Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Three)

Lieutenant Ed Everett was the next witness for the prosecution.

I’m going to skip all the questioning about the case against Daniel Wozniak, and get right to the information related to Rachel’s charges.

Lieutenant Ed Everett For the Prosecution

When the police were on the hunt for Sam Herr, it was ATM activity in Long Beach that led them to Dan Wozniak. They hadn’t spoken with Wesley Freilich yet, but they knew Dan was the only Camden connection to Long Beach.

Detective Everett and his partner Lt. Keith Davis learned of an address associated with Dan and decided to check it out. When the detectives arrived, they thought the address was a business, not a residence. This is why they just walked in the door without knocking.

Lofty Livin’

Noah and Nate Buffett had converted a warehouse business into a loft (or faux-partment, as I like to call it). Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett happened to be visiting the Buffett brothers when Everett and Davis waltzed in the front door.

Dan and Rachel had lived there with Rachel’s brothers until the couple moved into the Camden Apartments three months earlier.  The faux-partment had become very crowded at that time, because the entire of the Buffett clan had all moved in there together.

For years previously, the Buffett family rented a lovely Seal Beach home from an elderly woman who went to their church. Out of the goodness of her heart, the woman only asked that the family pay the property taxes on the home.

When their generous landlady passed away, her son decided to sell the house. The Buffetts needed to move. This is when parents Dave and Marianne and their two youngest children decided to join Nate, Noah, Dan and Rachel in the faux-partment.

Interviews of Opportunity

The officers immediately realized their mistake, but finding Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett sitting on the sofa, they grabbed the opportunity to talk to them.

It seemed especially strange that Dan said, “How did you guys find me here?” the moment he saw the police in the doorway.

Dan requested to speak with the two detectives outside. The three of them stood about six feet away from the closed front door.

Shaking

According to Everett, Dan seemed extremely nervous and was shaking and trembling. He explained this was a result of pre-wedding jitters.

Remember: the police are searching for Sam Herr. Sam is the suspect in Julie’s murder.

Outside the faux-partment, Dan told the detectives he last saw Sam driving away with a third guy. Dan didn’t know the guy. He was Sam’s friend. Dan’s description was limited to “he was wearing a black baseball cap.”

Rachel Buffett popped her head out the door to check on her fiancée. Everett told her to go back inside and they would talk to her soon.

A Mis-Step?

When Rachel was questioned, she told the police her first and most problematic falsehood. Rachel also saw the guy with the black baseball cap. She told the detectives that Dan, Sam and the third man had been in her apartment on the afternoon of May 21.

She saw the three of them leave together. Rachel didn’t know the guy. He was Sam’s friend. And now Sam was missing.

Rachel Buffett didn’t seem the least bit nervous when talking to the two detectives. Both Everett and Davis testified that Dan was shaking and Rachel was calm. Is that proof Rachel was completely in the dark about Sam and Julie’s murders, or was she just a better liar than Dan?

It is interesting to note that the detectives say they were not planning to interview anyone when they walked in that door. This is their explanation of why there are no audio recordings of these particular conversations with Dan or Rachel. So the jury was expected to trust the memories and hand-written notes from conversations that happened over eight years ago.

Pencil Us In Between Tanning and Sushi

Lt. Everett continued his testimony, stating that neither Dan nor Rachel was very accommodating when it came to having an official interview with the police.

Dan explained he couldn’t go down to the station because he had his bachelor party later that evening. Rachel also had a bachelorette event, and had a tanning appointment set up.

The police thought it was very peculiar that Dan and Rachel wouldn’t bend over backwards to help solve the murder of their own friend.

Devil’s advocate side note: We know Daniel was avoiding being questioned because he was guilty.

Rachel’s defense attorney made some valid points about the amount of stress she was going through at that time. She was in her twenties and getting married the next day, so maybe she just wasn’t thinking clearly. Rachel did ask the detectives what “time they closed,” and she voluntarily showed up to be interviewed at the station around three AM.

Disney Princess Screen Test

At this point in Matt Murphy’s questioning of Detective Everett, he showed the jury extensive portions of Rachel’s police interview and sections of the interview with both Dan and Rachel together. Before starting the video, the jury members were each given a transcript of the interviews in case it was difficult to discern what was being said.

I wanted one of those transcripts so badly! For two people who were trained stage actors, Dan and Rachel were almost impossible to decipher. The stage director inside me wanted to yell, “Open your damn mouths and stop mumbling.”

I know, they weren’t on stage — they were being questioned about a murder — so those of us without transcripts missed at least fifty percent of what was being said on the videos.

Here is what I managed to get from the three AM solo interview of Rachel:

  • Rachel and Dan were stressed out because of money problems and wedding planning.
  • Dan’s parents told him if he married Rachel, he would be completely cut off financially.
  • On Friday, May 21, Dan and Rachel were trying to get some money to pay back a loan. They needed to pay it back by five PM.
  • Rachel was home all day on May 21.
  • Rachel didn’t know from whom Dan borrowed money (Chris Williams would contradict Rachel’s claims later, in his testimony). Dan did tell her he borrowed the money from someone Rachel knew.
  • Friday morning Dan was acting “really really weird,” and told Rachel he lied to her and he actually had borrowed money from “bad people,” and was afraid of getting his “legs broken” if he didn’t pay back the money by five PM.
  • Dan cashed some checks that were early wedding presents.
  • There was a lot of drug use at the Camden apartments. Ecstasy and crystal meth were both popular. Rachel “accidentally” tried crystal meth one time. Rachel didn’t know anyone from the Camden apartments who hadn’t used drugs and “half of the people at the pool were on E.”
  • Rachel and Julie had become friends over their mutual love of dance.
  • Julie seemed very excited about her new online boyfriend.
  • Julie occasionally hung out at Dan and Rachel’s apartment. She took a shower there at one point.
  • Rachel admitted she had probably been in Sam’s apartment in the past week.
  • Rachel suggested that Dan couldn’t remember who was in the car on Friday because Dan was very stressed out.

Betrayed by an Empathy Deficit?

Here is an interesting fact: While Jose Morales was interrogating Rachel in one room, Dan was being questioned in another.  Everett went back and forth between the two rooms, watching the video feed. He payed very careful attention to both Dan and Rachel and any changes or differences in their stories.

From an observer’s point of view (me) at that point, it seemed like the detectives didn’t suspect Rachel.

But when Everett threw out a prophetic theory to Rachel, “I think Sam is dead and Dan killed him,” her lack of emotional response made them wary of her.

“Why do you think that?” she asked calmly.

Right at that moment, I expected Everett to give a deadpan look directly to the camera (like Jim in The Office).

Time for lunch. I had a spinach salad.  

After lunch, Matt Murphy continued to question Detective Ed Everett as he showed video footage of Jose Morales questioning Rachel.

  • Rachel told Morales that she last saw Sam on Friday. Sam was driving Dan to the Liberty Theater so Dan could borrow money from the theatre’s director. (I had not heard this explanation before. In Dan’s interrogation, he stated that Sam was coming to help him move “stuff” in the attic.)
  • Rachel said that Sam suggested Dan join the Coast Guard.
  • Sam was not Dan and Rachel’s closest friend in the Camdens.
  • Sam had anger issues.
  • Even though Dan supposedly told Rachel he was teaching an insurance class on Saturday morning, she knew he actually showed up at the faux-partment during that time. Dan borrowed cutting tools and might have been driving Noah’s truck.

Barbara Stanwyk’s Got Nothing on Her

Lt. Everett and Jose Morales tried to get Rachel to understand the seriousness of this situation.

Everett: “Should you marry this guy?”

Rachel: “I can deal with heartache.”

Everett: “One day he might get insurance on you, and then you go missing.”

Rachel: “I don’t see Dan killing anyone. Is he telling you something he’s not telling me?”

On the video, Detective Everett asked Rachel about her sex life with Dan:

  • Yes, Rachel and Dan had an open sex life (sex with Dan isn’t “that awesome”).
  • No, Dan and Sam were not having a sexual relationship (even though “everyone jokes about Dan being gay”).

Rachel Buffett had some questions of her own during the interview.

She wanted to know if the police knew exactly when Julie Kibuishi had been murdered, and if Julie had also been raped. These questions raised the detectives’ suspicion. There had been no public mention that when Julie’s body was found, she’d appeared to have been sexually assaulted.

In the video, Rachel worried about telling her family, friends and neighbors about the accusations building up against Dan. Rachel couldn’t figure out how Dan would have the time to do anything without her knowing. The two of them were always together.

With regard to helping Sam avoid the police, Rachel guaranteed she wouldn’t risk spending fifteen years of her life in jail to help someone she’d just met.

Rachel was concerned about the arrest of her brother Noah. She was told that Noah had given some false information to the police early on in the investigation, but they had no evidence to prove Noah was involved in Julie’s murder or Sam’s disappearance.

The video was stopped and Judge Hanson gave us our afternoon break.

I noticed that Rachel’s dad, David Buffett, had his face in his hands. It was the first time I saw stress in someone in Rachel’s family. If the members of the “blonde coalition” were worried about Rachel’s fate, they usually did a very good job of hiding it.

When court resumed around 3:11 PM, DA Matt Murphy continued his questioning of Detective Everett.

Video Testimony Continues

Now the jury would see video of Dan Wozniak telling Rachel Buffett what he’d confessed to the detectives. I’m guessing the jury was grateful for the written transcripts, because it was impossible to understand a word that Dan said on that video.

This was when Dan claimed to be accessory to murder, and Everett was giving Dan the opportunity to come clean with his presumably unaware fiancée.

Not a Wet Eye in the House

At one point, the detective offered Rachel a box of tissues, but put them away when he realized there were no tears to dab. On the video, Rachel showed a complete lack of emotion upon hearing the “truth” that her betrothed helped Sam get away after the vet murdered Julie.

The interview footage was grainy and wrought with audio problems. Still, it was obvious those detectives didn’t believe Dan and Rachel were telling the truth about the whereabouts of Sam Herr or the details of Julie’s murder.

Defense Cross-Examination

It was time for defense attorney David Medina to question Lt. Everett.

Medina wasn’t going to add any more weight to the importance of the interrogation videos. He asked the detective if there were other videos of Rachel being questioned, and Everett acknowledged there were probably around fifty more videos the jury didn’t see.

The Vanishing Third Man

Medina asked Everett about the informal interviews that took place outside of the faux-partment. The jury was reminded that the detectives were relying solely on their memories, as they did not record the conversations. Medina also pointed out that Rachel may have overheard what Dan told the police about a third man, and she didn’t mean to say she actually saw a third man herself.

When Rachel appeared on the Dr. Phil show, she gave an interesting explanation of how she made that mistake.

Defense attorney David Medina ended his questioning of Detective Everett with the suggestion that Rachel only asked about Julie Kibuishi being raped was because Dan had told her Sam “wanted to have sex” with Julie during one of their jail phone calls.

Lieutenant Keith Davis Corroborates

Lt. Keith Davis was the next witness up, and he wasn’t on the stand very long.

Lt. Davis was Detective Everett’s partner in 2010. His role in the trial was to corroborate Everett’s memories of the informal interviews that happened outside the faux-partment.

Medina got Davis to admit he’d reviewed his notes about that day for the first time just before the trial started.

Matt Murphy came back with a statement about how there were so few brutal homicides in the city of Costa Mesa, the detectives remembered the details of this case quite clearly.  Lt. Davis agreed.

Next Time: Chris Williams Takes the Stand

The next witness was Chris Williams. He was Rachel’s alibi for the murder of Sam Herr, and a witness to some very odd behavior from Dan and Rachel on the weekend of the murders. I’ll cover him in part four.

10 thoughts on “Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Three)”

  1. You are doing an awesome job covering this trial! I wish there was more stuff like this available about interesting trials. Keep it up and don’t keep us waiting too long, please! Also, I cannot wait until your book comes out!

  2. Rachel’s explaination of asking if Julie had been raped confused me. She stated she only asked about Julie being raped because Dan had told her Sam “wanted to have sex” with Julie during one of their jail phone calls?
    Didn’t she ask this question when she and Dan were being interrogated in separate rooms – BEFORE DAN HAD BEEN ARRESTED?
    Since we’ve established Rachel is not truthful, im not sure if this another lie or if I’m confused on the timing of when she actually asked this question?

    1. It’s very confusing. I believe The DA and the police thought it was suspicious that Rachel asked about Julie possibly being raped. They were suggesting she only asked about that because she KNEW that’s how Julie was staged.

      During the trials they show bits and pieces of clip and such out of order. I’m not positive of the timing, but I think Rachel did get to speak with Dan in person before she was questioned. At that point, Dan had only confessed to “helping Sam” get away. I think that is when he said “Sam wanted sex” from Julie.
      Doesn’t it seem like Dan and Rachel were trying to get their stories straight right there in front of the police?

  3. Brilliant journalism. The ‘scene by scene’ descriptions are chilling & real. The finest criminal literary works since ‘In Cold Blood’.

  4. I don’t understand your reference to Barbara Stanwyk. What does that mean? Have you followed Linda’s podcast? She has an interview with Rachel’s ex-boyfriend Scott Erhedt.

    1. I have been listening to the podcast. I find it fascinating. We’ll leave it to that for now. I especially appreciate that I can use the podcast to check my trial notes.

      The interview with Scott Erhedt was like a visit to a mental chiropractor. I had so much information about Rachel that seemed completely unbelievable, and that interview put everything in alignment for me.

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