Daniel Wozniak Guilty

Daniel Wozniak has been found guilty.

In a recent letter to me he wrote

The jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of 187. First degree murder. Sam Herr (on 5-21-10) and Julie Kibuishi (on 5 – 22-10). Special Circumstances were elected for both victims: A) Murder for financial gain. B) Multiple murder.    There is also an enhancement: Personal discharge of a firearm.

I want to start by saying that I understand why this jury found Daniel Wozniak guilty.  It didn’t take very long either: about two hours. In their seats, going on just the information put forth in court, they really had no option.

Matt Murphy used the term “clinical” when describing the purpose of the guilt phase.  He told the jury that this was the time to put aside emotions. They shouldn’t wonder about motive. They don’t need to consider if any other people were involved. This is when you just decide the black and white part of the case. Did Daniel Wozniak participate in the murders of two people? Guilty.

Was I in any way surprised by this verdict? Nope.

Daniel wasn’t, either.

He has never tried to convince me that he’s a completely innocent man who is serving unfair time. Nor would I be foolish enough to believe him if he did.

However, the “if you blinked, you missed it” trial I sat though left me thoroughly disappointed.

First of all, it was nothing like on TV.  I will be the first to admit I don’t know the law well enough to figure out why or why not certain questions were asked (or not asked).  Maybe TV lawyers are breaking real laws all the time by bringing in certain evidence or asking specific questions.

But since the real lawyers left me wondering about so many details, I figure I can’t be the only one who is curious.

So, I’ve decided to play TV Lawyer for this post.  From here on, I’ll be referred to as MMTVL (Murderer Musings TV Lawyer).

Let’s start with the first witness.

If you don’t already know this, the prosecution gets to make its case first.  All the prosecution witnesses are put forth before the defense even starts its arguments (unless the defense has made an opening argument, which did not happen in this case).

Each prosecution witness was questioned by Matt Murphy. After that, Scott Sanders was given the opportunity to cross examine that witness. Then, the prosecution gets to re-cross, and the defense can then do a final re-re-cross.

I have no idea how long this back and forth is allowed to go on. But in Daniel’s case, it really doesn’t matter, because the defense rarely questioned the witnesses.

Yes. You read that right.

The Witnesses

1) The first witness was Steve Herr.  He is victim Sam Herr’s father, and was the one to find Julie Kibuishi’s body in Sam’s  apartment.  He, of course, had called the police immediately. He’d been positive that his son had not killed Julie. Mr. Herr was not on the stand long.

No cross examination.

MMTVL  wondered why the jury wasn’t told that Mr. Herr visited Daniel in jail. I don’t blame him for wanting to talk to Daniel. I would just like to know what they discussed. Does Mr. Herr think the prosecution has the correct story?

2) Costa Mesa Police detective Stephanie Selkinske was next. She mostly just gave facts about when she had been called to Sam’s apartment after the body of a young woman was found there.  She gave the address of the Camden apartments.  She referred to photographs of the crime scene (the majority were not shown on the big screen; the jury members were each given printed photos to examine). Selkinske also pointed out that Julie had been wearing a tiara, which her brother had given her earlier, at dinner.

No cross examination.

MMTVL couldn’t think of any questions either.

3) The next witness was another member of the CMPD, Shawna Murry. She’s a crime scene specialist. During her testimony, we found out that there was an open pregnancy test found in Sam’s bathroom. Murry also discussed a piece of paper with a peculiar sketch that was found in the apartment.  She said it appeared to be a drawing of an Asian woman lying on a bed.  Flames had been drawn around the head of the woman and the words, “I’m done,” were written on the picture.

No cross examination.

Your Honor, I object. MMTVL wants to know more.  Were any fingerprints or DNA found on the pregnancy test or the drawing? The pregnancy test was open, but had it been used? If so, what were the results?

4) Ruben Manacho Salas, a close friend of Sam’s, was next. He talked about how he’d met Sam in a speech class at Orange Coast College.  The two of them bonded because both were military veterans. Salas testified that Julie and Sam were only friends, even though it wasn’t unusual for Julie to spend the night in Sam’s apartment. He was one of the many people to say they were like brother and sister. Salas also talked of calling Sam’s cell phone on the day he went missing. The person who answered called him “bro” and was too busy to talk at that time. Salas stated that Sam never referred to him as “bro,” so he was suspicious that he had even talked to Sam.

No cross examination.

MMTVL would waive questioning the witness at this time, while retaining the right to call him back at a later time.  

At this point, one of the previous witnesses (one of the CMPD – sorry I can’t remember which one) was recalled to the stand.  This was to establish that Julie had a Taylor Swift song as her ringtone on her cellphone.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Uh, why did that just happen? 

5) John Randolph. He also lived in the Camden Apartments and was an OCC student. He talked about the big social scene at the apartment complex.  He was friendly with all the parties involved, as the apartment complex had a general party atmosphere because so many students lived there. He was even supposed to officiate Daniel and Rachel’s wedding for free. Randolph was asked about Sam’s possible drug use. He wasn’t aware of any.

Randolph was the first witness to be cross examined by Scott Sanders. I wish I had court transcripts in my hot little hands, because I wrote one note:  “Only asked a couple of questions.” I must not have thought anything noteworthy was brought up.

MMTVL would have asked a bunch of questions about Daniel and Rachel’s relationship. Did they fight at all? Did he think they were a good match? And so on. 

6) Christopher Williams. He was the last witness of the day.  There is no way I can give a one or two paragraph summary of his testimony.  It was, by far, the most interesting and action-packed of the day.  I could probably dedicate an entire book chapter to him.

Christopher Williams’ Testimony

  • Met Daniel and Rachel through one of the actresses in “Nine.”
  • Loaned them money.
  • Told them he got the money from a loan shark (not true).
  • Was with Rachel in her apartment when Sam was supposedly murdered. He described her odd behavior, peculiar computer searches, and her negative comments about Daniel.
  • He may have briefly met Sam and could be the last person to see him with Daniel.
  • Saw Daniel and Rachel in the play on the night of Sam’s murder. He was asked a lot of questions about how Daniel and Rachel were acting that night, on and off stage. Words like “agitated” and “emotional” were used to describe them both.

Overall, Chris Williams’ time on the witness stand brought forth some of the most emotional and intriguing testimony of the trial.

MMTVL thought the defense asked good questions without pushing too hard on Williams, who was very distraught on the stand. 

The End of Day One

At the end of day one, I’m pretty sure that most people in the the courtroom thought it was a very successful day for the prosecution.  That’s how I saw it.

When I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he was surprisingly good tempered.  He seemed pleased about some of the information that came forth during the testimony that day.

Maybe if I knew the whole true story, I could see what he was seeing.

Coming soon: Daniel Wozniak Guilty – Part Two. The continuation of the Prosecution’s witnesses.

20 thoughts on “Daniel Wozniak Guilty”

  1. Thanks for the detailed up date.
    There is a good chance defense counsel knew the answer to these questions and they either weren’t realvent or were not helpful to his defense.

  2. I was wondering if Dan would raise a defense. He and his defense team never suggested or alluded to any defense over the years. Even guilty people are permitted to raise a defense but Dan did not. It would be hard for any jury to find Dan not guilty when he did not argue the point of his guilt.

    You asked some questions about the witness examinations. I cannot tell from what you have written why you would want certain information.

    You asked why Steve Herr was not questioned about visiting Dan. Why would that be necessary? The discussions would have no relevance to the facts of the case since they are after the fact; the discussions are private; and whether Mr. Herr thinks “the prosecution has the correct story” has no bearing on anything.

    Answers to your questions on the pregnancy test and the drawing could incriminate Dan, so if the prosecution did not raise them, then neither should the defense.

    Waive, not wave.

    Answers to your questions about the relationship between Dan and Rachel would add nothing to whether Dan was guilty and can only elicit emotions in the degree of guilt. Perhaps those questions will be raised in the penalty phase.

    It looks like Chris Williams was used as the alibi for Rachel when Dan killed Sam. Dan and Sam left together when Chris and Rachel remained at the apartment. Rachel was agitated and emotional while waiting for her fiancé who was killing their friend and neighbor, Sam. Dan returned without Sam and repaid Chris. Rachel knew Dan had no source of income or money and Sam was never seen alive again. Perhaps, more information will come out about this scene in the penalty phase that can produce enough evidence to show that Rachel knew about the murders before they happened or at least knew between the killings of Sam and Julie that Dan was killing people.

    Scott Sanders is an aggressive defense attorney. Defense attorneys are supposed to be zealous advocates for their clients. Aggressive defense attorneys often blame accomplices for their clients’ murder charges. Rachel is Dan’s only accomplice. Chris’ testimony could say a lot about Rachel’s complicity in the murders before they occurred. She did lie for Dan after the fact, so she has complicity. Perhaps testimony from Chris could move the time of Rachel’s complicity from after the fact to before, or at least during, the fact.

    There is little Rachel can say about not knowing what Dan was doing or planning before the murders. Those two were together all of the time, so Rachel knew about Dan’s finances, she should have known what he was searching for online, and she knew when Dan returned home with money, Sam’s cell phone, and no Sam, that Dan had done something. She also knew that Dan was doing something to Julie. A news report a few years ago said Rachel sent a Facebook to Julie that night saying something to the effect, “What’s going on?” Rachel denied the Facebook post and denied being awake at that time.

    Since Sanders wants to keep his client off of death row, he will do everything he can to say that Rachel planned the murders. Dan, in your blog, has hinted that there was somebody else. Chris’ testimony and the testimony of CMPD Lieutenant Ed Everett who said he thought Buffett should be Wozniak’s co-defendant facing death row inside San Quentin State Prison. Sanders got information from Everett on cross-examination. The role of Rachel has no bearing on the guilt of Dan but it may have bearing on the penalty for Dan. This is a time when Rachel Mae Buffet should panic.

    Rachel was charged with being an accessory after the fact because there was not enough evidence to charge her as a principal. She has not been tried yet, so she can still be charged with the stronger charge. As an accessory, she only faces three years and eight months in prison. As a principal, legally, she can face the death penalty. It is not easy to find a jury to deliver the death penalty against a woman, so Rachel may wind up with life without parole (LWOP) if my predictions about what Sanders could do are true.

    I think it is pitiful for Rachel Buffet to deny everything as she has. Some of the things she could have done and a sensible person would have done could free her from any charges.

    • She had a chance to walk away from any criminal charges by not participating in them.
    • She could have called the police when Chris Williams came to her apartment to be her unwitting alibi.
    • She could have called the police when Dan came home without Sam but with money and Sam’s cell phone.
    • She could have called the police when she was lying on the sofa while Dan sat on the sofa with her and texted Julie from Sam’s cell phone.
    • She could have called the police when Dan went to Sam’s apartment to meet with and then kill Julie Kibuishi.
    • She could have called the police when she started circulating the story, “I think my friend is dead and I think my friend killed her.”
    • She could have cooperated with the police, rather than lie to the police, when the investigation into Julie’s death began.

    After she tried to muck up the investigation with her lies, she could have done things to get herself a lesser charge and maybe probation rather than jail time if she could muster up some sense of compassion or a soul.

    • She could have, at any time later, cooperated with police conducting the investigation.
    • She could have volunteered to testify against Dan.
    • She could have shown compassion for the victims and mustered up something that resembles remorse.

    Charges were brought against Rachel about two years after the murders. She whined on Dr. Phil that she did not know it why it took so long to charge her. She could have done things at this time to try to save herself from charges that will result in jail.

    • She could have done any of the aforementioned things.
    • She could have stopped being a brat and stopped crying that she is a victim.
    • She could have pulled her head out of her butt and realized that she is not smart enough to keep her lies going and just come clean.

    Dan has been found guilty. Many hints have come out over the years about Rachel’s complicity in the murders. A few hints came out during the guilt phase of Dan’s trial that Rachel has more involvement then what she is charged with. There is a small window of a few days before the Dan’s penalty phase begins. Since Sanders does not care who he offends when defends a client, he will likely lay into Rachel like a wild wolverine taking down Bambi. Sanders will do *anything* to get Dan out of the death penalty.

    Dan is candid about his actions and has provided specific details about the crime. His lawyers have told him to not talk to journalists, probably because he says so much. Dan has likely told his lawyers everything about what he did and what Rachel did. What can change Rachel’s life forever is that Dan probably talked about how the plan to murder occurred and when Rachel became a part of the plan.

    Dan and Rachel had no money and they had been together for two years. They lived with Rachel’s brother, Noah Buffet, in his apartment in a business building. Dan and Rachel wanted to live on their own. They got drunk and used drugs together and perhaps they wanted privacy for these hobbies. They moved to the Camden apartments. Around the same time as the move, Dan met Sam. If Dan chose the apartments because it was close to Sam, then his plan to steal Sam’s money was several months in the making. Dan and Rachel paid move-in expenses to get their apartment and they paid no further rent.

    Neither Dan nor Rachel had a job but Rachel had an interview. Days before the murders, Dan searched online for ways to kill a person and dispose of a body, while also searching for vacation cruise packages. Dan and Rachel planned their wedding, their honeymoon cruise, and Dan’s bachelor party while they were racking up bills with no income to pay their bills. Dan killed two innocent people for money one week before his wedding date. They both worked together to spend the stolen money and to cover up the crimes. Everything about these heinous murders was for the benefit of Rachel Mae Buffet. Rachel knowingly spent money from the murders and lied to the police to cover up the murders.

    Dan has probably told his attorneys when Rachel agreed to lie for Dan. If Rachel agreed before the murders or if there is some other fact that can show Dan believed Rachel would lie for him, then those facts could suggest that Dan’s confidence that Rachel would lie were necessary to lead him to commit murder. These are facts that Sanders can use to spin the case and make Rachel the orchestrator of terrible acts of murder.

    Sanders could argue that if not for Dan’s confidence that Rachel would lie and if not for Rachel’s benefitting from the theft, Dan would have never committed the murders. This is an argument that can arise during Dan’s penalty phase. If my predictions are true and this argument is made, then Rachel will resemble Jennifer (Henderson) Deleon of the yacht murders.

    Jennifer Deleon wanted money and her loser husband, Skylar Deleon, hatched a plan to steal title to a yacht. Skylar went to look at a yacht with Jennifer and two accomplices. Jennifer brought one of her babies with her as a decoy to put the yacht owners at ease. Skylar and the two accomplices went out on the yacht with the married couple who owned the yacht and who had planned to retire to Arizona to be with their grandchildren. Skylar and the accomplices forced the couple to sign over title, wrapped the couple in an anchor chain, and threw the couple overboard, weighted by the anchor, to drown and die in the ocean, never to be found.

    The yacht murderers were caught. When police recovered the yacht title from Jennifer, she asked for copies of the papers, as though it was really her yacht. She was a cold, heartless instigator of two heinous murders. She never showed remorse over the murders or even compassion for the loss of life. She let her arrogance get the better of her and refused plea bargains. She is now serving two sentences of life without parole. Skylar said in later reports that he took part in the murders because he wanted money for a sex change operation. He and his accomplices each received the death penalty.

    There is little distinction between Rachel Mae Buffet and Jennifer Deleon. They each received financial benefit from two heinous murders. All that is left is showing that Rachel agreed to lie for Dan before the murders were committed or any showing that Rachel took part in planning the murders.

    It looks like Rachel has lost all opportunities to plead guilty, to be a witness against Dan, and to hope for a bargain in sentencing. The only way it seems Rachel can get a deal would be through a most gracious act of pity and interest in avoiding a third trial, provided that Rachel comes clean before the penalty phase begins in a few days and provided that it is not shown that Rachel helped plan the murders.

    If Sanders shows Rachel’s complicity in Dan’s penalty phase, Rachel can be charged with first degree murder of two people. The strongest penalty a jury would likely give is two sentences of life without parole. Because of the frustration and pain Dan’s trial delays have caused, it may not be likely for Rachel to avoid a murder trial with a plea bargain after the penalty phase.

    If Rachel decides to finally try to help herself, then maybe she can work out a deal before the penalty phase begins. Any deal would likely only be a token gesture out of pity for her in her making cruel decisions and following bad advice all of these years. A deal could also be in the interest of avoiding the pain of another trial for the families of the victims. There could be a slight benefit in Dan’s penalty phase of having Rachel as a witness to counter arguments raised by the defense.

    Perhaps Rachel can get a deal for something like life with parole or, if she is lucky, 25 years to life. If she is very lucky and there is a lot of mercy and pity for her, then maybe she can get something in the 12 to 20 year range, if she can convince anyone that Dan planned the murders alone and acted alone. If my predictions are true, then Rachel Mae Buffet should enjoy her Christmas and New Years with her family because this could be her last holiday time to spend as a free person for the rest of her life.

  3. Now that the trial phase has been completed and Daniel has been found guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the books, I think the time has come to think about the other characters in this ghastly and grizzly story. What do we know about the murderer’s family? Did something in his upbringing foreshadow the terrible events? Is his family in any way involved with the initial attempt to cover up the murder? I’ve read and heard quite a bit about the Herr family and I know from first hand what hell they went through and what they will go through for the rest of their lives. But, what about the Kibuishi family? Do you know anything about how they are coping? Finally, have you discussed with Daniel the possibilty or the probability of his receiving the ultimate punishment?

    1. These are some great questions and valid points. I am definitely interested in Daniel’s background. All in good time.
      I haven’t had any real contact with the Kibuishi family. The words I’d use so far to describe them: quiet, somber, reserved.
      I do hope to one day talk with both families about their loved ones – if they would be willing.

      Daniel seems to take everything in stride. He’s mentally prepared for any possibility. He is a planner and an organizer and he’s doing plenty of research.

    1. Actually, the Prosecution spent a lot of time and effort putting forth that there was NOT a sexual relationship between Sam and Julie. It was repeatedly emphasized during witness testimony that Sam and Julie were like “brother and sister.” The text quoted in the article was one that Daniel Wozniak supposedly sent to Julie in order to lure her to Sam’s apartment on the night of her murder.
      Andy – Do you have personal information proving that a sexual relationship did indeed exist between Sam and Julie? Because if you are basing your statement merely on what you’ve read in the OC Weekly, then perhaps you need to pay better attention to what you read.

      1. I doubt the oc weekly would quote a text message loosely in a serious case like this. real life is messy. she was cheating on her bf, the prosecution didn’t want anyone to know about the sexual relationship because it could mean other suspects and reasonable doubt

        1. I’m not saying the Weekly misquoted the text, I’m pointing out that the text wasn’t written by Sam. I don’t disagree with your opinion on this topic though – I have some thoughts on it in my upcoming post.

  4. Glad to hear about this finally starting its been too long! I do wonder why mmtvl would want to ask so many questions about dan and his ex fiances relationship or if they fought or if they were a good match?? That stood out to me twice in this post do explain??

    1. I feel like there is a lot more to the story than the DA put forth. I think that Rachel is a key player and that maybe the relationship between her and Daniel would answer some questions about what motivated this crime and who did what.

      1. I don’t know about her guilt or innocence, but its hard to believe this man acted alone, that he plotted all this out himself. Its just too much. It was a very elaborate murder and he almost got away with it. Somebody must have helped him in some way, although I don’t know who that was. I think that Daniel and Rachel both lived in a fantasy world of being famous actors and having some ostentatious wedding and lifestyle that they really couldn’t afford. Apparently, Daniel had no real job skills, and community theater is not a real career.

  5. Why don’t you ask him that then. I think that’s ludicrous to think she had anything to do with his motivation… He was completely out of his mind to do these things to these people. And he was the best liar anyone ever knew. Money for the wedding is completely bogus that fact is known. Other fanily had taken care of the entire wedding. Please do ask him that question and let me know what he says. Its so frustrating to see anyone dig for excuses from innocent people whose lives have been ruined because of his evil selfishness.

    1. On Monday the defense will finish its closing arguments. From what was said on Thursday, Rachel Buffet is going to be a major topic discussed.

  6. What about day 2,3,4 and 5 of the trial? We haven’t received any information about what went on in court during these days and pretty soon the penalty phase will be under way.

  7. I was also wondering the same about the relationship between the two. Was RB really “innocent” (as she claims) in all of this or was she the one who drove DW to commit the crime? The two lived together and were about to get married so she had to have known his financial status. Then again, I’ve heard many stories where spouses had no clue about their significant other’s ‘secret life’, so to speak. However, the mention of the two acting oddly shows that she had to have known something. And it seems to me that DW’s public defender did not help him at all. Even though I believe DW is guilty, he should try to get another attorney to have a retrial and maybe look more into RB and the part she played. Also, do you have any updates on RB’s case? Wasn’t sure if they were tried together or if she’s even gone to trial yet etc.

  8. I’ve binge read your blog all day, as I’ve just discovered it, and I am, like you, totally addicted to these types of crime trials. I’ve sat on 2 capital murder juries in the past and have been mezmorized by both. I have questions that I’m not sure if you can answer…Has there been any blood found anywhere? Has the gun, or weapon used to dismember the victim been found anywhere? Was Daniel’s car searched? Was there a rape kit done to see if the victim was truly sexually assaulted?

    I live about a mile from where Daniel lived at the time of the crime, so it really hits close to home, and I was married about the same time he and Rachel were supposed to be. You are doing what I have always longed to do. Would love to see part of the penalty phase if it’s public information as to when/court room it will take place. I definitely think there are missing pieces that were missed in the guilt phase.

  9. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is not yet complete in this case. Daniel was not alone and others are complicit to some degree or another. I pray the Prosecution is not totally done.

  10. Hi, MMTVL. I am very much surprised that we haven’t heard a word from you since the first day of the trial. We know that the punishment phase is well underway but you haven’t written much about the trial itself, and pretty soon the trial per se will become a “thing of the past”. Are you planning to cease the Murder Musings? I, for one, would be greatly disappointed.

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