I thought you might be interested in a quick update on Rachel Buffett’s trial.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend Rachel’s most recent hearing on February 9th, 2018. I was at a funeral that morning. Priorities.
I had a strong feeling nothing extremely important would happen that day. It was a Friday, and there was no way her actual trial would begin on a Friday. Also, she was still assigned to the same courtroom as she’d been for her previous hearings.
Side note: How’s this for a coincidence? The last time I did go to one of Rachel’s hearings, I discovered that the judge was a friend of mine. Our kids went to school together. Small world.
Please note – I did NOT attempt to discuss the case with her, and she’s not going to be Rachel’s trial judge.
Currently, the Orange County Superior Court search site has Rachel scheduled to appear in court on March 13th. That, my friends, is a Tuesday. This “pre-trial” hearing has been assigned to a different courtroom from before. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but these signs do point to some forward movement.
I’m planning to be in court as much as possible. It’s amazing how long it’s taken to get Rachel’s case to trial. Think about this for second; Daniel is already on death row. He has been found guilty of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. Yet, the woman who is only charged with lying about the murders after the fact still hasn’t faced justice. It would appear that the DA is the reason for the extension this time.
It won’t be a surprise to any of the blog readers when my book explores the allegation that Rachel Buffett was completely involved in Sam and Julie’s murders and their attempted cover-up. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m guessing none of the information I’ve been given could be used against Rachel in court anyway. Isn’t that hearsay?
I’m hoping that Rachel’s trial will contain some evidence to either prove or disprove Daniel’s version of events.
Writing a book takes a lot of work. It’s time consuming. And this story is often emotionally painful to convey. In a perfect world, I’d have finished my book and told Daniel’s story (then I could just sit around binging the podcast My Favorite Murder all day) long before Rachel Buffett’s actual trial. Oh well. It’s not a perfect world. Now back to work for me.
By the way, a recent commenter suggested that Rachel Buffett’s name is spelled with one “t” like Buffet. The OC courts spell her name with two “t”s, but if Rachel would prefer I spell her name differently, she is welcome to message me through the blog or the Facebook page with that request.
“She was my best friend. My only friend when you come to think of it; simply because I let no one in… Deep down I had a very low sense of self-esteem… God delivered me an angel… There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her (even to this day if you can believe it). She was still part of my life for my first 3 months of incarceration – then I must have done something idiotically stupid…” — from Daniel’s first letter to me, August 31, 2014
It was the summer of 2010, and Daniel Wozniak had a problem.
Well, in fact he had several problems, not the least being his recent incarceration. Dan was sitting in the Orange County Jail facing charges of double murder.
He’d admitted to shooting his upstairs neighbor, Sam Herr, a 26-year-old college student and Army combat veteran. Dan claimed his motive was money. He had plans to clean out Herr’s rather sizable bank account. Dan told the Costa Mesa police that he also cut off Sam’s head and arms in a pathetic attempt to hide Sam’s identity.
Daniel Wozniak also revealed that he’d murdered Sam Herr’s close friend and tutor, 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi, inside Sam’s apartment. The plan was to frame Sam and make it look like he was on the run instead of missing.
Daniel had confessed to all of that. He was locked up in jail, and he was facing the death penalty.
But in August of 2010, what kept Dan up at night were thoughts of his (former) fiancée, Rachel Buffett, and how she’d recently ceased all communication with him.
The couple was supposed to be married the previous May, but Dan’s confession and subsequent incarceration derailed all plans for a romantic beachside wedding. Still, Dan was genuinely surprised when Rachel stopped writing, visiting and accepting his collect phone calls from jail. In fact, he was downright worried about her, and determined to figure out why Rachel had cut off all contact.
A month before, in July, the TV show Lockup was trolling for willing interviewees among the prisoners at the Orange County Jail. Daniel’s attorneys had warned him that the show’s producer would be on his tier and he should turn down any request to do an interview. That is exactly what he did.
Soon after, Daniel was moved over to the Main Jail (aka “the dog kennels”). Quickly, he noticed that the dayroom for D-MOD, his current home, actually had two telephones accessible to the inmates during their out-of-cell time: the usual phone for collect calls, and another, non-collect, phone available to inmates who were acting as their own lawyers (Pro-Per), or had special request documents from their attorneys allowing them access to non-collect calls. Phone time was also given to inmates as a “reward” for helping the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in some fashion.
Since Rachel Buffett had stopped accepting his collect calls, Dan coveted an opportunity to use that non-collect phone. After all, maybe Rachel was just short on funds and couldn’t afford to pay for the calls… (Or a stamp? She’d stopped writing as well).
Lockup To The Rescue?
Daniel was returning to his cell after a visit with his parents one day, and lo and behold, the same Lockup film crew was looking around his new tier in D-Mod.
Daniel wrote to me, “The same producer lady, Suzanne Ali, made eye contact and said, ‘I know you!’ I smiled and kept on walking right past them back to my cell. A couple minutes later, my door opens and I’m asked to return back to the rotunda area (from where I had just come)…”
This time, Suzanne Ali seemed more determined to convince Daniel to speak with her on camera. It seemed to Dan that Ali was buttering him up. She talked about how his case was “high profile,” and this could be Dan’s chance to “get his story out.” (This was the first of many times Daniel would be offered that same opportunity by a TV producer.)
He wasn’t interested, but he “jokingly” asked Ali if he could “get paid for doing it.”
Suzanne Ali said Lockup couldn’t offer anything. And then the officer who was escorting the crew spoke up, and threw out a couple of options to convince Dan to agree to be on the TV program. (Daniel suspects this deputy was a member of the special handling unit involved in the Orange County Snitch Scandal, and was purposefully trying to get him to incriminate himself on camera).
So, readers… you can probably already see where this is going. Yup, Daniel agreed to be interviewed, but only if he could have access to the dayroom “free” phone.
First, he had to keep up his end of the bargain. Dan signed a waiver, was immediately put in restraints, and walked over to an open MOD in the main Women’s jail. The crew filmed him on the way (wearing his flood-length jail pants that looked like they came from the “Huck Finn” collection).
On the way over, Daniel couldn’t help wondering how angry this was going to make his attorney, Scott Sanders. (The answer to that: VERY).
The thing is, Dan had never heard of the show LockUp before they came into his MOD. He thought it was like a local cable access show with a very small viewing audience, and for whatever nutty reason, he thought it was a show to teach kids how to “follow the rules” or they could end up in jail like him.
He thought LockUp was like a combination “After School Special” and Scared Straight.
The group arrived at the filming area and the crew set up two chairs where Daniel and the Ali would sit during the interview. DDan was asked to do a sound check.
Way To Read The Room
Daniel Wozniak had been deeply involved in community theatre before his arrest. He’s done numerous sound checks in his life. Remember, Daniel and I met through theatre. As a director, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an actor say “testies…testicles…” into a microphone. It is commonplace to kid around during tech setup in the theatre world. So, Daniel Wozniak, a man who regularly turns to humor when he is in an uncomfortable situation, smiled and looked into the TV camera and quipped:
I want people to know that I’m a good guy. I’m easy going. I enjoy long walks on the beach. I’m an Aries.
And that sound check became the introduction to Daniel’s Lockup interview.
It was a completely inappropriate time for a lame joke. That bad is on him and he knows it.
Daniel Wozniak Describes His Lockup Interview
Here is how Daniel explains what happened next:
Ali goes over the format and what I should expect. She assures me that I’m going to be “running the show” and I won’t have to answer or talk about certain topics or specific details (if I don’t want to)… I reminded her that due to the fact that I hadn’t had a trial yet, I couldn’t go into details regarding the case itself – and to respectfully avoid those questions. I said I wanted to focus on the jail and the experience within… She agreed that would be a good “starting point.”
For the first 10 minutes or so, Ali asked me various questions about my life in jail and I gave my answers (At least 95% of which never made the final edit)… Then she starts broaching into my case (trying to get me to talk about it). I respectfully say that “I can’t comment on that at this time.” She returns to something more neutral but then jogs back to the case within the next couple of questions. For the first few times I’m calm, cool and collected when responding, “I can’t talk about that,” but the pattern continues and the two of us are becoming more and more frustrated. She keeps asking the same questions, and I won’t answer her.
Then Ali becomes like a detective – instead of asking me questions, she begins telling me some of the “facts” that are out there and wanting me to comment or explain. Since I say I can’t talk about the details, she asks me how I “feel” about some of the elements of the crime:
Are you happy that Sam and Julie are dead?
If this was the plan, are you pleased with how it turned out?
What are your feelings toward Sam and Julie – were they your friends?
She started flipping some of my own answers on me:
What would motivate you to kill two people when you say you have no reason and had nothing against them?
The questions kept coming and coming and I was approaching a breaking point… I told her “I don’t remember,” and “I’m not aware of what has been said.” So she asks me if I know what the newspapers are writing and people are saying about me. When I say “no” she gets one of her crew members to pull up a couple of articles for me to read… and he hands me his phone.
The articles that dude pulled up on his phone weren’t the basic informative New York Times style of articles. These were readers comments and what they had to say about the case and me. Reading one after the other, after the other, etc. – was not something I was ready for, especially when I was already at my “breaking point.” The emotion hit me like a tidal wave… water streamed out of my eyes and I couldn’t turn off the damn valve and make it stop! Complete and utter MELTDOWN. They had broken me and they knew it. At which point the interview was over.
Ultimately Ali didn’t get the story she wanted and I’ve always suspected she was pissed off about it and edited the episode to make me look as bad as humanly possible.
Not So Ready For His Close Up
If that was Suzanne Ali’s goal, she was damn successful. Let’s be honest here: The viewing audience didn’t feel sorry for Dan at all. This was a guy who had confessed to murdering two people.
When I watched the show the first time, I thought Dan was acting for the camera the entire time. and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t believe his tears at all. But really, after the confession, any words out of his mouth would make him look bad. The only way to avoid the problem would have been to not do the interview. That’s something Daniel Wozniak learned from his Lockup experience – don’t do interviews.
When Daniel and the crew got back to the “dog kennels,” the camera man asked about day to day life inside the OC Jail. That’s when they filmed Daniel shaving and creating culinary masterpieces. When the cell shots were finished, it was finally Daniel’s chance to reap the rewards of going though all that emotional turmoil. It was time to go into the dayroom and call Rachel Buffett on the non-collect phone!
Time To Call Rachel!
Just before leaving, someone from Lockup asked Daniel if they could return and film one of his visits as well. There was no way Daniel’s very private parents would agree to be on camera. And even though she hadn’t spoken to him in a couple of weeks, Dan Wozniak thought he might just as well ask Rachel Buffett if she would be willing to be on the show.
Dan dialed Rachel’s number and after a couple of rings she answered the phone. From Dan’s telling, the call went something like this:
Dan: Well hello to you too. Where the hell have you been?
Rachel: How are you calling me?
Dan: Just filmed an episode of Lockup and I got some free phone calls. Oh and by the way, the crew is still here and they were wondering if you want to be filmed visiting me.
Dan: Can you come visit and be filmed for Lockup?
Rachel: No! Are you an idiot?
Dan: So I’ve been told.
Rachel: Why did you agree to do that??
Dan: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because someone wasn’t answering her phone when I called.
Rachel: So you go on a TV show?
Dan: It was the only way I could talk to you.
Rachel: No. Dan. I’m sorry but this is not a good time. I really have to go. Can you call back later?
(Was she washing her hair??)
Dan: ummm I assume so.
Rachel: Ok, call me back later.
Dan: Just to be clear, that’s a “no” to visiting, right?
Rachel: Goodbye Dan.
Is anyone surprised that Rachel didn’t answer the phone when Dan called back?
Readers! I have a special surprise for you! One of you (thanks, Isadora!) discovered that the episode of Lockupis available for your viewing pleasure. It is now listed as “Facing the Death Penalty.” Here it is!
Hi readers. I apologize for the lengthy breaks between blog posts. I’m working on the book. It’s the holiday season. And, truth be told, there isn’t much to blog about in terms of Daniel’s case right now.
Originally, I planned to write a post all about the three-week long extended lockdown that took place in San Quentin State Prison this past September. In California prisons, a lockdown means inmates are locked in their cells twenty-four hours a day (this is probably twice as difficult for the prisoners who have cellies). For the duration of the lockdown, no visits or phone calls are allowed, and all classes and activities are suspended.
This topic seemed like the most noteworthy recent event in Daniel Wozniak’s life. But it wasn’t really a Daniel story, per se, so I put it off to write the last blog post, “It Worked for the Other Guy,“ about the major ruling in the Scott Dekraai case and the numerous connections to Daniel and his own trial.
While I was working on the Dekraai post, I asked Daniel to write me a letter describing what it was like for him during those three weeks being locked in a cell twenty-four hours a day.
However, we must have had a slight miscommunication issue. A week later, I received a detailed and interesting six-page typed letter from Daniel, but it was all about how he came to do an interview for the TV show Lockup six months after his arrest. Daniel wrote about being manipulated by the show’s producers and how his words were edited to make him look even more evil than he could have imagined.
Lockup, Lock down: It’s an honest mistake.
When I talked to Daniel after receiving his letter, I explained the whole “Lock down” vs “up” situation. He said he’d write me another letter, but pointed out that that being locked up all day, and having no visitors, calls, or classes, was the extent of the story. That’s why he thought I wanted information about his appearance on the TV show.
So, I’m afraid I won’t be blogging about the lockdown at SQ in this post. I’m sure I’ll revisit the topic at some point.
If you’ve been following Daniel Wozniak’s case for a while, you may have already watched the MSNBC Lockup Extended Stay: Orange County – Unholy Trinity episode that aired in 2011. If you haven’t seen Daniel Wozniak’s one and only on-camera interview, then I’m sorry to say you might have difficulty finding it now. It appears that two of the “unholy trinity” have been edited out of the show. The interviews with Jason Russell Richardson (aka “The Home Depot killer”) and Daniel are no longer part of the program in any of the versions I can find online. I don’t know about Richardson, but there’s still a bunch of legal controversy surrounding the show and Daniel’s case, so perhaps that is an explanation.
Nonetheless, I luckily had the full episode saved on my TiVo, so I was able watch it again before I wrote this post.
I first saw the Lockup episode when it originally aired six months after Daniel’s arrest. Orange County theatre people had been texting each other about how Wozniak was going to be on Lockup. At that point, I barely knew Daniel. I hadn’t started writing to him (or about him) yet. He was only that “actor from Nine who killed two people.” I couldn’t imagine what he would actually say in an interview.
Like everyone else, I’d read that Daniel confessed to murdering Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. But I’m a true-crime junkie, and I knew confessions are not necessarily the end of a story. I had met this man. I’d joked around backstage with him. I’d watched him perform on the stage of my theatre home.
Could that guy really have murdered two innocent people? Did I shake a hand that cut off a man’s head?
Doesn’t He Get It?
I had an open mind when I started watching that show, and then I saw Daniel Wozniak smiling into the camera and saying…
“I want people to know that I’m a good guy. I’m easy going. I enjoy long walks on the beach. I’m an Aries.”
Ummm what did he just say??
“I want people to know that I’m a good guy. I’m easy going. I enjoy long walks on the beach. I’m an Aries.”
Dude! You are on Lockup! This is not an E-Harmony website!
Daniel Wozniak was off to a very bad start. I thought he must just be joking around. He couldn’t possibly think anyone cared about his astrological sign or the outdoor activities he used to enjoy.
And seriously, if you want people to think you’re a “good guy,” you probably shouldn’t commit murder. Just sayin’.
Next up, Dan gave the camera crew a tour of his humble abode: “Here is my sink. Here is my toilet.”
It wasn’t a long tour – his sink and toilet were one and the same.
Good Eats: Orange County Jail Edition
When Daniel’s lunch was delivered (in a paper bag), he gave a food preparation demonstration in his cell. His lunch included a small container of carrots and a hard-boiled egg. Daniel explained how a clever convict could first eat the carrots, and then take the egg and some mayonnaise (lunch included an abundance of those little fast food mayo packets) and make egg salad in the now empty container.
That online dating video was getting more impressive by the minute.
There were shots of Daniel shaving with a tiny razor, footage of him on an escalator being escorted by a guard, and images of him sitting on his bunk. At one point, Daniel even read one of his favorite Bible verses for the audience.
Acting Oblivious? Or Just Oblivious?
When producer Suzanne Ali started asking Daniel questions about his case, he tried to avoid the topic. Daniel acted like he didn’t even know exactly what his own charges were. “They said I murdered two people. They said I dismembered one of them.”
Daniel talked about Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. How they were both great people, terrific friends, and would help anyone at any time.
It was clear to me that Dan Wozniak was attempting to perform for the camera. When he continued to claim ignorance about the details of his crimes, someone on the crew pulled out a cellphone and brought up some articles for Daniel to read.
As the camera zoomed in on the side of his face, Daniel scanned the phone screen. Seemingly overwhelmed with emotion, he started to cry. Even though he’d confessed to committing these crimes months earlier, we viewers were supposed to accept that Dan Wozniak was shocked to learn what was being written about him.
By the end of the show, I was completely convinced that Daniel Wozniak was a fake and a liar. Hell, maybe he didn’t even like long walks on the beach.
Up Next: Was Daniel Wozniak “Produced” by Lockup?
But in part two of this post, I’m going to give you Daniel’s explanation of how Lockup managed to make him look even worse than he already did, and why he even agreed to the interview in the first place.
I’ll give you a hint: it was all about talking to Rachel Buffet.
A Rachel Buffet Update
Speaking of Rachel – I attended her court hearing on November 28th. Technically she now has a trial date set for Feb 9, 2018. However, she still has a TRC (Trial Readiness Conference) scheduled for January 19th, so a lot can still happen before Rachel Buffett faces a jury. Fingers crossed, though.
I know I promised a post about the recent San Quentin State Prison lockdown, but I’m putting that on the back burner for a bit so I can discuss a major ruling recently made by Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals in the case of the People v. Scott Dekraai.
Who Is Scott Dekraai?
Scott Evans Dekraai has the dubious honor of being the worst mass shooter in Orange County’s history.
On Oct 12, 2011, he walked into a Seal Beach hair salon and gunned down nine employees, patrons, and a bystander outside. Eight of the victims died in the attack, which Dekraai claimed was motivated by his anger over a child custody battle with his ex-wife. She had been one of the stylists at the salon, and died there.
As with Daniel Wozniak five months earlier, the Orange County District Attorney’s office sought the death penalty against Dekraai.
There would end up being many more similarities between the Wozniak and Dekraai cases, the most important being their shared attorney: Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.
The Wozniak – Dekraai Connection
Sanders would discover some troubling “coincidences” as he prepared to defend his two high-profile clients.
It turned out that while being housed at the Orange County Jail, both men had openly spoken about their criminal activities to another inmate. And this same inmate was, out of the goodness of his heart, willing to testify against Wozniak and Dekraai.
Attorney Scott Sanders didn’t buy it. He started digging into the background of this convenient informant, and ended up discovering a hidden system where inmates were cultivated and then rewarded for getting other inmates to incriminate themselves.
The Orange County Snitch Scandal
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office denied the existence of an informant program. The Orange County DA’s Office claimed no knowledge of such a program, and denied ever using any of the information gleaned from inmates. However, through the Wozniak and Dekraai cases, Scott Sanders brought what was to become known as the infamous Orange County Snitch Scandal to the light of day.
The Orange County Weekly journalist R. Scott Moxley has written numerous outstanding articles on the jailhouse informant controversy / snitch scandal. I highly recommended checking out all his work on the subject, especially a recent cover story about Scott Sanders.
The simplified version: the Orange County Sheriffs had their own “snitches” inside the jail trying to dig up dirt on prisoners, without those prisoners’ knowledge, or attorney consent.
That is illegal.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “That’s nothing compared to the crimes committed by Wozniak or Dekraai.”
True. No doubt about it. But through his research, Sanders discovered this infringement on inmate rights had gone on for decades in Orange County. These sneaky tactics had been used over and over again, but most cases don’t have as much damning evidence as was available in Dekraai’s or Daniel’s.
Sanders Files Motions
Defense attorney Scott Sanders wrote long, detailed, and example-laden motions for each of his clients. The one for Daniel’s case was over seven hundred pages long. The Dekraai motion was over five hundred pages. With these motions, Sanders requested hearings on the legality of having a death penalty sentence in two cases that were so tainted with misconduct on the part of the Orange County justice system.
Judge Thomas Goethals, who presided over the Scott Dekraai case, read the lengthy motion submitted by Sanders and agreed to a hearing.
On a side note, Scott Dekraai actually pled guilty to eight counts of murder back in 2014, before all the informant scandal brouhaha. Scott Sanders wasn’t attempting to get either of his clients released. Dekraai’s guilt was not in question. The issue was how he would be punished.
When Dekraai’s case was handed over to the Attorney General’s office in 2015, it was presumed the death penalty would be dropped.
That’s not what happened.
The Dekraai Decision
Finally, Judge Goethals shocked everyone on August 18, 2017, when he ruled that Scott Evans Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the history of Orange County, would no longer be eligible to receive the death penalty. Instead, Goethals sentenced Dekraai to “eight consecutive sentences without the possibility of parole.”
Family members of Dekraai’s victims had mixed reactions. There had been a desire to see this killer face the ultimate punishment, but there was also a sense of relief to have the trial over. But a question remained: would those responsible for the illegal informant program be punished for their own crimes? Judge Goethals stated when handing down Dekraai’s sentence, “No individual or agency is above the law.”
Read the Ruling
I’ve attached the nineteen-page ruling by Judge Goethals – which is more interesting than you’d think – but if you don’t want to read it, it basically states that taking away the death penalty was his method of punishing the OCDA for wrongdoings (“Sanctions related to ongoing discovery abuse.”)
Goethals clearly wasn’t happy about having to make this choice. From the ruling:
If this case had been prosecuted from the onset by the Orange County District Attorney within the most fundamental parameters of prosecutorial propriety this defendant would likely today be living alongside other convicted killers on California’s Death Row in the state prison at San Quentin.
And the Wozniak Decision?
That brings us back to my friend Daniel Wozniak, who has been living on death row for a year now.
Judge John D. Conley, who was presiding over Daniel’s case, received Scott Sanders’ 754-page motion, but somehow didn’t find it convincing enough to even grant a hearing on the question of prosecutorial misconduct.
Where Judge Goethals saw egregious behavior on the part of the Orange County Sheriff and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Judge Conley detected no infringement on Daniel Wozniak’s constitutional rights.
I have to say though; Judge Conley must have seen some similarities in the two cases because during Daniel’s trial, Conley once accidentally referred to him as “Daniel Patrick Dekraai.”
Look I’m no “Rocket Lawyer” (“Lawyer Scientist?”), but it sure looks like Daniel will have some major, taxpayer funded, appeals coming his way specifically because of Judge Conley’s refusal to hold a hearing about the use of illegal informants.
I heard (and read) Matt Murphy’s repeated claims that the prosecution wasn’t planning to use any of its illegally obtained information during Daniel’s trial, so nobody’s rights were violated.
Rachel and Tim are Charged… A Consequence of Informant Info?
Although, two years after the crime, and soon after Daniel’s contact with the snitch, the OCDA arrested and filed charges against Rachel Buffett and Daniel’s brother, Tim.
They found out some new information… somewhere…
Even if the Orange County District Attorney learned absolutely nothing from the OC Sheriffs to “use against” Daniel Wozniak during his trial, they still violated his rights. Judge Goethals didn’t need to see the District Attorney’s office use illegally obtained information against Scott Dekraai before he decided to punish the DA by taking away the death penalty.
The Future For Wozniak and Dekraai
Right now, Daniel is on death row, and Scott Dekraai will be heading to a maximum-security prison for his eight life terms without parole. We can assume both men will die behind bars.
But with over seven hundred death row inmates ahead of him, there is a very low likelihood Daniel will ever be executed by the state of California. There will be a lot of money spent on him before he, one day, dies of natural causes.
Maybe there are family members of Dekraai’s victims who are livid that their murderer escaped the death penalty.
During the punishment phase of Daniel’s trial, we heard gut wrenching testimony from the loved ones of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. There was no doubt they wanted Daniel Wozniak to die in San Quentin (sooner rather than later). Sam’s dad, Steve, called Daniel the “poster child” for the need to have a death penalty in California. So, maybe it gives the families a tiny bit of relief from their misery imagining Daniel living “under the threat” of death every day. If so, that seems as good a reason as any for Daniel to be on death row.
I suspect Daniel will spend quite a few years in his current location, but will eventually have his death penalty overturned on appeal.
Don’t stress out though. He’ll still die behind bars. Just not with a view of San Francisco Bay.
More Articles About Goethals and the Dekraai Sentencing
I wanted to check in with you guys and let you know I have been busy writing the book. It means a lot to me when commenters say they are looking forward to reading it. I wish I could write it faster. It would nice to have all the time in the world to work on it. It will be done, though… I promise.
Killing for You
I know there was another book recently released about Daniel Wozniak and the brutal murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. It’s called Killing for You, by Keith Elliot Greenberg.
Have any of you read it yet? I plan to. I’m writing more than I’m reading these days, but I did buy it for my bio-mom. She said, “It’s written well,” but his style, “isn’t very exciting.” Also, she didn’t learn anything new about Daniel or the case. In Greenberg’s defense, she does have some insider knowledge.
The Author’s Visit
During Daniel’s Wozniak’s first year of incarceration at the Orange County Jail, Keith Elliot Greenberg contacted him about writing a true-crime book. Mr. Greenberg did not make a great first impression with Daniel when he showed up one day, without warning, during Daniel’s visiting time at the OC Jail. Daniel was brought in for his visit expecting to see his mom and dad, and instead saw this “Jim Henson look-alike” waiting for him.
Reporters are supposed to go through a specific process to visit with inmates. They are expected to identify themselves and, if an inmate agrees to be interviewed, the reporter will not take up regular visiting time. Sometimes a writer hopes to surprise an inmate and perhaps catch him off guard.
Daniel suspected this was the case with Keith Greenberg and immediately ended the visit. He told Mr. Greenberg to go back to check in and tell them Daniel Wozniak had refused to talk to him.
Killing for You is not going to give you any insights into Daniel’s motive or his account of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. However, Mr. Greenberg most likely had a great deal of access to the friends and loved ones of Julie and Sam. That’s the part of the story where I’m sadly lacking, and maybe Keith Greenberg’s book will give me some insight.
What To Expect From My Book
As for my book, well you’ve probably already figured out it is not going to be a typical true crime book. I am going to piss some people off, and hurt some people emotionally. I don’t take this fact lightly.
Maybe that’s why I’m so slow to finish my book. Plenty of people will read it and call me (well…Daniel Wozniak) a total liar. It will be up to you what you choose to believe in this story, but I’m guessing many of you will, as I do, find Daniel’s explanations to be believable…
My book will not try to convince you that Daniel isn’t a murderer. My friend is a murderer. I understand and accept that fact. There is nothing that can be done to change that. But I’m also going to try to show you there’s more to Daniel Wozniak than the worst thing he ever did, and that he was found guilty of some crimes he did not commit.
Who (Else?) Done It?
“But Murderer Musings, if Daniel didn’t do something, then who did?”
“Good question, Clever Reader. But you know I’m not going to tell you that in the blog. That’s for the book.”
I have to admit; you readers are coming up with some pretty accurate scenarios with your comments. I’m impressed.
My daughter is binge watching Game of Thrones. She wants to be caught up before the final season airs. I’ve been watching from the beginning and know everything that’s happened up to now. When she talks to me about episodes from early seasons, and makes predictions about the future of the show’s characters, I’m not allowed to say anything in response. I can’t even make a facial expression because she’s worried I’m somehow going to give something away.
This is the same reason I don’t answer your questions about motive, and the possible involvement of other people in this crime.
Readers often comment on the blog and Facebook page that my writing isn’t “objective.”
Objective (of a person or their judgment) – Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
I might as well just set this straight right now: My book will not be objective. It will most definitely be influenced by my own personal feelings and opinions. I’m also completely aware that Daniel could be lying to me about everything.
Has he possibly stretched the truth or misremembered a piece of the story? Maybe. But I think he’s been truthful with me. You guys will have to read and judge that for yourself.
The ultimate truth is, Sam and Julie are dead. Neither of them did anything to deserve being murdered. That, I do know. There is nothing that can bring them back or stop the pain felt by the Herr and Kibuishi families. I also don’t believe they’ve received all the justice they deserve.
By the way, it appears Rachel Buffett’s trial (accessory to murder after the fact) has been pushed back to October sixth, 2017.
To answer another common comment: I am definitely going to reveal my identity when the book is published. Not that it’s such a big deal, but at this point I might just as well wait and spill that information when I spill everything else.
Hey, if you’re a podcast listener, I highly recommend checking out Ear Hustle. It’s from inmates in San Quentin. It’s not from death row, it’s the mainline, but it’s a great podcast. It’s funny, touching and informative.
In the next post, I’ll tell you all about the recent nearly three-week long lock down at San Quentin (which they mentioned on Ear Hustle).
After all the inconveniences during my Saturday visit, I was determined to avoid any issues on Sunday. I didn’t bring a toothbrush. I left my Fitbit in the car (which meant losing so many precious steps), and I wore pants!
On a side note – I showed some friends the dress that caused me trouble on Saturday. One of them said, “Add another inch to that dress and you could be Amish.”
Nonetheless, I wasn’t going to argue with the San Quentin prison guards about my dress length. So I decided to wear a pair of simple Old Navy capris pants to the second visit. They are black with white polka-dots. I’ve worn them to volunteer at the student store for my kid’s middle school. Imagine Audrey Hepburn’s style circa 1962.
Well, it turns out my body type is a little more “all about that bass” than Audrey’s.
It took three guards to confirm that my curves are a security risk (thank you?), and they were seriously not going to let me go in for the visit. I was genuinely surprised and horribly embarrassed.
Often there is a visitors’ assistance group on hand to loan clothing in these situations, but they were not open that Sunday.
One guard asked me if I knew where Target was. I told him I didn’t know where anything was.
You guys know I have a terrible sense of direction.
I started to think about other clothes I had back at the hotel. Since I’d only packed for the weekend, I didn’t have a lot of extra stuff. I knew I had a pair of jeans, but denim is on the no-wear list.
“Do you have any emergency clothes in your car?” asked Target-suggestion guard.
I had to tell him I didn’t.
“It’s pretty common for visitors to keep extra clothes in the car,” he continued. “Why don’t you ask the other women if someone can loan you a skirt or something?”
So I walked back into the main waiting area and made an announcement/request to everyone in the room. A woman near the end of the line held up her hand and said, “Yeah. I think I have something. What size are you?”
“Medium? Like size six?”
She walked me out to her car and dug around in the backseat. Then she tossed me a white skirt (with a built-in slip) and told me to try it on. I put it on over my pants and we went back to the check-in building. In my opinion, a white skirt is more attention grabbing than black pants, but the extra layer of clothing got me approved for the visit.
I asked the woman how I could get the skirt back to her, and she told me to just keep it because her visit was going to end before mine.
I thanked her profusely and made a mental note to keep extra clothes in my car. Maybe one day I can pay it forward and help out another visitor with a wardrobe malfunction.
The woman who rescued me was named Angel. Seriously. How perfect is that?
Angel, if you end up reading this one day; thank you for literally “saving my butt.”
Why The Extra Concern That Weekend?
Daniel broke into laughter as soon as he spied my bizarre ensemble. He was pretty sure he knew why there was so much extra security that weekend when it came to female wardrobes.
Remember that screaming and belligerent inmate who had been dragged past Daniel’s cell early Saturday morning mentioned in my last post? Daniel had heard through the prison grapevine that inmate had been enjoying some oral gratification from his female visitor. Unfortunately for the “trying to be happy” couple, there was a mom with her young child visiting in the next cage, so the amorous activities were reported and halted immediately.
Daniel and I conversed while eating fruit cups and “calorie free” ice cream. He was in a chipper mood.
He introduced me to an inmate in a nearby cage. The two of them talked about another inmate who is a suspected snitch.
The topic of jailhouse informants is still prevalent in Daniel’s life. Even though the Orange County informant scandal didn’t have any specific relevance for his own case, he believes a lot of important information came out during his trial that can help other inmates find justice.
Does Thou Not Protest Enough..?
Daniel regularly explains to me that he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on having a fulfilling life. He tells me he’s content. There are so many people on this planet without even the basic necessities, whereas Daniel has food, clothing, water and shelter. On top of that there are of the bonuses of watching TV, visiting with friends, reading great books, and generally just being able to enjoy many of the things life has to offer.
Daniel never complains about what he’s lacking.
Which is good, because unlike Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, Daniel still has a life.
I do sometimes worry about him, though. There’s a part of me that wonders if he just puts on a happy face when I visit or when we talk on the phone. Is his real life actually much more miserable than he ever lets on?
A Dangerous Place Full of Dangerous People
Even though he introduces me to fellow inmates and acts like everybody is chummy, this place is still a maximum-security prison. The people behind those bars are dangerous, or at least they can be dangerous in certain circumstances. And Daniel is one of them.
If a man is already on death row, what does he have to lose? So, no matter how much Daniel tries to convince me that his life is hunky-dory behind bars, I’m always waiting for something bad to happen.
Often Daniel tells me about a stabbing or a shooting that took place in some other part of the prison. I can never find anything on the Internet about it, but I’m not sure what is actually considered newsworthy.
For example, on Sunday I had to sit in my new pretty white skirt and wait 15 minutes for an alarm to be turned off before I was allowed to enter. Shots had been fired somewhere on the prison grounds.
That’s all they told us. This wasn’t newsworthy.
I didn’t spend our entire five-hour visit grilling Daniel about his crimes, but I do ask a lot of questions. Throughout the past two years, I’ve been piecing together Daniel’s version of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. It varies greatly from the story given in court, but Daniel’s account doesn’t make him look any better.
He never claims he’s innocent. In fact, I believe he’s been quite forthcoming with me, despite his worries that I might end our friendship because of the horrible things he’s done.
I won’t, though. Daniel is my friend, but I long ago accepted he deserves to be right where he is. I know that Daniel Wozniak would never hurt me personally; I get locked in a cell with him with no trepidation at all.
Does that mean I can guarantee Daniel is no danger to society? I can’t.
Obviously, there is a side to my friend that can be sent over the edge. His motives help me understand why he did what he did, but they will never make his choices acceptable. I reiterate this to him constantly.
When we talk, I can’t help playing the “what if” game with him. I go crazy thinking about all the opportunities Daniel had to stop the course of events that led the murders of Sam and Julie. I don’t need to point any of this out to him. He’s spent seven years thinking about it.
I still have to say it to him, though. Just for me. It’s so I know he’s continuously regretful about destroying two families.
Even with all of this, Daniel still looks forward to my visits. As do I. We are friends. If there were no blog, we’d still be friends. If there were no book, we’d still be friends.
There is a book though. And I plan to answer all of the questions I’ve gotten on the blog. (Yes, I have much to say about Rachel).
Another “Sexy” Visitor
After the visit was over, I was walking back to my car and ended up in a conversation with another exiting visitor. She was a tall, thin, seventy year old woman (she told me her age), and she was not what you’d describe as curvy. But she was lamenting about how the guards had made her cover up her white blouse with her sweatshirt for her entire visit.
Her: “I wore this exact same blouse a month ago and they didn’t complain about it being see-through then.”
Me: “I think the guards were being super strict this weekend because one of the inmates was caught getting a blowjob yesterday.”
Her: “Oh that explains it. One time I was wearing big thick cable knit sweater, and the guards could still tell I wasn’t wearing a bra underneath it. I had to put on one of the loaner bras that the visitor helper group keeps in stock. The only people in there were me and a little boy getting a trade out for his camouflage T-shirt.”
Me: “They were closed this morning. I had to borrow this skirt from another visitor. I was lucky she had it in her car.”
See guys? I wasn’t the only one with clothing issues.
We headed to our cars and told each other to have a nice day.
Rear View Mirror
When you’re heading west on the 580 freeway, San Quentin is the last exit for Marin County. Driving home from my visit, I could see San Quentin reflected in my passenger side mirror as I crossed the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. The prison got smaller and smaller and I felt such heartbreak for all the destroyed lives it represents.
It had been around four months since the last time I saw Daniel Wozniak in person.
Readers know I was pretty nervous the first time I visited the San Quentin State Prison death row. I wasn’t afraid of the prisoners, but I was worried about unknowingly breaking a prison rule and getting banned for life (or shot from a guard tower). However, beyond a couple of mishaps (getting lost on my practice run day and forgetting to take off my sunglasses), I aced my first death row visit.
OK, yes, I did also spill some coffee on the visiting room floor, but I cleaned it up, and no harm done.
So I headed into my most recent visit with a sense of reassurance that only comes from having knowledge and experience.
Before I left for my trip, I reviewed the visitor clothing rules (no denim, no leggings, no chambray blue, no khaki, and no underwire bras, etc.).
No problem. The majority of my wardrobe is made up entirely of black, white, and gray. I figured I had this down.
It was much colder the last time I visited. This time we were in the middle of a heat wave in California. Since I was meeting with friends immediately after each visit, I wanted to dress both appropriately for prison and comfortably enough to go for walks after lunch.
I bet some of you have already figured out, from the title of this post, I had some mishaps.
We’ll get to that moment.
More Than the Guards Could Chew
When I was packing up my clear baggie with quarters, comb and unopened Kleenex (the items I’m allowed to take in with me), I realized the last time I visited Daniel at San Quentin, I didn’t have my Invisalign braces yet.
I will be wearing these clear plastic braces for a few months, and I’m supposed to have them on for twenty two hours a day. I need to take them out whenever I eat anything, and I am also supposed to brush my teeth before I put them back on. During a five-hour extended visit with Daniel, I could either not eat or drink anything, or I could brush my teeth after partaking in those delicious vending machines snacks.
When I got the Invisalign braces, I bought a bunch of individually wrapped and pre-pasted disposable toothbrushes to carry around in my purse when I’m out in the world. While I was packing for my trip, I had a thought: If I am allowed to bring in new unopened packages of facial tissues, perhaps the San Quentin guards would also allow me to bring in an unopened toothbrush as well.
Now, before you start to think I’m crazy, the prisoners already have access to normal-sized toothbrushes. So there would be no reason for Daniel to want to keep my toothbrush and “smuggle it” back with him (yuck).
I figured. No harm in trying, right? That is sort of a mantra of mine.
I was totally right, by the way. There wasn’t any harm in it. I had to throw away my unopened toothbrush during Saturday’s check in, and Sunday I didn’t bring one. No harm.
To their credit, the guards at San Quentin are extremely amiable. I think they even wanted to let me bring in my toothbrush. They could see my logic. The guard told me, “That’s a new one,” and he even went up the chain of command just to confirm that I was not allowed to take in my toothbrush. Well, not without a doctor’s note. Fair enough. I might ask my dentist to write me one next time. Simply rinsing my mouth with water seemed inefficient after vending machine ice cream.
Side note: I’ve decided that the ice cream in the SQ visitors’ room has zero calories and therefore I can consume it, guilt free, at every visit.
After the toothbrush adventure, I got through visiting check-in and headed in the direction of the prison. Within seconds, I was called back by one of the guards so he could examine my clothing.
Let me tell you what I was wearing: Flat sandals and a plain black t-shirt dress. The dress was very loose fitting. It stopped just an inch above my knees (two inches above the knee is the rule). And luckily, I was wearing a pair of shorts underneath. The guard scrupulously examined the length of my dress (while other visitors walked past), and told me he was considering not letting me in. Because of the shorts, I passed inspection.
I promised to wear pants the next day.
After that, everything went fine. Once we’d gone through the process of handcuffs and musical doors, and when we were locked in our visiting cage, I told Daniel about my clothing close call. He was surprised my dress had caused a problem, but he also told me he’d noticed extra security in the visiting room that morning. He thought maybe it had something to do with a prisoner he’d seen being dragged back to his cell an hour earlier.
Now that I was sitting down, I figured I’d check how many steps I’d taken so far that day, and I wanted to show Daniel my Fitbit. I figured the trek from the visitor check-in to the prison itself would register an impressive number of steps. When I looked at my wrist and pushed a button, Daniel was immediately shocked that they let me bring that in.
The guard in the booth behind me was also shocked. My prison naiveté was showing again. It turns out visitors are not allowed to have any device with Bluetooth capabilities because a savvy inmate can turn a Bluetooth device into a phone.
Who knew? I guess it just looked like a regular watch when I went through security. The guard confiscated my Fitbit and said he’d return it when I was leaving. I almost asked him if he’d be willing to wear it so I could get credit for his steps, but I figured I might be pushing things a little too far with that one.
Thankfully, that was the end of me causing trouble on visiting day one. Daniel was in a good mood. He was cheerful. He made jokes. He introduced me to other inmates in nearby cages. “Oh, there’s so-and-so. I told you about him. He’s my friend from yard.”
Friends and Monsters
Everyone was polite and friendly. It’s easy to forget I’m not meeting Daniel’s co-worker at an office party. Every one of these men is a murderer. That includes my friend with whom I get locked in a cage. It’s disheartening to think about all the lives that were changed and destroyed by these men. I see a guy reading Bible verses with his wife or another playing checkers with his sister.
But out in the world, these men were someone’s monsters.
I’m guessing it’s good they are all locked up.
The rest of our visit was pretty uneventful. We ate fruit cups with sporks. We talked about how fast our hair grows (Daniel is part of a prison Locks of Love program. He’s growing his hair out and says it’s the longest he can remember ever having it.)
I also asked him a lot of questions about his crime. I want to take advantage of these opportunities to talk to Daniel without being recorded. The more I work on the book, the more questions I have. I know all you readers have questions about Daniel’s motives and how he was able to do the horrific things he did.
There are also a lot of theories about Rachel Buffett.
I want all those answers too, guys. I think Daniel is telling me the truth, and it’s not always easy to hear. The deaths of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi were so avoidable. In 2010, Daniel Wozniak’s life was a disaster waiting to happen; he was a tornado of tragedy that swooped up those two innocent people.
It will be very interesting to see if any of what Daniel shared about Rachel comes out during her trial in September. Rachel Buffett was Daniel Wozniak’s entire life. His feelings for her do nothing to negate committing murder, but it does make it easier to follow how someone like Daniel could end up doing what he did.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about Sunday’s visit, more wardrobe infractions, and why the visiting room security was beefed up the entire weekend.
We all know the stereotype about prisoners discovering God from behind bars. It’s almost a punch line.
The “non-incarcerated” are often rightly suspicious of a convict who claims to have found religion after being locked up. Is it genuine? Is it just a way to impress the parole board? Maybe he’s only trying to get the kosher meals.
There is also the possibility a person finds God in prison because that is the time when they most need the comfort offered by religion.
Daniel Wozniak and Prison Religion
In Daniel’s very first letter to me, he brought up God and religion. He told me he’d “written several church groups requesting volunteers in attempts to grow the ministry” at the Orange County Jail. I was immediately suspicious this was an attempt to impress me.
It turns out it wasn’t an act, but it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I’m one of those run-of-the-mill agnostic liberal types: hopeful there’s something beyond us “mere humans,” but never quite sure. I do tend to lean toward a belief in reincarnation, but with a “you do you” viewpoint regarding other people’s faith.
Daniel was raised Catholic. His devout mother made sure her family attended church regularly. He’d likely call himself a Catholic still, but he doesn’t limit himself to only one religion. Daniel is a true believer in the existence of God and a life after death. He finds all religions interesting. Luckily for him, San Quentin Prison offers numerous services for the inmates.
The Native American Religious Experience In San Quentin Prison
During yard about a month ago, a man named “Chino,” who can trace his genealogy back to the Aztecs, invited Daniel to attend a Native American religious service. A member has to invite you to the service if you are not of Native American descent. Invitees are called honored guests.
The next time services were held, Daniel was escorted outside to one of the smaller recreation yards. He was initially confused why they weren’t in the “multipurpose chapel” where all the other religious services at San Quentin are held. He’d find out later.
There were seven other inmates in attendance. Six of them were of Native American descent, and the seventh was another honored guest. A Native American chaplain named Hector ran the service. According to Daniel, he “looked like he was in his 40s even though he was in his 70s.”
Hector told them about how San Quentin was the very first prison in the world to incorporate Native American services, and he (Hector) was one of the men who started that program back in the 1970s. Native Americans weren’t even recognized as having an actual religion until Jimmy Carter (who is part Cherokee) became President.
Daniel heard accounts of San Quentin not-always-accommodating treatment of Native American inmates in the past.
Most of the service was a history lesson about Native Americans in prison, and how long and hard they had to fight to have their religion officially acknowledged by the state prison system. Services had been cancelled because of random facility lockdowns. There were occasions when members were harassed by guards, and sometimes Hector wasn’t even allowed to enter the prison under claims he was a security risk.
The passing of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000 opened the way for all the prisons in California to incorporate Native American services. Daniel was told that San Quentin State Prison even has an authentic sweat lodge with a fireplace that can be traced back to the grandfather of Crazy Horse.
Pipe and Feathers
When they were nearing the end of the service, Daniel discovered why the Native Americans were outside. The eight inmates and their chaplain passed around an actual peace pipe to smoke. This is a pretty big deal considering all California prisons are smoke free.
The final part of the service was a tradition of choosing a feather from the handful Hector fanned out before them. Daniel likened this to “choosing a straw” because the stems were concealed in Hector’s palm.
The feathers all looked alike. They’d been collected on a nearby reservation where hawks and eagles are bred. There is a ceremony conducted after the birds molt their feathers. Feathers are collected, prayed over, and passed out to members of the tribe to be sewed into clothing or a headdress or just kept in the member’s dwelling.
The inmates chose their feathers in order of their ages. Daniel went first and ended up choosing the only eagle feather in the bunch. Later it was explained to him that there is only one eagle feather, which can be differentiated from the hawk feathers because it has a distinct point at the end of its stem (although this couldn’t be seen until after the feather was chosen).
Hector told Daniel that it is an honor and fated for one to choose the eagle feather. Then Daniel was bestowed the title of “Sun Dancer.” It would be his duty to pass on the knowledge he’d learned to generations that follow.
Daniel hung his feather on the door of his cell, and then he passed the knowledge to me, and I’m sharing it with you.
When Rachel’s trial starts in September, I’ll get back into blogging about the crime. In the meantime, I’ll have occasional posts about Daniel’s prison experience and other topics. Stay tuned!
It turns out that quite a few blog and Facebook commenters are curious about my personal life. I guess there’s a need to understand what kind of person would befriend a man like Daniel Wozniak, and then actually write about him.
Of course, lots of people have written about him, and put his story on TV. And I know mine won’t be the only book on the subject, either. But I will be the only writer who is actually friends with the murderer.
Some people don’t appreciate me “giving him a platform” to tell his story to the world.
Well, if you’ve read the entirety of this blog, you know all the major news networks were willing to give Daniel air time if he’d agree to be interviewed. Producers kept saying they wanted to let him tell “his side” of the story. I did post his letter to the readers because commenters were asking specific questions about Daniel’s day to day life in San Quentin. But none of that was related to his crimes.
My book will include Daniel’s story of the murders. I’m writing about the influences that helped push him to make the worst decision of his life, and crush so many other people’s lives.
I can reassure you all though, there won’t be any claims of his innocence. Daniel Wozniak committed atrocious acts. His motives do not change what he did. But his side of the story answered a lot of questions for my inner Nancy Drew and Carl Jung.
About Murderer Musings (Me!)
I won’t deny I’m a little unusual. I have blue hair and tattoos and I’m chums with a murderer on death row. If that were the description of a character in a play, it would be an actor’s dream to portray her.
But does being atypical mean there is something wrong with me? I don’t think so, but many a commenter has suggested just that. I must be sad and lonely (except for all my cats?) and a bit of a nut job to befriend an evil murderer.
That just seems like a way to marginalize me, and use that as an excuse to ignore what I’m writing. I show the human side of a person who many believe to be unworthy of breathing. A story of Daniel trying to rescue a bird may be upsetting to some people, but that is the same man who committed murder. These juxtapositions are what fascinate me the most.
As far as me being a money hungry fame seeker who is out to make a name for herself by riding on the coattails of a killer, well, the majority of true crime authors have not become famous or rich from their writing, and I honestly don’t expect to, either. Do you know, if you search for “True Crime Books” on Amazon.com, you get over seventy-two thousand results? Of those, how many can you name (without looking)?
The truth is I just want to write a book on a topic I find interestng. I’m glad so many of you find it interesting as well. I feel lucky to have thousands of people read my blog regularly, and of course I hope you’ll all read my book too. I am putting a lot of work, thought, emotions and miles into this creative project (I recently got an exercise bike desk).
My Family and Friends
I also recently decided to ask some of my close friends and family members how they personally feel about my blog and my friendship with Daniel Wozniak. I interviewed some people, and others sent me their thoughts in writing.
Let’s start with my husband, because you guys ask about him a lot.
I’ll admit it, I’m annoyed when people wonder “if my husband knows about my blog.” Of course he does.
But what is the implication there? My husband will find out about my secret writing project, and then he’ll put the kibosh on it?
That is definitely not the guy I married. My husband is completely supportive of my writing. He has a very successful creative career, and he’s completely open minded when it comes to anyone else’s artistic pursuits.
I talk to my husband about my blog all the time. I share interesting, entertaining and sometimes disturbing prison tidbits that I learn from Daniel’s letters and phone calls. When I get a complimentary comment on the blog, I tell my husband about it. Sometimes I share the comments which aren’t so nice, and he reminds me to ignore the Internet trolls. He watches all those ID Network crime shows with me. He gives me Christmas presents like books about the last meal choices of Texas death row prisoners. And recently, my husband got me into a famous rock star’s house so I could see some original paintings by John Wayne Gacy (Pogo the Clown is so creepy).
My daughter is an eighteen-year-old college student who is mostly absorbed with her own busy life. She gets great grades, she volunteers at a hospital, and she went to Coachella this year.
She also loves to watch true crime shows. We recently devoured the three-part Casey Anthony special. Our current series favorites are Crime of the Century and See No Evil. As far as my friendship with Daniel, she sees it as part of my work. Sometimes she’s annoyed when Daniel’s phone calls interrupt something, for example tea time, a conversation, or watching a movie. When that happens, she calls him Danielle. “You’re going to tell Danielle you’re busy and can’t talk on the phone, right?” Of course, she already knows the answer. My family is always my priority.
And my daughter does not care that Daniel only has limited access to a telephone. She likes to say, “Hey, if he wanted to talk on the phone all the time, he shouldn’t have murdered someone.” She’s a smart girl.
My fourteen-year-old son is not interested in the true crime genre at all. I asked him if he has any feelings about my blog and my friendship with a murderer. He told me he never even thinks of it at all, but I shouldn’t take that personally. He doesn’t really care about his dad’s career either, except for the time he got to meet Cam Newton. My son’s life is about his friends, video games, guitar, eating and sleeping, family and school. Did I mention he’s fourteen?
The plus for all my family members (and my dogs) is that I’m home a lot more now that I’m writing. When I was directing plays for the Hunger Artists, I would be at rehearsals every night for months. Weekends were also spent at the theatre. But now, I can make my own schedule that doesn’t need to include working around the availabilities of actors and designers.
Every story needs to be told and every person has a story and they need someone to trust and to respect enough to open up to. My sister has a deep understanding of humanity and the experience and compassion to go to uncomfortable, dark places in pursuit of truth and knowledge. Her finely tuned writing skills help to outline and color in the picture being painted.
For these next two people, you’ll need a bit of backstory on me. I was adopted when I was a baby. As an adult, I met both of my biological parents (at different times and years apart). Now they are both important parts of my life. My biological dad isn’t interested in true crime at all. He’s not a fan of the genre. My biological mom, however, watches and reads anything true crime related. She’s another ID Network addict.
I couldn’t be happier about their relationship. My daughter is very open minded and adventurous. She took a chance and it’s been good for both of them. They truly give equally to each other as friends. She doesn’t deny his wrongdoings, but wants to understand how a basically decent human being with many virtues went down this awful path. They met briefly because of their mutual love of theater and now she’s using another creative talent to tell his story – and hers. I’ve talked to Daniel on the phone and exchanged pleasantries, and I can’t lie – it touched my heart. ~ My biological mother
At first I wasn’t very happy about it. I was afraid he could escape and come and kill my daughter. Over time I’ve changed my mind and decided it’s a good thing for him and for her. For him it’s having someone who cares about him and a contact to the outside world. For her it’s a little more complicated. It’s friendship, social work, writing project and maybe a little walk on the wild side. ~ My biological father
My adopted dad passed away eight years ago. He was super supportive of everything I did, but I know he wouldn’t want to talk about this case at all. Sam’s and Julie’s murders, and the loss to their parents, would be incomprehensible for him. I believe he’d have trouble thinking of Daniel as a person. He was open minded, and had a huge heart, but he wouldn’t feel comfortable with me visiting Daniel. He’d likely be (unnecessarily) worried about my safety.
My adopted mom is not in my life.
My Close Friends
Here are the comments from some of my close friends (each has known me for at least fifteen years).
I feel like the friendship that you have with Daniel has given you back your “spark.” You are very interested in this subject and writing about him seems to energize you. I’m not concerned about your safety or your sanity. You are a smart, educated women. Of course, you’ve always been slightly off your rocker.
I have mixed feelings about this blog. I believe this man is guilty. I am glad this man will remain behind bars for the rest of his life (I am not a supporter of the death penalty). I am frustrated that he is getting attention for his deed. But I am curious. I do not believe the motive for the murder given during the the trial. I would like to know the real story. Maybe my friend can get to the bottom of it. But maybe she is just getting duped. Unfortunately, I think that a lot. I am just glad he was convicted because honestly, I was worried that if by chance he was acquitted and set free my friend would have remained friends with a man who got away with murder.
The story is fascinating – especially the theatre connection. I wasn’t surprised at all that my friend would choose a project like this. It’s right up her alley. She has friends from all walks of life. I’m really impressed by my friend’s writing and I’m hoping she’ll eventually turn her blog/book into a solo piece. I think my friend is what’s interesting about this story. She’s more interesting than Daniel. It’s her take on the story that keeps me reading it. Also, I’m a firm believer in supporting one’s friends. True friends look past your mistakes and support you no matter what. That’s what she’s doing for Daniel. Daniel wasn’t a serial killer type. His crimes were situational. But I might have a twinge of worry for my friend if Daniel got out of prison for some reason.
While I’m fully supportive of your artistic endeavor and I love hearing all about it — I can’t say that I don’t think it’s weird and scary. I don’t stay up late at night worrying about your safety, but I worry about you getting too emotionally involved or being used or being caught up in some psychological fuckery. I don’t trust people in general, but I really don’t trust people who committed murder and I never for a second thought he was innocent. Like I said, I’m starting from a place of trust issues. But at the heart of all of this, I am a fan of the concept and of your creativity and I think this is a helluva story to be told. As a writer, I’m jealous of the opportunity to unfurl what is potentially a great story to be told. As a reader, I look forward to reading about your experience with this more than Daniel’s motivation or excuses.
As a friend, I don’t like him or trust him, sorry. There are so many interesting people to write about who haven’t committed a double murder and aren’t sitting on death row. But since I know you to be such a solidly good person with such a drastically different life, I am primarily riveted by YOUR journey on this. I would never do it. I could never be so open-minded. But I’m never going to understand how you can maintain the relationship. When I think about Julie, I immediately think about my two at OCSA and all those talented wonderful kids there. And then I think about how he killed two people for such little money and it enrages me. There is nothing Daniel can ever say or do to make me feel anything but scorn and hate for him when I think about the victims. And ultimately what I hope for all of this is that this might bring to light some detail for the victims’ loved ones, as well as result in a work of art that sheds light and maybe understanding for those who have a complicated relationship with someone who has caused this much pain & destruction. I think we all sometimes forget that these monsters are actually people on the inside. I want to know what changes them.
When Murderer Musings told she was going to start conversing with a suspected murderer, I have to admit I thought it was an intriguing, but an odd idea. I love a good murder mystery as much as anyone. The fact that my friend knew Daniel Wozniak ahead of time was interesting. Then my head went to safety. What if they do become friends and he somehow gets out of jail at some point; will my friend be safe? What about her family being safe? My concerns of safety have become greater since the blog started, and seeing the viciousness of some of the comments. These are the people I now see as the most dangerous to my friend and her family. I don’t want her to tell her identity.
I learned a lot from these comments. I hope you guys found them interesting. There aren’t many warm fuzzies toward Daniel, but that’s to be expected. It was nice to know that my peeps have faith in me, and everyone supports me writing the book. Oh, and I promise I didn’t throw away a bunch of comments that I didn’t like! I also made a point to select friends from different circles and walks of life.
In the next post, I’ll tell you about Daniel’s recent religious gathering with the Native Americans at San Quentin.
It has been seven years since the brutal murders of Samuel Herr and Julie Kibuishi. Seven years since my friend, Daniel Wozniak, destroyed many lives – including his own. I think about all the things I’ve done in the past seven years, all the life experiences I’ve had, and I can’t help feeling sickened when I contemplate all that was stolen from Sam and Julie, and from the people who loved them.
Julie Kibuishi should have celebrated her thirtieth birthday on February fourteenth, and Sam should be blowing out thirty-four candles next week (May twenty-ninth). Neither of them got a chance to graduate from college, get married, have kids… Would Julie be working in the fashion industry? Would Sam have returned to the Army as an officer? These questions haunt me, and I can’t even fathom the pain and anger that their families are forced to revisit every May. Hell, every day.
I’ve been writing this blog for two years now, and I can honestly say not a day goes by when I don’t think about Sam and Julie. I didn’t know either of them personally, but my friendship with Daniel is laced with an inherent guilt I feel over him having a life (even a limited one), when his actions stole the lives of two other people; two people who were so young, so loved, and are so missed.
Samuel E. Herr was twenty-six when Daniel killed him. Sam was an only child, and he was the center of his parents’ world. He was an Army veteran who had been a combat solider in Afghanistan. He was going to Orange Coast College on the Army GI Bill and had plans to one day become an officer.
Juri (Julie) Kibuishi was only twenty-three. She still lived at home with her parents. She was a graduate of the prestigious Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA). She was a student at Orange Coast College studying fashion design. She was also tutoring her friend Sam in anthropology. Julie was one of four children and is always described as the kind of person who would do anything for a friend.
My friend caused their deaths. This fact haunts me. I’ll talk about myself more in the next post (and my family members and some close friends have chimed in). But for now, I just want to acknowledge that May twenty first is the depressing anniversary of the murders of Sam and Julie. I send out my sincere condolences to their loved ones.