informative and reassuring, and the prison has put out other helpful memos to keep the entire population of San Quentin safe and healthy. They’ve been especially aware of the higher risk inmates.

When the memo about the positive staff member circulated, quite a few alarms could be heard going off on different tiers. On Daniel’s tier, one of the older guys was taken away wearing a mask.

Click to view larger image.

Still, San Quentin seems to be holding everything together using some makeshift tactics and seemingly illogical practices.

Click to view larger image.

They check the inmates’ temperatures daily and have provided hand sanitizer for extra caution… but the sanitizer must remain in their cells, even though they most need it when out on the yard with prisoners. A very detailed information leaflet was distributed along with squeeze bottles of sanitizer; starting with how to properly open the bottle and ending with the regulation to keep the bottle in the cell.

I asked Daniel about this, and he said the yards do have one sink available for hand washing, but there could be up to forty inmates who would need to use it. I have to ask him if he’s allowed to take bar soap outside.

Dan told me that every couple of days, a guard goes from cell to cell handing out bars of soap and saying, “I have to give this to you, and I need you to give me an empty cup.” Even though Daniel didn’t specifically say so, I have to assume the inmates don’t have any choice in the matter. The empty receptacle is then filled up from a large bottle of disinfectant.

While Daniel and I were talking on the telephone earlier this week, he noticed a guard coming along the tier and handing out what looked to Dan like a sleeping mask. Dan asked his neighbor about it, and the guy said it was “a mask-mask.”

Unlike the hand sanitizer, the mask came with no instructions, and Dan doesn’t know if the mask is allowed to be taken out of their cells either. If not, he’s going to use it as a sleep mask.

Click to view larger image.

Telephone calls are still available to the inmates, and hopefully this helps alleviate some of the loneliness and stress experienced while being separated from the outside world. GTL, the company that controls California’s incarcerated telephone connections, is now allowing days where all calls are free. This must be a welcome break for the families and friends of inmates, who normally have to pay pretty high rate charges for all the collect calls they receive. Even some free phone calls are helpful in this time when so many people have lost their livelihoods.

I hope you all are taking care of yourselves out there.

Did anyone happen to see Steve Herr on the Dr. Oz show a week or so ago? His heartbreak is evident to anyone who hears him speak about his son Sam.

When I write about Daniel Wozniak’s experiences from behind bars, I never forget how he ended up there. I never forget about Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

When I write of the difficulties of the lives of inmates, I’m looking at the big picture. I’m not just focused of Daniel’s life.

I think we can all agree we want this pandemic over sooner rather than later. Us regular folks will be let out of our version of prison, and the family members and friends of the incarcerated will be allowed back in again.

We’re All on Lockdown Now

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation VPASS system has changed your preferred facility message. Your preferred facility is San Quentin State Prison.

New Message:

As part of CDC’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, normal visiting and family visits will be canceled statewide until further notice. Only legal visits will be held as scheduled. CDCR values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time the Department must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit state prisons. Stay up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 response and prevention recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Thank you,
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation VPASS System

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are all doing your best to stay healthy out there.

A couple friends let me know they could use some interesting reading while they are sheltering in their homes, and asked me for an update on how San Quentin is handling this health crisis.

I’m writing this on March 23rd, 2020, which is Daniel Wozniak’s 36th birthday.

As of right now, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified inside San Quentin.

Along with everyone else in the state of California, San Quentin is on a limited lockdown.

As a resident of California, I’m still allowed to go to the grocery store or take a walk in the park (well, maybe not that last one any more, depending on where you live in California).

Daniel still gets to go out to yard (locked in an outside cage) every other day, and he can still attend group meetings (locked in an inside cage). Unlike a full lockdown, Daniel is still given access to a telephone a couple of days a week.

The tier phone is passed from inmate to inmate along with a rag and a bottle of spray cleaner. However, Daniel sees no point in spraying the phone when everyone has already touched the bottle and the rag. He has always cleaned the telephone with his own supplies, so he’s already in the habit.

Much like the rest of California, the inmates are not allowed any visitors.

But keeping visitors out doesn’t immunize the prison against possible exposure. The prisoners don’t leave the grounds, but that doesn’t keep them from having any contact with the outside world. Guards still come and go.

One guard was recently sent home when it was learned he’d been a passenger on The Grand Princess, a cruise ship which docked in San Francisco carrying passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.

I wonder if it’s actually possible to keep the virus out of the  prison, and if one prisoner contracting COVID-19 will mean the inevitable infection of the majority of other inmates.

Whether you care about the health of prisoners or not, a COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin Prison isn’t good for anyone.

It would be expensive for taxpayers, and dangerous to anyone who enters  the facility, or comes in contact with anyone who leaves.

I suppose the inmates might actually be safer than the rest of us, considering the large number of people who are not following “shelter in place” guidelines in the “free” world.

No matter what, prisoners have definitely had more practice at being kept away from the rest of society.

Many of them might not notice much of a difference.

Then again… some prisoners are accustomed to regular visits from family and friends. They may experience more loneliness and isolation than they’re used to, even on Death Row.

Prisoners like Daniel Wozniak.