Daniel Wozniak’s Fiancée Appears In Court

On Friday, January 27th, Rachel Buffett appeared at the Orange County Superior Courthouse for a pre-trial motion. I decided to go to court that day to see if there is anything new or interesting happening with her case.

If you’re just joining the blog, let me give you a little back-story.

Rachel Buffett’s Involvement

Rachel Mae Buffett is the former fiancée of convicted killer Daniel Wozniak. Daniel is sitting on death row in San Quentin for the murders of two college students, Samuel Herr and Julie “Juri” Kibuishi, which took place in May 2010.

Daniel Wozniak confessed to both murders. He admitted to murdering Sam Herr in order to clean out Herr’s bank account. In his confession, Daniel Wozniak also stated that he used Sam Herr’s cell phone and pretended to be Sam Herr while texting with Herr’s friend, Julie Kibuishi. The purpose was to lure Julie Kibuishi to Sam Herr’s apartment to murder her as well. Daniel Wozniak claimed he killed Kibuishi with the purpose of framing Sam Herr for her murder.

It was a complicated and horrifying scheme, made even more disturbing by Daniel Wozniak’s decapitation of Sam Herr’s body, and later setting a scene to make it look as though Sam Herr had sexually assaulted Julie Kibuishi before murdering her.

Daniel Wozniak confessed to doing all these terrible things alone, and he never officially implicated anyone else in the crimes.

Stories Changing

Rachel Buffett and Daniel Wozniak were scheduled to get married the following week, and the two of them were almost always together. Yet Rachel went along with Daniel’s assertion that she had no previous knowledge or involvement with either murder.

In fact, it was Rachel who handed important evidence over to the police. She appeared to be another victim of this crime: a woman whose life had just been overturned because the man she loved had confessed to being a murderer.

However, the police had a lot of questions for Rachel Buffett, and they weren’t necessarily satisfied with her answers.

Early in the investigation, Rachel echoed Daniel Wozniak’s story by telling the police there was an unknown third man with Sam Herr and Daniel Wozniak on the day Sam was murdered.

After Daniel admitted to making up the third man in order to throw the police off his trail, Rachel claimed she had never actually seen a third man. She was only reiterating what Daniel had told her because she took it for granted what he’d told her was true.

But it seemed to the police Rachel was helping Daniel lie to them. There were also suspicions that Rachel knew Daniel was texting Julie Kibuishi with Sam Herr’s phone. Rachel and Daniel both told the authorities Rachel was asleep in their apartment when he slipped out to murder Julie. Yet there was a record of Rachel on Facebook at that time… actually sending a casual message to Julie Kibuishi.

And there were witnesses from the theatre who said Rachel was heard mentioning a missing or possibly murdered “friend” before Julie’s body was even found.

Rachel Buffett Charged

In November 2012, the Orange County District Attorney charged Rachel Buffett with three felony counts of being an accessory to double homicide. She spent three weeks in jail (including Thanksgiving), and was eventually released on a $100,000.00 bail.

The maximum time she could face is three years and eight months. It is my understanding that Rachel Buffett turned down an opportunity to arrange a plea bargain with the Orange County District Attorney, or to testify against Daniel Wozniak. Rachel has stated that she is completely innocent of anything related to the murders of Sam or Julie.

Rachel Back in Court

Daniel Wozniak’s trial was held on the eighth floor of the Superior courthouse, but Rachel appeared in a much smaller courtroom on the second floor. I knew I had found the right place when I saw Sam Herr’s parents, Steve and Raquel Herr, standing outside in the hallway.

This wasn’t a surprise at all. I expected to see them. Sam’s parents attended every one of Daniel Wozniak’s hearings and never missed a day of his trial. When Steve Herr and Rachel Buffett both appeared on Dr. Phil in 2013, Steve Herr didn’t hide his disdain for Rachel and her claims of ignorance about the murders of his son Sam and Julie Kibuishi.

Courtroom C49 was semi-crowded because there were several different cases being seen there that morning. A large, caged holding area was on the left side of the courtroom, and occasionally prisoners were brought inside it for hearings.

Rachel’s trial was scheduled to begin at nine, but her case wasn’t called until around ten thirty. I ended up sitting in the front row next to a reporter I’d seen many times during Daniel’s trial, and we chatted casually when court wasn’t in session.

Rachel Buffett and a suited man, who I figured was her lawyer, entered the busy courtroom and had a brief whispered conversation.  I couldn’t hear any of it over the din of the voices in the courtroom. Then, Rachel sat down on the other side of the reporter in the front row, and the two of us instinctively stopped chatting.

Rachel wore a black blazer with matching slacks and cream colored character shoes (wide-heeled shoes that actresses often wear onstage). Her long blond hair was in a neat braid that fell over her right shoulder. She didn’t seem to notice me or the reporter.

It was hard to get a read on Rachel. She didn’t necessarily look worried, but I felt like she was nervous. It’s possible I just assumed she was nervous, because who wouldn’t be in her situation? I glanced around to see if she had any family with her. I don’t know what they look like, but I knew to look for blonde. It was a blonde free zone at that moment. A surprise in California.

Rachel sat there, using her phone for a couple of minutes, and then got up and hurriedly left the courtroom. A moment later, the reporter left as well, and I was worried I’d missed something. Maybe the reporter overheard the conversation and learned that Rachel Buffett’s trial would be postponed again? That ended up being the case.

Before I could decide to leave, Rachel walked back into the courtroom. This time she was accompanied by a young blonde man. I was guessing this was her brother, Noah. So, she wasn’t there alone.

Now there were two empty seats next to me in the front row. Rachel directed “possible Noah” toward the seats. He was about to sit in the aisle seat (which meant Rachel would have to scooch by him to sit down… next to me), when Rachel gestured for him to move to the second seat in. He sat next to me and Rachel sat on the aisle again.

I honestly don’t know if Rachel has any idea who I am. I’m not positive I ever even spoke to her at the Hunger Artists theatre company, and I don’t know if she reads this blog.

I didn’t try to talk to her at all, which later surprised Daniel. If Rachel reads the blog, then she figured out who I am. The hair color and tattoos are a dead give-away. But I’d had no plans to go all “reporter” on her at that time.

Of course, I would love to interview Rachel, but I wasn’t about to lean over “possible Noah” and ask her if she’s telling the truth about her involvement in the murders of Sam or Julie.  If Rachel reads my blog, she knows I don’t believe her story. I don’t think she is an innocent victim.

Obviously, I’m not the only one, or she wouldn’t have been in court that day.

Within ten minutes, Rachel Buffett’s case was called and she stepped up to a nearby podium to hear that her trial was postponed until March 17th. Ironically, Daniel considers St. Patrick’s Day to be the anniversary of the beginning of his and Rachel’s romantic relationship.  I plan to be there again, unless there’s some kind of plea arrangement before that. But I don’t see that happening.

Next Up On the Blog

My first trip to visit San Quentin.

Lock Down

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write here. There’s not much new happening with Daniel’s appeal yet.  And if there’s any new information I’m learning about alternate motives for the murders, Daniel’s actual timeline on the day(s) Sam and Julie were killed, or the chance that Sam’s cell phone wasn’t always in Daniel’s possession, I’m saving it for now.

That leaves us with Daniel’s daily life on death row as the main blog topic.

On Thursday January nineteenth, I got the first of numerous emails from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) stating that parts of San Quentin State Prison were on lockdown. That included East Block where Daniel is housed. Visits and inmate programs were cancelled until further notice.

Unfortunately, there was no reason given for the lockdown, but my imagination had field day. I couldn’t find anything online about a prison riot, inmate escape, or hostage situation, so I decided it couldn’t be too terrible, right? But what warrants locking down a maximum-security prison?

The Flu!

San Quentin is experiencing a major flu epidemic. Inmates have flooded a local hospital and the SQSP infirmary is overflowing into other areas of the prison. Inmates are on a “modified” schedule until further notice. This has included the cancellation of most inmate programs and classes, the elimination of yard time, and being forced to wear masks when moving about the prison. And all visits were revoked indefinitely.

I had a visit planned for that weekend, but luckily, I’d cancelled it because I didn’t want to drive in the snow over the grapevine.

Last October, the inmates were offered flu shots. Daniel declined. He thought it was illogical because the possible side effects of the shot were the exact same as the list of flu symptoms. I’ve never had a flu shot. I know people who swear by having one every year, but I don’t get the flu very often and when I do, it’s short lived (knock wood).

Daniel is not sick, by the way. He tells me he pretty much never gets sick. He’s blessed with a strong immune system and he’s very careful to keep his cell clean. Also, he’s made sure to wipe down the inmate phone with bleach before using it. I guess that’s not much different from me wiping off a grocery cart handle with a Clorox wipe.

Not having the flu hasn’t kept Daniel worry free. So far two inmates have died. One was an older man, but the second was a man in his thirties only a couple of cells down from Daniel. It must be scary to be sick in prison. During an epidemic like this, I’m sure it’s not that easy to get to see a doctor. I figure it’s also nerve-wracking to be healthy and yet locked down with numerous contagious sick people.

The Reality of Prison

I envision this world of Daniel’s, which is so how far removed my own, and it makes me even more curious about how he lives. I mean that in terms of living and coping.

I think everyone has a mental picture of what we think prison is like. If you’re anything like me, you’ve even wondered how you would handle being incarcerated. A lot of it would depend on where you were locked up, and for how long, of course. Could I survive the world of Orange is the New Black? And when I do imagine this awful scenario for myself, I’m always innocent of the crime. Doing time you don’t deserve seems unlivable.

You just have to watch the ID Channel to know innocent people get put in prison all the time. Of course, that’s usually because they let the police question them without a lawyer. (Come on, even if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.) That’s the first thing you learn from watching Dateline.

Imagine if Scott Sanders had been Daniel’s defense attorney from the beginning. I bet Scott Sanders imagined that himself quite a few times during the trial. Whenever I re-watch Daniel’s confession video, I can’t help thinking, “Shut up, stupid. Ask for a lawyer.”

Daniel Wozniak is guilty, though, and should be behind bars. So, I don’t really feel bad for him that he didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for a lawyer. Because Daniel is remorseful for his crimes, and he knows be deserves to be punished, doing his time is made somewhat easier.

Of course, the fact is, Daniel spending the rest of his life behind bars won’t bring back Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. Even if Daniel is one day executed by the state of California, he will still have had a much longer life than either of his victims. Nothing about that is fair. I’m hopeful Sam’s and Julie’s families find a little bit of solace in knowing that Daniel Wozniak isn’t walking the streets. His life is greatly restricted. He’s lost his freedom and his future.

Long before I met Daniel Wozniak, the thought of San Quentin’s Death Row would bring to mind images of bars and bricks surrounded by ice cold water. The thought of doing life in that prison, or worse yet, being on death row, would give me the same chills down my spine that I experienced while touring Alcatraz prison. That’s still the case, but now I also imagine inmate yoga classes (which are currently cancelled because yoga takes place on the yard).

I understand some people may look at Daniel’s current existence and feel it is far too cushy and “livable” for the likes of a cold-blooded murderer. I get that. Admittedly Daniel is living a full life behind bars, but it’s not a life I would want to live. Daniel will never be as relaxed and comfortable in his cell as I am right now in my house.

He might argue that one with me. He’s a strong proponent of prayer and meditation as a way to inner peace. I’d still rather be in front of my fireplace, a glass of wine in my hand, and my family surrounding me.

What Do You Want To Know?

Readers – Please let me know in the comments if there are any specific aspects of Daniel’s life that you’d like me to cover.


The next post topic will be on Daniel’s ex-fiancée, Rachel Buffett. I was in court during her “pre-trial” hearing on Friday January 27th, and her case has been postponed again. She’s back on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day!)