Was A Victim Also A Killer?

During one of my earliest visits with Daniel Wozniak, I asked him about something he’d mentioned in a recent letter.

While listing off people who had come to visit him at the Orange County Jail, Daniel had told me that Steve Herr (father of murder victim Samuel Herr) had actually been there more than once.

This surprised the hell out of me.

Why would Steve Herr want to sit across from the man he believes murdered and mutilated his only son?

“He really wants to know the truth,” Daniel told me,  “and I don’t think he trusts the justice system because of what happened in Sam’s own murder case.”

“Sorry… what was that again?” He’d lost me.  I was pretty sure that Daniel was currently in jail for “Sam’s murder case.”

Then Daniel gave me a brief and completely surprising explanation: In 2002, long before Daniel ever met Samuel Herr, there had been a different murder associated with that name.  However, in that case, Herr was the accused.

Daniel went on to surmise that possibly Steve Herr was worried that Daniel would “walk free,” just as his own son did years earlier.  He didn’t know many of the details, but the main point was not lost on me.

Sam Herr was once a defendant.

Of course I started Internet searching as soon as I got home.   I kept thinking, “as if this case wasn’t crazy enough…”  The thing is, I couldn’t find anything about a murder case involving Sam Herr… well, aside from his own murder.

I didn’t believe that Daniel was lying to me, but I thought of myself as pretty sleuth-y, and it was weird that there was nothing to find.  Maybe Daniel was confused about this… maybe he misunderstood…

When I eventually questioned him about the story, he didn’t know why I couldn’t find any information.  He thought it was odd, but when you get right down to it, Daniel has a lot occupying his mind, so worrying about my inabilities to do a Google search wasn’t his top priority.

It turns out that some of you readers are better Internet detectives than I am.

This morning I got an interesting surprise on this blog’s Facebook page.  One of you discovered there actually are a few news articles out there about Herr’s other murder case.  These are stories that tell of a very different side to Army vet Sam Herr. Given those leads, I was able to find two articles from The L.A. Times and one from The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here’s the rundown:  When Samuel Herr was 19 years old, he was tried for murder because of his alleged role in the stabbing death of another 19-year-old named Byron Benito.

According to Benito’s mother, Benito and Herr had been close friends. In fact, prosecutors stated that it was Samuel Herr who picked up Benito at his house and then, on the night of January 15, 2002, led his unsuspecting friend to an area behind a mobile home park, where he was attacked and killed by a group of suspected gang members… one of which was Herr.

The police believed that Benito was killed as gang retaliation for another murder, even though he was not associated with a gang himself.

There were some accused who just plead guilty right away, accepting fifteen years to life prison sentences.

That left 11 defendants to face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  The DA decided to hold two separate trials, seemingly because there were so many being charged, and each defendant had a separate lawyer.  Samuel Herr would be part of the second trial.

So… what happened?

All five defendants from the first trial were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

The remaining 6, the ones from the second trial, were all acquitted.  They walked out the courtroom as free men.

From what I’ve read, an eyewitness who had testified in the first trial didn’t do so in the second.

Was that the big turning point?  Is one witness the reason that some people are behind bars and others got off Scott-free?

Who knows what leads a jury to finding someone guilty or innocent?  Maybe someone looked at Sam and saw a handsome and charming young man who they refused to believe was a violent gang member and a murderer.

Maybe Sam was innocent.

The articles I read made Sam seem like a cold and calculating murderer. Perhaps you can’t believe everything you read.

I wasn’t in the courtroom.  I didn’t hear the evidence.  I’m assuming that Sam’s parents were there, though.  I’d be surprised if they hadn’t been there supporting their son during his murder trial.

They must have been elated when he was found “not guilty.”

Does that mean now they fear that the judicial system will work to Daniel’s benefit in the same way?

Was justice served in Byron Benito’s case?

I have to wonder if there were some people that were not elated when Sam was acquitted.

14 thoughts on “Was A Victim Also A Killer?”

  1. Have you looked into a possible gay lover sub motive between Daniel and Samuel? I read somewhere that Daniel may have engaged in homosexual activities.

  2. I read that a co-defendant from the first trial was not elated.

    I like your writing style. It keeps me interested, even when I know the story. I always value the work of good writers when I find those writers.

    1. Thank you for the compliment and comments. My understanding is that some of those co-defendants are serving life sentences for their roles in this crime. I am not saying that Sam Herr was innocent or guilty, but he probably had some dangerous enemies. On a side note, Daniel Wozniak had no previous criminal record.

  3. I became interested in Daniel after seeing the Lockup episode, and have looked for any follow up for years now. Like you I felt that there had to be more to the story. I guess you could say it just didn’t pass the smell test.
    Every few months I Google Daniel and look for more news and that’s how I found your blog. May I say that honestly I’m hooked, you really do need to write a book. I’ve been reading for about two days now and can’t seem to put it down. You’re a very good writer and I have the same taste as you. My all time favorite is Ann Rule. Love every book she’s written and own them all.
    I don’t know if he’s innocent or not but he sure seems to be an interesting man. I can see why the producers picked him to talk to.
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and views. Being on the other side of the country I never know when or where to look for more info. So, I will be faithfully reading your every word.
    And this may sound crazy (or maybe not) but please tell Daniel I said hello and if he’d like I’d be happy to be a pen pal. Thanks again for all your thoughtful work.

    1. Thank you very much. I really appreciate your comments. Daniel is an intersting man to be sure. I will pass on the “hello.” If you’d like to write to him, let me know and I can message you the address.

  4. Whether Sam was a murderer I don’t know. But there is a certain symmetry to this. Just as he led his friend to his death, he was led to his death by someone he considered a friend. What do they say; What goes around….

  5. , “The FBI told me not to talk about what I have seen but since Im out of the military now I can talk… This guy is an animal!!! I found the corpse of the man that this Animal dismembered and then dumped like a piece of garbage on my military instillation and I can tell you first hand this this man had no remorse when he dismembered one of my fellow service memebers. If I had 2 minutes alone in a room with this piece of trash you all call a friend I would personally tear him in half. I don’t think any of his theater classes would help him if I got my hands on him. Let hang this piece of garbage in the town square!!!!”

  6. You should explain how the DA chose to put who in which 2 groups he tied.

    But what does this have to do with Samuel Herr getting killed for money and his friend killed and dismembered and framed to look like he did it?

  7. I love your writing style. I just saw the episode of this story on 20/20. It was so interesting that I googled it and came across your blog. I’m a new fan!!

  8. You are still going with this shit!!!!..and your blubberings are reaching an all time low…
    This made my blood boil.

    YOU ACTUALLY WANNA TRASH THE VICTIM…
    SAM is the good guy here ..a guy that went to war and helped his friends.
    His past has nothing to do with you..No court has deemed him a murderer.
    Unlike Dan…ya man!..and the help no doubt of his evil pretty Rachel.
    You opinion is NOTHING that matters.

    And the father visiting the killer in jail…you dont get that.

    Can you imagine the hell that man is in..

    Steve lost his only son to this creep and he wants..needs the DAM TRUTH!!!
    Wtf is so odd about that!!!!
    I get it ..anyone with a soul gets it!!

    You need to stop this blog of yours ..

    Its a crime what you are doing.

    The memory of Sam and Julie shouldnt be linked to useless banter between the Piece of shit that murdered them and some lovesick dumb smurf.

    The familys ..Sam and Julie ..they deserve better than this.

    Please leave them alone.

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