If You’re Going To San Quentin, Be Sure Not To Wear Anything In Your Hair (Part Three – Daniel)

You might expect to enter a completely different world when you walk through the gates of San Quentin State Prison. I sure did. I imagined the grounds would be teeming with dangerous inmates being hovered over by intense guards with itchy trigger fingers.

Instead, the grounds seemed quiet and deserted. “Hit the town makeup,” the woman who’d checked in right before me, was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t even tell which entrance she’d used. It seems like the prison staggers the visitor entrances. I wonder if that is purposeful. Another security measure perhaps.

So, now I had no idea where to go next (aside from the obvious: “head toward the giant prison.”) I know this place isn’t Disneyland, but a guidepost with convenient arrow-shaped signs would’ve been nice. Adventureland is this way. Frontierland is around the corner.

Would that mean death row is No-Tomorrowland?

I decided to try the building with the two large turrets first. Its rows of arch-shaped windows sort of made it look like the entrance of a medieval castle. This seemed as good a place as any.

The lack of armed guards standing around was surprising, but I was pretty sure they could see me even if I couldn’t see them… and I had no doubt there was fully loaded arsenal inside that gun tower.

I walked down the road and approached the first entrance I saw. The heavy steel door slid open for me.

Inside there was a small standing area. On the left was another steel door. Straight ahead was the enclosed guardroom.  I asked the guard inside if this was death row visiting and he directed me to the next entrance over.

I walked along the side of the building for about thirty more feet and came to another steel door that had a small wooden board, no bigger than a street sign, affixed on the wall next to it. It looked as though it had been around since San Quentin’s first execution in 1893. It just said, “Condemned.”

The door didn’t open right away this time, and I was worried the guard couldn’t see me. The window in the door was so high up, I wasn’t sure the guard could even see the top of my head waiting outside. I wondered if I should attempt to knock. I even glanced around for a doorbell.

If death row had a musical doorbell, what song would it be? “Don’t Fear the Reaper?” “Highway to Hell?” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door?” Perhaps just a classy Chopin’s “Funeral March?”

“Death Row’s Doorbell” would make a good name for a speed metal band.

I stood up on my tippy toes and the heavy steel door opened in front of me.  I don’t think those two things were connected, but who knows? The guard probably saw me on a camera (looking for a doorbell like an idiot).

It was the same setup as at the other entrance. I walked inside the standing area. There was a place to pass paperwork through the glass into the guard booth, which was raised up a couple of feet. I had to really reach to slide the paper I’d received at check in, and my driver’s license, to the smiling guard inside. He kept the paper and returned my license.

The steel door closed behind me.  Then the other steel door opened, and I walked inside the visiting area.

Inside The Visiting Area

The large room, lit with florescent lights, held two rows of cages. They were numbered, counting backwards from the far wall.  Cages twelve through seven were on the side closest to the entrance, and six through one were on the far side. Cage number one was farthest away. A walkway for the guards divided the two rows of cages.

A guard was waiting for me. She told me Daniel was in cage number two. I couldn’t quite see him yet from where I was standing.

Now, I was under the impression getting snacks from the vending machines was a big treat for the inmates. I even saw a woman microwaving a hamburger (at 9 am) that she’d just purchased. So I asked the guard if I could have a minute to peruse the snack machines (remember I had a bag filled with quarters and singles), and she told me to find her when I was ready.

The guards there are pretty nice actually. Are there Yelp reviews for prisons?

I looked over the many food selections, but my stomach was still a little “churny” from nerves. I tried to figure out something Daniel might want.

I bought a water bottle for each of us, and a giant “Texas Cinnamon Bun” (no idea why), and placed them on a pinkish brown cafeteria tray I took from a pile near the microwave.

I glanced around and caught a glimpse of Daniel standing in his cage. He was smiling at me. I could tell he was happy to see me. I did a little wave at him, and he waved back. I held up one of the water bottles so he could see it (also not sure why).  The guard came over to me again and asked if I was ready, but I told her I needed to visit the restroom first. I didn’t know how easy it would be to get let out of the cage for a pee break.  I looked for a place to put down my tray.

Mental note: Pee first – then vending machines.

I decided to dash over to Daniel’s cage and leave it on the floor by the door.

“Hi! It’s so great to see you! Be right back. I have to pee.”

I heard him chuckling as I headed to the restroom.

No Glass Between Us

The guard was waiting for me when I got back to Daniel’s cage. The cage was about four by eight feet and had two doors in it: one on the visitor side and one on the guard / inmate side. A male guard was in the walkway between the rows of cages, waiting next to the other cell door.

Now the guards had to go through a very specific security process to get me inside the cage. Daniel stood with his back to the guard in the walkway and was handcuffed through the bars. Then the guard unlocked the door and Daniel stepped out into the walkway. The door was closed and locked again. The guard on my side unlocked the visitor’s door. I stepped inside.

I put my tray on a small white plastic table, that looked like one my daughter had in her playhouse when she was five. There were two molded white plastic chairs in the cage as well. They were normal-sized. The guard on my side closed the door behind me and locked it again. Then Daniel was let back into the cage through the other door and had his cuffs taken off through the bars.

Those guards aren’t taking any chances with their safety. I guess for us visitors it’s a “hey you made the choice to come see the guy” level of security.

This is probably a good spot in the post to answer a question I’ve been asked by a number of friends and family members: No. I was not scared at all to be locked inside a cage with Daniel Wozniak. This would be the first time the two of us would be in the same room, no glass between us, since before his arrest seven years ago. Nonetheless, I had absolutely no “fear for my safety.”

That wasn’t because there were armed guards nearby. Let’s be honest, Daniel is a big guy. I’m a small woman. Technically, he could do some serious damage to my person before a guard could even react.

But, when Daniel Wozniak’s cuffs were removed, I walked over to him with open arms. I didn’t even think about not hugging my friend. Hilariously, he immediately got down on his knees so I could reach him.  I told him to stand up because I felt like Dorothy visiting the Lollypop Guild.

Hard To Get A Good Cup Of Coffee…

When we sat down in the chairs, he looked at the water and the “Texas Cinnamon Bun.”

We each took a water, and neither of us ate the cinnamon bun.

I actually took that cinnamon bun home with me. My fourteen-year-old son and his friend split it (it was a big bun).

“That’s a death row cinnamon bun you’re eating, boys. Straight from San Quentin State Prison.”

I ended up buying a variety of vending machine snacks over the length of our two visits:

  • Yogurt (peach for him and raspberry for me).
  • Fruit cups with tiny sporks for easy consumption (both visits because they were pretty yummy.
  • A regular Coke for him and a diet Coke for me.
  • Coffee (Mocha for him and vanilla for me)

Buying the fruit cups on the first day turned out to be challenging and embarrassing. I ended up wasting three dollars because I didn’t realize you need to push a button to move the compartments forward, so you can reach one that isn’t empty. THEN you slide the little door open and take out your fruit cup.  Lesson learned. Thank you to the nice lady who had to show me the obvious.

Buying coffee was even more embarrassing and also painful.  This time I understood how to attain the coffee, but when I fetched the cups from the compartment, I realized just how DIY this caffeinated beverage project was going to be.

I remember the old coffee machines: first a cup would drop, and then the scalding hot liquid of your choice would come squirting out of the machine into the cardboard receptacle.

The San Quentin vending machine coffee consisted of a cardboard cup with an envelope of Folgers Crystals, a packet of flavored sweetener, and a stir stick inside.  I immediately identified one major problem – no hot water. I’d remembered Daniel telling me about the hot water spigot that was in the day room at the Orange County Jail. So, I figured there might be one of those in this waiting room.  I wandered around for a bit and then I went to the guard booth to ask about hot water.

No spigot.

I bought another bottle of water, filled the cups, and microwaved them (for what seemed like forty-five minutes), in order to boil the water.  Finally, I had two mediocre cups of hot coffee.

You know what else they don’t have in the San Quentin visiting area? Cup sleeves. There also weren’t any trays left, so I carried the coffee cups in my bare hands back along the row of cages, having to stop every few seconds to quickly put the cups down on some flat surface, just to give my hands a tiny break from the scalding pain.

When I finally got over to Daniel, my hands were burning so much that I had to immediately put the cups down in front of the cage, spilling some of the coffee onto the floor in the process. It was against the rules to just hand them to Daniel through the bars.

I Love Lucy: The Death Row episode

The guard got me some paper towels to clean the spill. If patience is a virtue, then this guard was pretty damn virtuous with me.

The coffee was decent. Daniel said it was really good, but asked me why I bought a water bottle instead of getting it from the sink in the restroom.  I told him the coffee was good because I didn’t use the restroom sink water.

Two Days of Visits

On both Saturday and Sunday, we had five-hour visits that flew by.  The two of us were never at a loss for words. Daniel repeatedly told me how much he appreciated that I’d come to see him.

Some of you may have made the connection that this was the first time Daniel and I were able to have a non-recorded conversation. You can imagine I had plenty of questions for my book.

We had our picture taken together (at both visits). I was a little disillusioned when I discovered Death row doesn’t let you pose in front of a cheesy photo background with palm trees or a sunset. However, the guard was kind enough to let people approve their pictures before he printed them. The visitor gets to take the photos home. The only way the inmate can get the picture is if the visitor makes a copy and sends it in the mail (which I did).

When it came time for me to leave, I gave Daniel another big hug and collected my photos and giant cinnamon bun.  The guards repeated the process of handcuffing and musical cell doors. Then I was back out in the fresh air and sunshine…squinting, because I had no sunglasses.

Back Out In The World

My mind was racing as I headed back to the visitor’s building. It was odd thinking I would soon be chatting with friends at a crowded restaurant, while Daniel would be “searched” and locked back into his cell. I didn’t feel sorry for him, though. He made his bed. Because of Daniel Wozniak’s actions, Sam Herr will never get to take another smiling picture with a buddy. Julie Kibuishi will never share another cup of coffee or a funny story. Of course I wish none of this had never happened. But it did, and Daniel is where he deserves to be.

When I got back to the visitor’s building, I asked a different guard about my sunglasses in the little basket. He held up a pair, and I took them with gratitude.  I was glad to have them back when I got outside again, but they were so smudged with fingerprints I could hardly see out of them. I kept taking them off and cleaning them with the corner of my cardigan.  Luckily, I realized before I drove away, that I’d accidentally been given someone else’s bifocal prescription sunglasses instead of my cheap drugstore pair. I hustled back and made the switch with no harm done.

I’m hoping I won’t have as many mishaps the next time I visit San Quentin. It will probably be a few months before I can get back. It’s definitely more challenging than visiting Daniel in Orange County. But I will visit him, because in spite of all he’s done, Daniel Wozniak is my friend.

Next Up – Daniel tells you about his average day on “the row.”

37 thoughts on “If You’re Going To San Quentin, Be Sure Not To Wear Anything In Your Hair (Part Three – Daniel)”

  1. Thanks for this very interesting account of your visit in California’s Death Row!

    Just a question though: did you really have to add this kind of comment ?

    (…) I didn’t feel sorry for him, though. He made his bed. Because of Daniel Wozniak’s actions, Sam Herr will never get to take another smiling picture with a buddy. Julie Kibuishi will never share another cup of coffee or a funny story. Of course I wish none of this had never happened. But it did, and Daniel is where he deserves to be.(…)

    I mean, I know many readers resent your friendship with Daniel and I can understand that you therefore somehow have to show empathy towards his victims.
    Yet do you have to go that far, as to say that Daniel actually deserves what he’s getting?
    Frankly, do you really think Daniel’s sufferings will somehow ease those of Julie and Sam’s parents?
    Do you thing executing Daniel will bring his victims back?..

    Kind regards, anyway, and keep up the good work :-)

    1. Good questions!

      First, I don’t feel sorry for Daniel, but he wouldn’t want me to. He believes he deserves to be behind bars. This isn’t because he is a danger to society, but he knows he should be punished for the mistakes he made. However, I would be very worried about my friend if he was on death row in another state. I feel secure that Daniel will never be executed here in California. I’m grateful for that.

      I don’t know if the Herrs and Kibuishis feel any better now that Daniel is behind bars. I suspect it helps a little. At least that is the impression I got during Daniel’s trial. Seeing the suffering of Julie’s and Sam’s loved ones made it impossible to not feel empathy toward them. I don’t want readers to forget about them, or to think I have.

      Thank you for the comment.

  2. The Death Penalty has definitely more to do with revenge than with justice.
    In Europe, where the death penalty was abolished decades ago, there are by far less murders and violent crimes than in the US.
    Doesn’t this ring a bell to all death penalty supporters?
    To me, there are three main points in supporting the abolition of death penalty:
    first, one must admit that there is an inner philosophical contradiction in death penalty: society (or the State) forbids killing your next of kin, yet the state (or “society”) will kill you if tried and convicted of murder under certain circumstances…
    Second: the death penalty does not bring the victims back, and three: it doesn’t even work as a deterrent for potential killers.

    Isn’t it time to give it some thought?!

    1. I agree completely. Thank you for the comment. Daniel is lucky to be on death row in California as opposed to Texas or Arkansas

    2. The death penalty doesn’t bring the victims back. That goes without saying. But what it does do is not require the victims’ families, who are also collateral damage victims, to go before the parole board every four to five years and regurgitate what the defendant did to their relatives and loved ones. That’s why I believe on the death penalty.

      1. That is a valid argument. I still don’t believe in the death penalty, but I understand your logic.

  3. Hi. Newsflash new information came in. Case must be set aside due to deception by prosecution. Tim Wozniak apparently got an informant deal but it throws case. Tim had bag of death items when Daniel was arrested. Thanks to your blog this changes things. Tim no qualify for any deal. Ocda case also if lied then set aside.

    1. I haven’t talked a lot about Tim on the blog, but I do talk about him with Daniel.

      Daniel loves his brother. He doesn’t want Tim to go to prison. Unfortunatley, Tim seems to keep getting into trouble unrelated to the murders of Sam and Julie.

  4. I think that it would be interesting and informative to learn something about Daniel’s state of mind. What does he think about during the hours in which he’s got nothing to do? We don’t really get his perspective on life as he is experiencing it. Oh, I’m sure that he regrets everything that has happened in the last several years, but how does he foresee his future? We see him smiling when he is with you. Is this smile real or is it just for the purpose of the photo? Does he ever dream of being set free? What happens to his psyche when he thinks about women? What does he think about his family? Does any member of his family ever visit him or are you the only visitor he has? Maybe you could elaborate on these points in one of your future posts.

    1. Hi Zvi!

      Coincidentally, Daniel wrote the next post for the blog. It will be up in a couple of day. I asked him to write about his average day on death row. I thought the readers would be interested in hearing directly from Daniel.

      The smile is real. He’s doing well. He was really happy that I visited him. But overall, he manages to keep a pretty positive outlook on life. He doesn’t talk about being free. He even tells me there isn’t much about the outside world that he misses. I think he’s institutionalized.

      His mom visits him regularly. She wasn’t at the trial, but she is very supportive of Daniel.

  5. I just discovered your blog, which I read with great interest. Like you, I am fascinated with true crime (almost to the point of obsession sometimes)! I appreciate the fact that you can separate the person you have come to know from the one who committed these horrible murders. He is exactly where he should be, but it sounds like he is a better person today. One question though…why is your face blurred out in the photos with Daniel? I was surprised by this, and just wondered why?

    1. I wasn’t planning on blurring my face origonally. I really debated that. After all, eventually I’m going to have to “reveal my identity” when book is released. However, some of my family members (I’m looking at you, dad) were very worried about me putting my picture on the blog, so this was a way to appease them for now.

      Thank you for the comment. I’m sure you weren’t the only one who was curious about that.

  6. His smiling face belies the horrendous crimes he committed. That he is smiling is offensive. He can smile; his victims cannot. The families of the victims don’t want to smile. He is truly a monster, is just as reprehensible as Manson. He just doesn’t look the part.

    1. True – Daniel is smiling in the photos. He was happy that his friend had come to visit him. Would you have preferred him to scowl?

      1. I don’t prefer him to scowl. I prefer him to be expressionless, not smiling. For God’s sake, he’s in prison for killing and mutilating bodies and the idiot is smiling. You’re a decent writer, but you’re no Ann Rule. Read her books. Notice how thorough she investigates and researches her subject matter. If you are going to write about your friend who murdered two innocent people, decapitating one of them, talk to a couple of psychiatrists to get their prospectives to hopefully figure out the psychosis of this demented, sick murderer and how his background and life’s experiences might have contributed to his monstrous ways as well as the backgrounds of all the people involved. THAT’S what is interesting, not your comments as an obviously prejudiced Wozniak supporter. Maybe if you did more research, you can render a thoughtful and relevant theory about the case and write a book worthy of belief, not irrelevant ramblings about your friend who just made a mistake. He MURDERED two innocent, gullible people. I find his blogging comments glib. I don’t care what he may experience in prison. His “regrets” don’t sound sincere at all TO ME. I seem to recall, and excuse me if I have the scenario wrong, but he went onstage and sang after killing these people. His ex-fiancée is worthy of a thorough investigation. She is an enigma. You infer there is much more than meets the eye with this case. Investigate;don’t speculate. He still confessed. Maybe I’m super sensitive about murders, because I met Sharon Tate on several occasions and am still haunted by her horrific murder, but I find your buddy’s rhetoric unemotional and sociopathic in nature, as if he’s talking about robbing a bank. What he says sounds like what he thinks he should say and not his true sentiments. AND he really appears to be enjoying his time in the limelight, albeit infamous.

        1. Thank you for the comment. The blog is a precursor to the book. I am doing a lot of research, but that will all be for the book. The blog is not as fully developed as I plan the book to be.

          1. I suggest you read Ann Rule’s book, “The Stranger Beside Me.” It’s about the time Ann Rule was working with Ted Bundy when he was out killing innocent young women, and how she slowly realized her friend Ted was a murderer. Now, that’s writing and an excellent book.

          2. I did read it, along with several other of her great works. She obviously prefers regional subject matter as her themes. As a deep south Southerner, it’s hard for me to relate her works as they have a timbre/nuance of The Great Pacific Northwest in their cadence. God bless her though, dear thing must be 90!
            (betraying a friendship of even a serial killer/rapist hardly gives her permission to be a rat-bless her heat). The great Southern Disclaimer-“bless his/her heart!”.
            Remember now kids, to always end your berating/bashing of people with that & not only will Jesus forgive you, you’ll be free to do again.

        2. Ann Rule’s ass! This lady’s blog/book is all original. A clear & concise account of a tragic event told in her own unique style.

          1. Ann Rule died in 2015 or -16.
            She wrote books about the Pacufic northwest because that’s where she lived and worked as a police officer. That’s where she met Ted Bundy. She also wrote books about other areas of the country, including Orange County, Ca., where Sam and Julie were killed.
            When she visited him Bundy in jail and/or prison, she never referenced “Disney” or “I Love Lucy,” or references a line from a song, “A really good place to start,” which, to me, undermines and mocks the horrifc events that brought this blog’s author to San Quentin. Ann Rule wrote many nonfiction crime books that were quite successful. She testified before many governmental bodies about crime, punishment, serial killers, etc.
            I think this blog’s author has a unique opportunity to write a really terrific book, in her own original style, if she’s not blindsided by her obvious bias toward the killer.

          2. If memory serves, Ann Rule had forged an intimate friendship with serial killer Ted Bundy during their time spent worked side by side at a Seattle area suicide prevention hotline call center. In her book, ‘The Stranger Beside Me”, Ms. Rule describes the initial disbelief she felt regarding the murder allegations made against her former close friend. Nor does he writer of this blog does apologize for the friendly relationship she has developed toward Mr. Wozniak. What better way to understand the inner-workings of a monster’s mind than to try & know his heart. Please allow this writer to “paint her picture” in her own original, natural way for now. Once the book is finished, there will be plenty of time for judgement & critique.

  7. I notice several readers of this blog are crime-show junkies. I am. I wonder if anyone agrees that one of the worst of these type shows is The FBI Files. Cheap wigs & low budget sets with really bad actors. The profit margin for that particular show is surely high because they obviously don’t spend money on actors, props & sets.

    1. I remember watching that show years ago. Wasn’t it one of the first crime shows?

      Have you seen “A Crime to Remember?” Definitely not low budget.

        1. I wish there were more episodes of Crime to Remember, but that show must cost a lot to make.

          What do think of See No Evil? I don’t think they have a huge budget, but watching crimes as they take place on CCTV is terrifying.

          1. I enjoy “See No Evil”. So many of the crime formatted shows leave me with doubts regarding a guilty verdict, (Wozniak is one of those). CCTV cameras are the only fairly reliable ”eye-witness” to crime.
            However, I can see how persons could play to those same cameras in order to create false scenarios before actually committing a crime as well.

          2. We just had that same conversation in my house after watching the latest episode of “On the Case with Paula Zahn.”

  8. I would like to know if you were his friend before these crimes were committed or if you got to know him after?

    1. We did meet before the crimes were committed. However, we were just acquaintances at that point. We became friends during his time in the Orange County Jail.

  9. My choreographer reminded me I had cast Daniel in a musical about a year before the murders. We were trying to recall if he just didn’t show up for the read thru, or if he called and backed out. Leaning towards the former. I do know I had to quickly re-cast and had to work around his character for the first week of rehearsal.

    Turns out that was a good thing.

    1. Oh man, that would make me so mad if an actor did that. What show was it? What did you think when you heard that an OC actor had been arrested for murder?

  10. Ann Rule died in 2015 or 2016. She wrote books about the Pacific Northwest because that’s where she lived. Unfortunately, there was enough crime there to keep her busy writing. She also wrote books about several different areas of the country, including Orange County, Ca., called “If You Really Love Me.” So it wasn’t just the Pacific Northwest. Her realization that Ted Bundy, her friend whom she really liked, was a serial killer was so heartfelt. The reader feels her pain and sadness.

  11. I agree that it was hard to see him smiling. I understand that he is happy that he has someone there but I think of him cutting up a body and then coaxing an innocent woman somewhere knowing that he was going to kill her. It is disgusting.

    1. Ditto. Utterly disgusting. Horrific. I’d still like to know how he arrived at that plaice where he felt the need to kill and mutilate two innocent purportedly good and decent people.
      I don’t know we’ll ever know the answer to the “why” or ” how did you get to that place?”
      A good and thorough psychiatrist could answer that question, but that psychologist would have to interview many collatetal people, i.e. family members, friends, and that’s just a whole lot of work.

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