As you all know, on Monday, January 11, 2016, an Orange County jury came back, at breakneck speed, with a recommendation that my friend, Daniel Patrick Wozniak, receive the death penalty.
I was not surprised by their decision (well, the speed of it did actually surprise me), but I was saddened.
Recently, someone sent me a message on this blog’s Facebook page stating that Daniel may be my friend, but he is also a monster.
I get a lot of negative comments on my blog and Facebook page. Most of the time, I choose the “ignore and delete” method of response. But this comment was actually thought-provoking. It touched on one of the main points of why I write about Daniel in the first place.
I know many people think he is merely a monster, and I won’t deny that he did do some monstrous acts. The thing is, I don’t believe that Daniel Wozniak is a monster. I’m not the only one who feels that way, either. I guess I’m just the one with the biggest mouth.
I’ve been contacted by quite a few people who knew Daniel and his family long before the events of May of 2010. The words used to describe him include generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, and a good guy. More than one person has told me that Daniel comes from a loving, religious, and tight family.
I’ve also heard from many of the people in Daniel’s life now. Admittedly, many of them are inmates. But all of us describe Daniel the same way: generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, a good guy, and religious.
So for me, the big question is: what happened? How did he change so much? Is the “old Daniel” back now?
I’m hoping that Daniel himself can tell me the answers to those questions. Some of you might also be curious about the same things. Either way, I want to know for myself. I want to know as a mother. I want to know as a friend.
So, I’m going to continue this blog, and I’m probably going to write a book or a play or both. No one has to read anything I write and I won’t be breaking into your living rooms and forcing you to watch my one-woman show.
But for those of you who are interested, here is my continuing viewpoint of Daniel’s trial:
Guilty – Part Three
See! I told you it wouldn’t take long for my next post.
We were on day two (Thursday, December 10, 2015) and left off after describing the examination of prosecution witness Wesley Freilich (the ATM Kid).
The Law Enforcement Witnesses
After the lunch break, the prosecution put on a bunch of Costa Mesa police officers, and they had plenty of damaging evidence to present.
1) David Casarez: During his questioning, we established where Daniel and Rachel were living at the time of the murders (the Camden Martinique Apartments in Costa Mesa).
We also saw photographs of a red handled ax and a 24″ wood-handled saw (can you say, “chill down your spine?”).
No cross examination.
Murderer Musings TV Lawyer wanted to know where the pictures were taken. The tools were leaning against a wall in some residence. This might not necessarily be that important, but MMTVL likes to have all the facts.
Side note: when I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he didn’t know either. Maybe Noah Buffett’s (Rachel’s brother, who went on Dr. Phil with her) apartment?
2) James Brown: More photographs were shown during his testimony, including a picture of a plastic grocery bag from Von’s, and a black backpack. These items and their contents were found in the yard of Daniel’s parents’ next door neighbors. The police believe that it was Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak, who got rid of this evidence for Daniel (and clearly didn’t do a very good job of it). The items collected included:
- Sam’s wallet with his ID and credit cards.
- Sam’s passport.
- A box of Sam’s checks.
- Sam’s broken cell phone, with the battery removed.
- A green T-shirt covered in blood.
- A pair of jeans.
- A pair of boxer shorts.
- Two used shell casings for a 38mm handgun.
The Defense did not do a cross examination.
MMTVL – I got nothin’.
3) Kevin Condon: He did a search of Daniel and Rachel’s apartment and found no drug paraphernalia (Hmmm? This does not jive with what was written in one of Daniel’s earliest letters).
A photograph was shown of a laptop and power cords in a backpack (different from the black one discussed earlier). This part confused me a bit. It sounded like the officer was saying this was Sam’s laptop and it was found in David Buffett’s (Rachel’s father) car.
No cross examination.
MMTVL – Huh?? Can we go back a bit? Did you just say that Sam’s laptop was found in Rachel’s dad’s car?
4) Dana Potts: He was in charge of looking for human remains in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach. A photograph was shown of Officer Potts next to a human skull lying on the ground. Later identified as belonging to Sam Herr, the skull had been ravaged by animals and insects. Sam’s hand and forearm were never found.
No cross examination.
MMTVL has no questions.
5) Jean Putinare (I KNOW I’m spelling this wrong): She works in the OC crime lab. Okay, here is where the DNA evidence came in. Not that anyone is surprised, but Sam’s DNA was found on some of the items contained in the black backpack, the one found in the backyard of the Wozniak’s neighbors.
She also tested a 38mm handgun for DNA. A mixture of DNA from Tim and Daniel Wozniak was found on the gun and its case. Tim Wozniak had turned the gun over to the Costa Mesa Police Department. It was registered to Daryl Wozniak, Daniel’s dad.
No cross examination.
MMTVL – Uhhh…since the gun belonged to Daryl Wozniak, is it possible this DNA has been on it for years? Perhaps Tim and Daniel had been taken for shooting lessons when they were teens…? (Editor Matt’s comment: “Depends on the sample from which they got the DNA. Skin breaks down quickly.” He’s got a point.) Oh let’s be honest – we all see that Matt Murphy’s got a slam dunk going here.
6) Tomas Matsudaira: Orange County Forensics guy who does the “matching spent bullet cartridges to guns” business. All the cartridges found were from the 38mm handgun with the Wozniak DNA on it. Three were tested. The two from the backpack and one that was found in the theatre attic near Sam’s body.
No cross examination.
MMTVL puts head down on “TV defense table” and waves a small white flag.
7) Ed Everette: Another Costa Mesa Police Department detective. This guy was busy!
- Watched ATMs in Long Beach for activity on Sam’s bank card.
- Interviewed Wesley Freilich and learned that Daniel had given him the ATM card.
- Canvased the Camden Martinique Apartments trying to find a connection between any of its residents and the city of Long Beach (Daniel grew up in LB).
- Somehow tracked down an address for a place in Long Beach that later turned out to be Noah Buffett’s apartment.
- Went to the address, and thinking it was a business, he just walked right in the front door. It was actually a converted loft. Daniel was there with Rachel, Noah and their mother. Daniel looked at Detective Everette and said, “How did you find me?”
- Daniel asked to talk to the police outside. Everette said Daniel appeared nervous and was trembling as he told the police that he’d last seen Sam Herr when Sam and an “unknown man” dropped him off in the afternoon after Sam had supposedly helped Daniel to move some furniture at the Liberty Theatre.
- Everette also said that at one point, Rachel came outside, too, and he suspected she’d been listening at the door before that. He wondered why she was so unconcerned that the police were questioning her fiancé.
Now we finally get some cross examination! Scott Sanders asked if there were any notes or recordings of the conversation he’d had with Daniel outside the loft. Everette said no. Scott didn’t really debate anything the detective had said, but when he asked Everette about his own feelings toward Rachel Buffett, the response was a doozy:
“She should be sitting here right next to Mr. Wozniak.”
MMTVL – That statement doesn’t do anything to make Daniel look LESS guilty, but it was as close as the defense had come to a win.
This was the last witness of the day.
The first witness on Monday would be Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak.
“Guilty Part Four” will be coming your way as soon as possible. I’m sorry that I can’t tell you how many parts there will be in total. It’s not like you don’t know how the story ends, right?
31 thoughts on “Guilty – Part Three”
Daniel is my cousin. I believe drugs happened.
Let him know Dan Comfort passed away tonight.
A lot of mental illness and drug, alcohol addictions in our family.
I’m going to go see his dad tomorrow, and I’m with Tim now,
Keep the wind at your back, and sunlight on your face.
Thank you so much for sharing this viewpoint. I’m sure it can’t be an easy topic to discuss. I will pass on the information to Daniel and my condolences to your family.
I don’t personally know any of you or Daniel but Kathleen your comment wad my thoughts exactly. The Disease og Addiction and other mental illness is ALWAYS at the root of humans acting inhuman. My believe is that very very few people are born pure evil. Many may be born with a sickness in the brain and many more develop mental health illness because of the environment and circumstances in which they live.
Just my opinions.
Yes, there are some murders that are fueled by drug use and/or mental illness. I would respectfully argue that those who murder for substantial financial gain very rarely have a diagnosable mental illness. They are motivated by greed.
Thanks for Part Three of the trial. But, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.Where is the defense in this trial? Oh, I was certain from the very beginning that Daniel Wozniak was, indeed, the perpetrator of this heinous murder. However, even the most villainous criminals, including Nazis, have a right to have their say in court. Even assuming that the defense team knew for certain that Daniel “did it”, they could have put up a fight of some sorts. Most criminals are not all bad. Some may have something in their backround, or in their upbringing, that may have spawned this criminal behavior. This does not mitigate their guilt, but at least, for the record, it shows that the defense is trying to put up some kind of fight for their client. But, from what I have been reading, here there is nothing, nada. So who needs the team at all? They might as well have just placed Daniel on the stand and have him admit to the murder, even though you cannot convict a murderer based only upon his admission.
Finally, we haven’t read much about Daniel’s life, except for the part right before the murders. Did he have a “normal” childhood? Was the family destitute? Maybe you could fill us in on some of these questions.
There’s a lot of work put into writing a book. I’ll be doing a lot more in-depth research than I’m able to get into on the blog (That’s for you too Debbie Do – I love the way that sounds). I just got a comment from one of Daniel’s cousins with some intersting points being made. I can say that the family was in no way destitute. Outward appearances – “normal.”
Avi palatial – “Even assuming that the defense team knew for certain that Daniel “did it”, they could have put up a fight of some sorts. Most criminals are not all bad. Some may have something in their backround, or in their upbringing, that may have spawned this criminal behavior. This does not mitigate their guilt, but at least, for the record, it shows that the defense is trying to put up some kind of fight for their client.” Are you bloody kidding me?!
Does the fact that he CONFESSED stun you, anyone? – For Christ sake, this guy MURDERED TWO PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD AND DISMANTLED A HUMAN BODY. You talk about this like it is some bloody walk in the park?
I hope he burns in hell – what about sympathy for the individuals he MURDERED??
Does psychopath come to mind – remember Ted Bundy? Wozniak is a psychopath!
Psychopath should come to mind.
wow! crazy…. I cant believe he said Rachel should be sitting right there with Dan!!!???? Infuriating! I hope that your book or play is well researched so that the characters are truthfully represented if you do end up writing it, which i kind of dont think you should because how good can it really be of a book it doesnt seem like enough information for a great story when you dont know all involved. wish i could actually talk. Thank you for the update I really do enjoy the read as long as there is no wrong personal opinions thrown in, facts are the most interesting.
Well I don’t think that personal opinions can be wrong. And I do appreciate that you shared your opinions.
Have you asked Daniel what the extent of Rachel’s involvement was or are you not allowed to say?
He has not been completely forthright about her entire role is this crime. Not yet. I expect he’ll feel more comfortable when our calls are not being recorded. I believe that visits on Death Row (assuming the judge goes along with the jury recommendation) are person to person without glass and telephones.
When I talk about the penalty phase, you’ll hear some interesting points made by Scott Sanders. He put forth some allegations specifically pointing at Rachel as being the one to write the portion of the text messages that were intended to lure Julie to Sam’s apartment. Was Scott just pulling these allegations out of thin air in order to defend Daniel? I don’t think so.
Thank you for the reply and I am anxiously waiting for part four :D Also, I hope this isn’t too forward, but if Daniel already knew that he was going to be in jail for the rest of his life, what would it matter what he says about Rachel even if conversations were recorded? I honestly believe she played a bigger role in all of this and should be held accountable. And if she DID play a bigger role, will Daniel be able to testify against her at her trial (would he even testify against her)?
I am very interested to watch Dateline tonight. An exclusive interview with Rachel! Oh I am so curious to hear what she will say.
SNEAK PEEK: Plot Twist
In a primetime exclusive, Rachel Buffett speaks to Josh Mankiewicz about being at the center of a grisly murder investigation involving both her former fiancée and her friend, a 26-year-old Army veteran. Dateline reports new details of a gripping and twisted case that made international headlines. Airs tonight at 9/8c.
I have two separate points to convey to you! The first being, since it is your desire and intent to be a published author of this tragedy…( you cannot forget your readers are
NOT Daniel’s friend…nor, would they want to be! ) Two, young people are dead! Admittedly, by his hand. You will
not be able to deny or control the facts of the trial. Do not
bury the lead…( regrettable choice of words )…but the truth!
You will be required to provide the 5 W’s of feature writing.
Combined with the imagery of creative writing…no small task. While I believe you possess both style and above average writing skills…your repeated grammatical errors are annoying and puzzling! You mentioned you had friends proof your text, before it appeared on your blog…( ⁉️ ) Select different and more suited friends for this task. I am aware of my brutal honesty…( it is kind, compared to the actual world of publishing! ) You are following the first rule, in writing about ~What you know…or think you know. I cannot stress strongly enough, the public does not view this man as the victim, in any way! You, can not deny or control the facts of the case…although, if you choose, you can slant the story in a more favorable view of Daniel. I think this would be a mistake and most editors would agree. We like to see the perpetrator held accountable! It is just human nature. ( Especially, when we cannot conceive of the actions in ANY event or situation. ) This does apply here! Good luck in your endeavor…( I would not have taken the time, if I did not believe you have a genuine opportunity! ) LE
Le, to take the time, spend the majority of it bashing her writing, and the briefly touch on how that wasn’t really your intent, was truly disingenuous.
First of all, never spend any time what so ever beating up somebody else’s grammar, and then make mistake yourself, no matter how small or few.
Not “more suited”, better suited.
Your liberal, nearly nauseating use of the overused exclamation point was……hmm…..well, nauseating !!!!!!!
“You are following the first rule, in writing about~ What you know….or think you know”. Huh? Go back to “Elements of Style”, because that sentence is a whopper.
Need I continue? Hemingway himself was actually accused of teasing friends when writing personal letters because of his horrendous spelling and other errors. And, please, before you tit for tat me and start on mine……I know! ( now that was a good spot for an exclamation point. They lose their effect when there is three per sentence).
The author’s blog is done in, no doubt, a unique manner, but I found it funny (not the subject, just several things she said, and it’s very hard to write funny), cynical, and, at times, sarcastic.
I’m not so sure that I saw her sticking up for him as much as I saw her doing a damn good honest job of getting a story, which she did. There are incidents and stories she relays that you would not otherwise know of.
And let me just add, her writing was brief, and done in almost a journal, chronological manner; it was very easy to read. I don’t know why that would be a problem in today’s day and age.
Remember, Capote befriended Perry, and Ann Rule befriended Bundy. I have a feeling that this moron is an easy guy to like, which is another thing that makes the subject of true crime fascinating. But I’m pretty sure that this author won’t be having a prison wedding with this freak. Just go easy on her, she didn’t kill anyone.
He is a monster, whatever else his “childhood” may have been. Noone has the right to take another’s life period! Two innocent young people lost their lives, two families lost their loved ones, then he dismembered one and disposed of him like he was not even a human being, and the other he disrespected by writing digusting words on her. Not only that then he just went on with his life as if nothing happened. He involved a kid to steal the savings of a vet who served this country because he did not want to get off his ass and get a paying job? No remorse just went on with his life like nothing happened. He deserves what he gets and please whether or not he is sentenced to death he NEVER needs to be free again, he is dangerous snd a monster. Not only that, he is a liar! After confessing he then turned around a lied and pled “not guilty” . He may be your “friend” but with friends like that you certainly do not need enemies because I believe he was the “friend” of his two victims too.
Yes he was jovial and funny and charismatic. But he has serious anger issues. And then when he got drunk and angry he was verbally and Physically abusive, vindictive and cruel. Yes I saw him hit people (Rachel included) and yes he even once hit me (that was the end of our friendship). People aren’t always what they seem.
Charles Manson and Hitler too were very charismatic people.
What a joke why do you sound like you have something against Rachel?? Through out your blog your opinions of her seem very harsh as if you have an issue with her personally… Which you say you never knew her so I don’t get it. That’s where my thoughts of you being biased come from. I know she is innocent and I know her heart so its a trivial waste of time to try and judge her when you know nothing of who she is and how can you write a story that isn’t yours to tell about good people like her when you side with the killer as his friend. ? How will that make a good book?
I have to agree with Karen on most of her points. The plot began with greed. Dan felt he could steal his neighbor’s hard-earned combat pay while serving in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, he would rather have had his ego stroked daily by young, budding actors who thought he was the greatest rather than being a responsible human being and working. Instead he killed Sam and Julie hoping that it would look like Sam did it. In addition, he dismembered Sam’s body and admitted to laughing while doing it. Desecrating a body is pure evil. It is astonishing that anyone would continue to see the “good” in someone who left 2 families without their child; especially Sam who was an only child. What he did negates all the mentoring he did with those young people, which makes you think was his entire adult life an act simply believing he was omnipotent? Maybe God will forgive him, but almost no one else will. And I think anyone looking to make a profit from this tragedy will have karma visited upon them. It will be money that will be ill-gotten gains. Better to donate it to victims of crime organizations.
Yeah, strange defense from a guy that Dan believes is a great lawyer, or did a great job.
Seems to have been the sneaky we’re not gonna put on any defense so everybody will understand just how guilty Dan feels defense.
Sneaky………didn’t see it comin.
Truth is he was waiting for the penalty phase. Truth is there was no defense, and yes, believe it or not, the lawyer, no Clarence Darrow, mind you, was likely concerned that a defense, especially a vigorous one, would insult the jury’s intelligence, and make them more likely to vote death (thumb down).
But the evidence was over-fricking-whelming.
Also, no drug paraphernalia found because, now dig this, Dan was not a drug user. Certainly not an addict. That was the age old self defense of “the dope made me do it”. Shit, you could look at him and see he was no heroin or meth head…….not a chance. He needed the cash. Sad, sad, sad, but true, true true. His plan had a pinch of criminal genius (straight outta a Lawrence Sanders novel), but the other 95% was absolute insanity.
I will say this: I, like this blog’s author, love true crime, and I love the show Dateline. And this episode may damn well have been (DAMN WELL HAVE BEEN) their best episode to date. WOW.
Daniel is responsible for this crime. It had nothing do with a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Daniel very well knew right from wrong. He is 100% accountable for these murders. I personally have been under the influence of different substances in my younger days, and not once was I ever in danger of taking another persons life. And all the garbage about what a nice, jovial guy he is…do some actual research on psychopaths, their outward demeanor has absoutley nothing to with their ability or desire to be cold-blooded murderers. He was such a nice guy, he couldn’t have done it! Give me a break.
I really hope you don’t profit from this unimaginable crime, you write about it with bias and with such glee (maybe you could refrain from using exclamation points…we got it…you were super psyched for the trial to start).
I just watched that case on TV, and even though I know we have to take what the media gives us with a grain of salt I wanted to let you know that Dan is not the person you think he is. He is a psychopath. And Rachel is a psychopath too. I do not use this term loosely just to insult anyone. This is the technical term of what they are. I’ve read many, many, many books about serials killers, seen interviews, read their story (I don’t know why I guess the subject matter interests me). And from what I’ve seen of him and of her on TV, I can say without a doubt that they both are psychopaths. Serial killers, the smart ones (because they either have an high IQ or a low one) can be totally lovable, friendly, goofy, whatever charming, because that’s their cover. They learn how to be that way, they are not that way. You’ve been duped all these years. And no matter what he says to you, he still is that person who killed 2 people and CUT his FRIEND with a SAW in MULTIPLE pieces (I don’t know you, but cutting through a leg of lamb is tiring enough for my arm) and then came back to sing and dance like it was just an errand at Wallmart. Wake up. He’s not innocent, he is not what he says he is, and she is certainly not innocent either.
Fresh from watching the Dateline episode here. Shocking. I have to agree with the interviewed Detectives that Rachel was clearly involved to a greater degree. Even in her Dateline interview, she exhibited clear signs of deceptiveness. Watch her eyes when the interviewer asks her the hard questions. Her eyes dart to the side for a brief moment before she answers. I spotted this nuance multiple times throughout the show.
Very interesting blog. I started researching this case after watching Rachel’s interview on Dateline, and now I have read all of your postings. I am a career prosecutor who is also a big fan of Dateline/ID channel/homicide/serial killer cases. (In fact I would have brought some of my own files home with me if I had known I would be up this late reading!) I have enjoyed reading your perspective on this convicted killer, despite my personal disgust with someone who could kill 2 innocent people and then carry on in theater productions as if nothing ever happened. I’ve certainly seen worse though. Now that the trial is over I hope you will get to ask Daniel those tough direct questions, and I look forward to reading not only his answers but how his answers affect you and your blog. I suspect, however, that his appellate attorneys will prevent any significantly honest discussions. I am very curious about the case against Rachel. I don’t think she came across very well in the Dateline episode. Have you ever tried speaking to her? It seems she loves an audience, and you certainly have one now. Well-done. I look forward to more!
The defense team did a terrible job. No defense whatsoever and the finger pointing to Rachel Buffet at the end. Here is a man facing the death penalty and no one to speak up in his defense.”, “he was a good person…believed in God…had a religious upbringing “. NADA. Where was his family support????
Can somebody please tell me exactly how much money Danny actually ended up getting out of this whole thing? I mean if it really was a “murder for profit” scenario, shouldn’t there be SOME kind of discussion indicating dollar amounts, either real or anticipated? Anyone else find it odd that finacial gain is one of only five, (I think), enhancements that allow the DA to seek the death penalty?
It’s said that Sam Herr had about 66,000.00 in the bank. I think Daniel only got about $500 before getting arrested.
Lisa – I love true crime (as do many friends) and a dispassionate description of the crime is booooring. If we want to hear about the crime we read the newspapers. If we want to know ALL the characters, we read…..well, someone who at minimum has access to the killer and provides a multi-faceted description. We already know what Wozniak did.
Sheila – I always (well, the last two days since hearing of this haha) thought that Wozniak claiming he was laughing and smiling while cutting up Sam’s body was his flash in the pan idea to go for an insanity defense down the road, and one that was made up on the spot once he knew he was cornered. Did he really laugh and smile? My guess is honestly no.
Dave – Yes, This!! (well up until the drug part, of which I have no knowledge. But the lawyer stuff, I agree, it’s the only thing that makes sense).
Ame, very interesting idea about the insanity defense. To anyone reading this, if you are ever questioned by the police (especially if they bring you into an interrogation room), never talk to the police without a lawyer. State it clearly and unequivocally. “I would like to have a lawyer present during any and all questioning.” And then shut up. Say nothing else. Even if they ask you something that seems innocuous, like what your favorite ice cream flavor is, repeat: “I would like to have a lawyer present during any and all questioning.”