Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (The Sentencing)

Courtroom 41 at the Orange County Superior Courthouse was all a-buzz on the morning of November 8, 2018 for the sentencing of Rachel Buffett. This was Rachel’s first appearance since this past September, when a jury found her guilty of two counts of accessory to murder after the fact.

Julie Kibuishi’s and Sam Herr’s loved ones filled many of the spectator seats on the right side of the courtroom. The media and a camera crew were also set up over there, so I returned to the back row behind the blond coalition.

There was an outlet in the back corner on that side, too. Good to know.

Throughout her entire trial, Rachel Buffett always had plenty of defenders sitting behind her. On Thursday her friends and family were there in abundance.

While sitting behind Rachel’s supporters, I wondered if the group would better be described as “blond, red, or a shaved head.”

I was distracted that morning. The sentencing hearing was set to begin at 9:00 am, and I needed to be at my son’s high school by 11:30 because I was volunteering at a Red Cross blood drive. I forgot to bring the notebook I’d been using to take all my court notes. I didn’t bring any paper at all. I had to use a small notepad I found in the bottom of my glovebox that was cut in a shape of a t-shirt and came from the American Girls doll store.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Nine o’clock came and went without any signs the hearing was ready to begin. The judge and the attorneys were likely in chambers working though some details beforehand.

Because of my theatre background, I always have to remind myself I’m not an audience member waiting for a show to start. Still, when attorneys Matt Murphy and David Medina entered the courtroom through the door to the judge’s quarters (which I think of as “backstage”), I was pleased to see them finally “getting into places.”

The Scene

Prosecuting attorney Matt Murphy looked genuinely cheerful as he hunted around the desks of the bailiff and court reporter for some sugar to put in his coffee.  In contrast, David Medina’s expression was grim as he sat quietly at the defense table flipping through his notes.

The moods of the lawyers epitomized those of the spectators as well.  Rachel’s people looked worried and nervous. I felt bad for them. I’m sure they believe Rachel has been unfairly punished for the actions of her ex-fiancée Daniel Wozniak.

The Herrs and the Kibuishis seemed as though a large weight was lifted off their shoulders since Rachel’s jury had said, “Guilty.”

The room quieted down the moment they brought Rachel in. The only sounds were the snap, snap, snap of cameras trying to get a good picture of her in that light blue jail-issued jumpsuit.

Medina leaned over to whisper something reassuring to his client.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Princess Dethroned

Rachel looked disheartened. After spending a couple of months behind bars, her previous courtroom confidence had disappeared.  Her long blond hair was in a twist and hanging over one shoulder.

Princess style.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

This is probably not the type of paparazzi attention Rachel always dreamed of.

Or is it?

The last six weeks have flown by for me, but I’m sure that wasn’t the case for the Buffett family since they’d watched Rachel being handcuffed and taken into custody in September.

The Hearing Gets Underway

I was relieved when the proceedings finally got under way at 9:50 am, because I was getting concerned I’d have to leave before the actual sentencing (brave teenagers needed their juice and cookies).

A Chance For Probation?

The hearing began with the defense’s request for probation and time served.

Probation is no picnic. Rachel would have to live under some pretty strict rules, or quickly wind up back in jail.

She would have to consent to police searches of her home, car or other property at any time without explanation. Drug use or possession, consorting with other felons, or owning weapons or ammunition are all probations violations.

These conditions sound intimidating… until you compare them to being behind bars.

Judge Hanson spoke of the factors she needed to weigh while deciding Rachel Buffett’s sentence. Hanson pointed out that Rachel had no criminal record and the court was “required” to take that into consideration. The judge had received numerous letters in support of Rachel from the young woman’s friends and family. And Rachel herself wrote a letter to Hanson explaining her willingness to comply with probation, if it were granted to her.

Nope!

It was not.

At least, not immediately. Rachel’s time behind bars wasn’t ending quite yet.

Rachel’s Culpability

Judge Hanson pointed out how Rachel, her friends, and her family have never appreciated the gravity of Rachel’s own crimes.

Judge Hanson looked directly at Rachel Buffet and told her she lied. She acted on her own. Rachel’s role was far beyond that of merely accessory to murder.

Hanson believed Rachel planned the false statements she gave to law enforcement. And Rachel still hasn’t shown any acknowledgment of her own guilt. Hanson chided Rachel for having no remorse or regrets for her own actions, and Rachel is still blaming everything on Dan Wozniak.

Judge Hanson wanted Rachel to know she broke the law, and she’s responsible for her actions.

Victim Statements

Before telling Rachel her fate, the judge opened the floor for victim impact statements.

A number of people from both the Herr and the Kibuishi families gave impact statements during Daniel Wozniak’s trial. In Rachel’s trial, June Kibuishi and Steve Herr were the only speakers. Two grieving parents spoke in honor of their two murdered children.

I wonder why other family members didn’t speak this time around. I’d guess they feel more anger toward Daniel than toward Rachel. Dan Wozniak had faced the death penalty or life behind bars.  The numerous testimonials were probably taken into consideration when deciding Daniel’s fate.

June Kibuishi’s Statement

June Kibuishi thanked Judge Hanson for always making the victims’ families a priority, and she expressed sincere gratitude to the Costa Mesa Police, Matt Murphy and everyone in the DA’s office. Julie’s mom then politely asked permission to address Rachel directly.

“Weddings are supposed to be full of love and happiness,” June began. “Your wedding would have been rooted in murder.”

June pointed out that Rachel has lived a normal and happy life since her daughter, Julie, was murdered eight years ago. Rachel breathed fresh air while Sam’s and Julie’s families grieved. June Kibuishi would never get to see her daughter fulfill her dreams of having a fashion career. She would never see her daughter as a bride, or a mom.

June Kibuishi’s voice cracked. “Julie would have been a wonderful mom because of her big heart.”

June aimed her next statement directly at Rachel.

“Julie thought of you as a friend.”

Julie was excited for Rachel and Daniel’s wedding. Rachel was never a true friend to Julie or Sam, June claimed, and she didn’t deserve the love and friendship they showed her.

Instead of showing any remorse, June pointed out, Rachel made TV appearances claiming to be a victim herself. Julie’s heartbroken mother told Rachel that she and “that monster” (Daniel) are self centered, heartless, and “two peas in a pod.”

June Kibuishi asked a poignant question regarding Rachel’s ever-present family members: Why didn’t Rachel and Daniel turn to Rachel’s family for help instead of murdering two innocent people?

Her statement ended with a hope that Rachel will live every day regretting her “disgusting decisions.”

Steve Herr’s Statement

Steve Herr also thanked the judge and all the people who worked on this case. He explained how the police and the members of the DA team have become like family over the past eight years.

Steve then went on to describe Julie Kibuishi. She was a beautiful, smart and talented young woman. She was a good friend to his son, who was a decorated combat veteran. Sam had plans for a bright future that included getting a college degree and returning to the Army to become an officer.

None of this, Steve said, had meant anything to Rachel Buffett. She didn’t care about Sam, Julie or their families. She lied to the police. She lied to her friends. She lied to the newspapers. And she lied to the nation.

While the decapitated body of Steve Herr’s only child was lying on that attic floor, Rachel lied to the police. While wild animals ravaged the pieces of Sam’s body, dumped at the El Dorado Nature Center, Rachel told lies about seeing the man in the black hat.

Rachel Buffett lied to protect her “monster” fiancée. Steve Herr was most disgusted by Rachel’s direct lies about Sam in an attempt to “throw him under the bus.” Rachel purposefully knew exactly when she was doing when she attempted to frame Sam as a murderer and rapist. She spread false information that Sam had a bad relationship with his family. She didn’t care who she hurt.

“Rachel just thinks about Rachel.”

Before the hearing began that morning, Raquel Herr spotted me sitting in my corner. With a kind smile on her face, she mouthed “hi” to me. The Herrs are always so gracious and upbeat. Daniel Wozniak killed their only child. It’s no wonder they see him as a monster.

Steve Herr then pointed out something I’d never considered before.

Because Sam was murdered on a military base, both Rachel and Dan could have been prosecuted in Federal court. Rachel might have faced up to fifteen years in prison for her charges.

Steve Herr told Rachel Buffett that she will get out of jail one day. She will be with her family.

Steve and Raquel will never see their son again. They’ll never hear his voice again. They can never hug their son again. And, as they have done every week for the past eight and a half years, they can only say, “I love you” to their son’s grave.

Steve Herr asked Judge Hanson to give Rachel the maximum sentence: 44 months in prison. Rachel has shown no compassion or remorse, he declared, and so she deserves no leniency in her sentence.

A Plea From Costa Mesa Police Detective Ed Everett

The Herrs and the Kibuishi’s weren’t the only ones who wanted to see Rachel get the maximum amount of time behind bars. Judge Hanson received a letter from Costa Mesa detective Lt. Ed Everett, who firmly believes Rachel wasn’t just an accessory after the fact, but that she participated in the planning and the murders.

If Everett had his way, Rachel would spend the rest of her life in prison just like her ex-fiancée Daniel Wozniak. Judge Hanson acknowledged the detective’s concerns, but also said that couldn’t be taken into consideration for Rachel’s current sentence.

Rachel’s Kinda-Sorta Apology

When the victim impact statements were finished, Judge Sheila Hanson offered Rachel an opportunity to speak in court. Rachel was told there was no pressure on her at all to make a statement. Rachel decided to do it.

During Daniel’s sentencing hearing, he chose to remain silent. He didn’t think anything he could say would ease the pain of the families.

Sometimes he wonders if that was the right decision. Should he have at least attempted to apologize in court? I thought it was a smart decision to just sit there and quietly listen to the victims’ loved ones and their expressions of grief. Silence is golden. In addition, so much has been made of Daniel Wozniak being an “actor,” the sincerity of anything he said would be doubted.

Rachel Buffett chose a different approach. I have to say, I think Daniel made the right decision, because I can’t imagine Sam and Julie’s loved ones gained any solace from the apathetic and excuse-ridden speech Rachel read aloud in court.

“I’ve always wanted to express my condolences to the Herr and Kibuishi families and offer support. But I assumed that any contact from me, a complete stranger before this case, would not be welcomed or helpful. So I sought to be respectful by giving them space. I hope my silence hasn’t been misinterpreted as callous. I’m also so sorry that any of my actions caused more pain to the Herr and Kibuishi families. I wish Sam and Julie were still here. I wish I could have done something to save them. I wish I’d never met Daniel Wozniak.”

I think we can all agree with her on that point. Everyone wishes she’d never met Daniel Wozniak.

“I wish I’d never let him into my life. I wish I saw him for the liar and the manipulator that he was from day one. And I wish there was something I could do to fix this now. My heart goes out to the Herr and Kibuishi families and they will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”

Did I miss the part where she apologized for her own actions?

The Sentence

Judge Hanson handed down a sentence that wasn’t quite the maximum, but it was no mere slap on the wrist either.

Count One: twenty-four months

Count Two:  eight months

Rachel will serve the two sentences consecutively, not concurrently. She has to finish serving the first sentence before she can start the second one.

Rachel will stay put in the Orange County women’s central jail. She won’t do any actual prison time. She’s beginning her sentence with seventy-nine days credit for the time she’s already served, and another seventy-nine days for her good behavior.

In general, a person receives “good conduct” credit at a rate equal to the actual time served. Every 24 hours she is in jail counts as forty-eight hours towards her sentence term, a “2 for 1” deal.  So, she will likely spend more or less one year in jail.

Judge Hanson also specifically included 180 days of supervised release for the end of Rachel’s sentence. As soon as Rachel walks out of jail, all those strict probation rules will kick in.

Rachel was also sentenced to pay $2,016 to the Kibuishi family for lost wages.

The sentencing hearing ended. Rachel was put back in handcuffs. She quickly glanced back at her family

Snap. Snap. Snap

And then she was taken out of the courtroom.

Matt Murphy’s Post-Sentencing Press Conference

Court adjourned at 10:45 am. I was heading for the elevators thirty seconds later. Not only would I make it to the high school by 11:30, I even had enough time to drive through Del Taco and grab an egg burrito.

I was handing a metal can of Ocean Spray cranberry juice to a kid with a bandage on his arm when I got a text. It was from someone who’d also attended Rachel’s hearing that morning.

“Bad day for u to leave early.”

Are you sure about that? The burrito was delicious.

Matt Murphy held a press conference, and he dropped a dramatic bombshell.

Hindsight being 20/20, the burrito would have lost.

During the press conference, Murphy explained all the “good conduct” credit and “2 for 1” stuff. He acknowledged Rachel won’t spend 44 months in jail, but she will spend the rest of her life as convicted felon. Her role in the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi will follow her forever.

Short Sentence. Life-Long Payback.

Most people these days will search the name of a potential date or new friend. A simple search of “Rachel Buffett” will produce a wealth of information about her conviction for lying to the police and hindering a murder investigation.

Matt Murphy said Rachel Buffett had been pursing a degree in psychology prior to her incarceration. Rachel might have some trouble finding clients who are willing to spill their intimate secrets to a convicted accessory to murder.

Even more than her actual time in jail, Rachel’s real punishment will be dealing with the rest of her life.

I’m sure the members of the blonde coalition aren’t the only people who think Rachel was completely duped by Dan Wozniak. To them it must seem so unfair to see this young woman so harshly punished when her only mistake was picking the wrong man to love.

Other people think Rachel Buffett got away with murder… so far. Who knows what the future will bring? Detective Ed Everett doesn’t seem like a guy to just give up if he thinks justice has not been served.

I’m not suggesting Rachel should be in prison instead of Daniel. I don’t think anyone believes that. Certainly not Daniel.

But if Rachel Buffett was an active participant in the planning and execution of Julie’s and Sam’s murders, she should never walk free again.

Working the System Already (Again?)

While I was consuming eggs and cheese wrapped in a warm tortilla and smothered in Del Scorcho sauce, Matt Murphy told the media that Rachel got beaten up in jail by some other inmates. She is now being held in special housing.

I was surprised to hear she wasn’t already in protective custody. Most people who have been arrested in relation to this case are immediately put in special housing.

Someone suggested to me that Rachel could have caused the fight on purpose, and didn’t defend herself so she could enjoy the benefits of protective custody (more privacy and more personal space).  

I’ve heard tell Rachel can pack a punch if she wants to.

Now That Rachel’s In Jail…

Rachel’s trial is over, and I’m all caught up with the blog. The holidays are upon us. I’m going to be busy with my family, and I want to focus more time on completing my book. I’m sorry I won’t have much content for guys in the next little while.

This is the ninth time the Herr and Kibuishi families will have an empty seat at their Thanksgiving dinner.  The Wozniak and Buffett families are missing loved ones as well. But they can visit a person, and not a grave.

June Kibuishi described the loss of her daughter as “a pain that will never truly heal.”

Thank you all so much for reading DWIMF the blog. If anything happens regarding Daniel’s case, or there’s just interesting news from San Quentin, I promise to blog about it. ASAP!

Your Questions and Comments

If you have any questions for Daniel – about life in San Quentin and not about the case, you’re welcome to leave a comment right here on this post and I will pass them on to him.

Also, don’t forget the Frequently Asked Questions page, where you can submit your own question for the site. If enough people ask similar things, I’ll add them to the F.A.Q.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Five)

It’s time to go back into the courtroom for the trial of The People vs. Rachel Buffett.

A Recap of the Prosecution’s Examination of Christopher Williams

Chris was an important witness in both Rachel’s and Daniel Wozniak’s trials. He loaned money to the couple, and he was with Rachel Buffett when Sam Herr was murdered.

During Matt Murphy’s questioning, the jury learned how Williams and Dan Wozniak spoke on the phone around 10 am on Friday, May 21, 2010. Dan told Chris to come to his and Rachel’s apartment because he could pay Chris back some of the two thousand dollars Chris loaned to them.

To his chagrin, Chris Williams ended up waiting at that apartment for hours. He later learned that during that time, Dan Wozniak murdered Sam Herr.

Chris Williams was Rachel’s alibi, but instead of rushing this information to the police, Rachel went out of her way to avoid any mention of Chris Williams. A video of one of Rachel Buffett’s interviews with Costa Mesa Police showed Rachel repeatedly misleading or outright lying about who had loaned the couple money.

She knew it was Chris Williams because and she’d spent half the day with him while he waited for the money. Even if Rachel knew nothing about the murder of Sam Herr, and so didn’t know she needed an alibi, she still gave false answers to specific questions about how she spent Friday, May 21.

Chris Williams learned about the investigation on May 28, when he immediately contacted the authorities. Chris thought the police might have some questions for the guy who was at Dan’s apartment all day.

They did. They had about nine hours worth of questions. They also had some new questions for Rachel Buffet.

Matt Murphy wanted the jury to view Rachel’s behavior as suspicious and indicative of her knowledge of the murders. Chris Williams testified to feeling a “weird vibe” from both Dan and Rachel, and she seemed very angry with Dan when he got back to apartment on Friday afternoon.

The Defense Questions Christopher Williams

When it was defense attorney David Medina’s turn to question Chris Williams, he definitely needed to do some damage control. But it seemed like Medina was just trying to do some damage to Chris Williams’ credibility.

There was a line of questioning that focused entirely on Chris Williams’ personal relationships in March of 2010.

Chris was officially still married at that time, but his relationship with Jenny Jones had turned romantic.

Medina grilled Williams about statements he’d made when first questioned back in 2010.

One of the storylines in the play Nine focuses on the lead character’s extramarital affair. In 2010, Williams told the police he became emotional after seeing the show because it touched on his own relationship issues. At Rachel’s trial, Williams could not recall feeling that way, but he believed he could have said it.

Personally, I cannot see how Chris Williams’ love life is actually pertinent to this case unless David Medina wanted to jury to see Chris as untrustworthy and dishonest.

These Are The Mafia People Who Don’t Break Legs, So Don’t Sweat It, You Guys

David Medina asked Chris Williams a series of questions suggesting Williams “maintained a lie” during his time spent with Rachel Buffett:

  • Did Chris Williams at any point insinuate to Dan and Rachel the money he loaned them came from some disreputable and possibly Mafia-related sources? Yes.
  • Was Rachel aware Dan had borrowed money from Chris? Yes.
  • Did Chris ever suggest that legs could be broken if the money wasn’t paid back? No.
  • Was Chris Williams charging Dan and Rachel interest on the loan? Two- hundred dollars (one hundred for each thousand loaned).
  • Did Chris eventually tell Rachel the money was not Mafia money? Can’t recall.
  • While Chris was with Rachel, did he fake a phone call saying the people who loaned the money (possibly Mafia) would give her and Dan more time to pay back the money? Can’t recall.
  • Did Rachel tell Chris that Dan Wozniak is a pathological liar? Remembers hearing this at some point, but he’s not sure who told him or when he was told.

During his testimony, Chris Williams repeatedly stated he was quite clear with Dan and Rachel that there was no threat to anyone’s safety.

Picture Time

Medina asked about Rachel Buffett’s actions during the time she and Chris waited around the apartment:

  • Did Rachel Buffett seem worried about getting money? Yes.
  • Was Rachel Buffett on the computer searching for a job during the hours they spent waiting for Dan to come back to the apartment? Yes.
  • Was Rachel looking into selling some photos of herself online? Yes.
  • Did Chris Williams take any photos of Rachel for this purpose? Can’t recall taking photos, but remembers seeing photos.

The underlying point being if Rachel knew Dan was going to steal Sam’s money, she had no reason to be so desperate to find employment. The defense wanted the jury to see Rachel’s behavior as proof she had no knowledge of Dan’s plan. There were plenty of other reasons for Rachel to be angry with Dan Wozniak. Her attitude did not necessarily prove she knew about Sam’s murder.

David Medina asked Williams what his opinion of Dan and Rachel’s relationship. Did Chris tell the police it didn’t seem like Rachel actually loved Dan?

Chris couldn’t recall.

Hey, Nine is a Tear-Jerker, All Right?

Chris Williams had no doubts about his conversation with Rachel after the Friday night performance of Nine. He praised Rachel for her ability to cry onstage, and noticed Rachel wore sunglasses during the entire show.  Rachel told him the tears were real, and she told Chris she was not upset over money problems. It was something else that had Rachel so upset.

Side note – From talking to Daniel, I believe Rachel didn’t know about Sam’s murder until after it happened, but she found out soon after.

 Defense attorney David Medina finished by asking Chris Williams a question I didn’t expect. Medina wanted to make sure Chris was emotional that Friday night because the play brought on feelings about his own relationships.  Williams wasn’t upset because he knew something about Sam’s murder, correct?

He knew nothing.

It turns out you can be upset without having knowledge of a murder. Was that what David Medina was trying to get through to the jury?

Murphy’s Rebuttal

In Matt Murphy’s rebuttal, he wanted to clarify that Chris Williams knew nothing about the murders on Friday May 21, but he did know about them when he called the police on May 28.

Murphy also wanted to make sure the jury heard Chris Williams’ story about the late night Thursday barbecue. Dan’s neighbor called down from his balcony three floors up and jokingly asked why he hadn’t been invited to the barbecue.  Dan told Chris the man was “his friend Sam.”

Side note – This story seems completely unrelated to proving Rachel Buffett was an accessory to murder. It serves the same purpose as the Taylor Swift ringtone.

Information like this is all about emotions. To “get your ire up,” as my dad used to say. I wonder why this wasn’t part of Dan’s trial. It makes him look bad, but it doesn’t comment on Rachel.

Vylet Randolph For the Prosecution

The final witness in the case was Vylet Randolph.

I’d been very curious to hear her testimony.  She wasn’t called in Dan Wozniak’s trial, but Vylet was essential for the case against Rachel Buffett.

Vylet and her then-husband John became close friends with Dan and Rachel soon after the engaged couple moved into the Camden Martinique Apartments.

Vylet described the complex as having a very social atmosphere. The majority of the tenants were college-aged people who had numerous parties, gatherings by the pool, and Taco Tuesdays.

When Matt Murphy questioned Vylet about Dan and Rachel, she talked about being glad when another couple moved into the complex. Vylet and John were friendly with everyone, but it was nice to spend some grown-up time with soon-to-be-married neighbors. In fact, the foursome became so close that John Randolph was going to perform Dan and Rachel’s wedding ceremony.

Matt Murphy asked Vylet Randolph about Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett’s relationship.

She described Dan as being very submissive to Rachel. He treated her like a princess. He would cut her food for her. He’d fetch her glasses of wine. According to Vylet, Rachel most definitely “wore the pants” in that relationship, and there was nothing Dan wouldn’t do for her.

When asked to describe her friends Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, Vylet called them both amazing and friendly people. Sam Herr would do anything to make his friends laugh, and Julie never stopped dancing.

Shocked Reactions At the Camden

Then the questions got around to the night of Julie Kibuishi’s murder. Vylet Randolph described the shock and fear experienced by their group of friends when the news broke about a body being found in Sam Herr’s apartment. Initially, they didn’t know the identity of the victim, but they were aware the person was “a friend,” and Sam was nowhere to be found.

A phone call was made to Dan and Rachel, who were in Long Beach after the Saturday night performance of Nine. Their plan was to spend the night with Rachel’s family at the faux-partment because wedding planning activities were scheduled for the next morning.

Dan and Rachel needed to come back to Costa Mesa immediately.

The two of them probably wanted to be as far from the Camden as possible.

 Vylet and John went to Dan and Rachel’s place around two in the morning. Matt Murphy had questions regarding the behavior of Dan and Rachel while the group waited for more information.

The Dan and Rachel Story

Dan and Rachel knew the body of one of their friends was three floors above them. Vylet described Dan as seeming extremely stressed out and possibly high on drugs. He was pulling at his hair and rambling about possibly being the last person to have seen Sam. An exasperated Rachel repeatedly told her fiancée to “shut up.”

Vylet wasn’t positive of the exact wording, but Rachel told Dan his messed up memories were messing up her story.

She was certain Rachel used the word “story.”

The One With The Murder Weapon

If you have followed this case for a while, you probably know about the recorded phone calls between Dan and Rachel that took place just after his arrest for, at that point, accessory to murder.

On March 27, Dan called Rachel from the Orange County Jail. It was no secret the calls were being recorded, yet Rachel told Dan how his brother Tim was in possession of a murder weapon. In spite of Dan’s pleading, Rachel was going to contact the detective and report this incriminating evidence.

The case blew open soon after. Dan became the lead suspect in Julie Kibuishi’s murder, and soon confessed to killing her and Sam Herr.

Vylet Randolph was with Rachel that day.

The morning after Dan Wozniak was officially arrested, Rachel turned to her friend Vylet for consolation.

Rachel Twirling

Vylet was just about to leave for work around 7 am when she heard a knock at her front door.  Through the peephole, Vylet saw Rachel spin around dramatically and then fall to the ground. When Vylet opened the door, Rachel popped back up and grabbed her.

Rachel’s whole body was shaking. Through her sobs, Rachel told Vylet that Dan was in jail and the wedding was off. Rachel’s family needed to be notified. All the plans needed to be cancelled. And Dan’s parents needed to be contacted immediately.

There was no way Vylet Randolph was going to leave Rachel to deal with all of this alone, so the two women got into Rachel’s Mazda Miata and headed to the faux-partment in Long Beach to see Rachel’s family.

Matt Murphy didn’t ask any details about telling Rachel’s family to cancel the wedding. He wanted to get to the next stop.

Mr. Wozniak Is Unmoved

Rachel and Vylet headed to the home of Daryl and MaryAnne Wozniak. They found Dan’s dad alone in the spacious Long Beach house where Dan Wozniak grew up. The elder Wozniak seemed unsurprised by the news about his son. Murphy didn’t spend a lot of time here, either. He wanted to ask Vylet about when they left the house.

Tim’s Cargo

Vylet and Rachel were back in the Miata and about to drive away from the Wozniak house when a little red car pulled up and parked behind them. “Oh shit,” was Rachel’s reaction to seeing Tim Wozniak behind the wheel.

Rachel got back out of her car and went to speak with Tim and his girlfriend. Vylet Randolph testified that Rachel seemed very upset about whatever Tim was telling her. She was covering her ears and telling Tim that she didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

At that same moment, Rachel’s phone rang in the car. Seeing it was Rachel’s mom calling, Vylet grabbed the phone and got out of the car just as Rachel started back to the Miata.

Vylet asked about the conversation, and as Rachel started driving (to the CMPD, I believe), she told Vylet about Tim Wozniak being in possession of a murder weapon.

There was no question in Vylet’s mind: Rachel had to notify the authorities at once!

However, Rachel did not hop-to-it as quickly as Vylet would have liked. Rachel wanted to call Tim first, and Vylet pointed out the obvious result of that call would be the disappearance of the evidence.

Vylet Insists

Taking matters into her own hand, Vylet called her own mom and led her through a Google search for the phone number of the detectives on Julie Kibuishi’s murder case.  If Rachel wasn’t going to call the police immediately, then Vylet would.

Matt Murphy wanted the jury to see how Vylet Randolph was a force to be reckoned with. Her testimony would be another hurdle for the defense.

Realizing she needed gas, Rachel exited the freeway to find a nearby station. At that moment, Dan Wozniak called Rachel collect from the Orange County Jail.

Matt Murphy left it at that for the time being. He turned the witness over to David Medina.

The Defense Questions Vylet

Medina started with an attention grabber: “How startling was it when you got the news there was a dead body at the Camdens?”

To which Vylet replied that the word startling didn’t come close to summing up her feelings the night she and her husband sat in Dan and Rachel’s living room waiting for news about the murder victim a couple floors above them.

David Medina wanted to revisit Vylet’s description of Rachel’s behavior that night. Dan was stressed out and kept talking about being the last person to see Sam Herr, and Rachel yelled at him about messing up her story. Medina wanted to focus on Rachel’s complaint that she had a terrible headache that night.

Not tonight Dan, I have a headache?

Vylet agreed Rachel was sitting on a sofa and complaining about having a tremendous headache (and its name was Dan). Medina suggested it was possible Rachel just had a headache that night, and that’s why she was upset and snapping at Dan. She simply wanted him to shut up because of the headache.

Vylet didn’t appear to give that theory much weight. Rachel used the word “story.”

Make Sure You Ask For The Deposits Back; We Need the Money

Medina then jumped to March 27 and asked Vylet about that visit to break the news to Rachel’s family. Dan had been arrested and the wedding was canceled. Vylet admitted that Rachel’s family was in shock, but she also described Rachel’s behavior as “methodical” when she handed out tasks for her family members to complete.

Cancel the chairs. Cancel the cake. Cancel the guests.

Logically, the defense wanted the jury to see Rachel as another one of Dan Wozniak’s victims. She was in love and about to get married. She was shocked and mortified when she learned her fiancée murdered two people. Like everyone else in Dan’s life, Rachel was completely duped.

But Vylet described someone who was calm, collected, and businesslike. I’m sure Medina preferred descriptions of Rachel where she came off as a victim.

The Wozniak Schism

The defense headed to Dan’s parents’ house next.

Vylet had watched as Rachel told Daryl Wozniak “Danny’s been arrested.” Vylet was surprised when Dan’s dad was aloof and unemotional. The weight of what he was being told didn’t seem to be sinking in. Vylet Randolph also testified that Dan’s parents didn’t even know their son was getting married. Dan gave Rachel’s mom and dad a fake email when they wanted to communicate with Dan’s parents.

Medina continued his questioning about the visit with Daryl Wozniak. Dan’s dad enlightened Rachel how Dan’s own actions caused the break between Dan and his parents.

Classy Dan

Dan had lied about attending college classes so he could pocket the tuition money. He stole cash from his parents on more than one occasion. Dan tried to take ownership of a family car so he could sell it.

Still, Dan left home on his own. His parents didn’t kick him out. Dan decided to leave because he didn’t want to be told what to do anymore.

Side note – What he wanted to do was marry Rachel Buffet.

Just Why Did Rachel Make the Call?

In Rachel Buffett’s trial, the prosecution wanted the jury to believe Rachel only went to the Costa Mesa Police because she knew if she didn’t, Vylet would.  Her hand was forced.

Side note – In Dan’s trial, the jury was led to think Rachel reported Tim’s evidence to the police immediately and on her own accord; that Rachel had nothing to hide because she’d done nothing wrong.

  • Did Rachel tell Vylet that Tim said he had a murder weapon? Yes.
  • Would Vylet have known this information otherwise? No.
  • Did Vylet overhear the conversation between Rachel and Tim? No.
  • Vylet was making moves to call the police herself. Did Rachel try to stop Vylet from doing this? No.
  • Did Rachel call a detective while driving to the Costa Mesa Police Department? Yes.

I thought the defense scored some points. Rachel didn’t seem to be hiding anything from Vylet Randolph. Rachel chose to tell Vylet about Tim and the murder weapon.

But when Medina asked Vylet why she and Rachel were driving to the CMPD, and was it for the purpose of reporting the information to the police, her answer was “Mine was. Yes.”

That threw a light dusting of doubt on Rachel’s apparent plans to be forthcoming with the police.

Everything Is Horrible and At Least One of Us Is Totally Broke, So Let’s Get… Sushi?

After Rachel’s interview, Vylet and John were waiting to pick her up outside the police station. Rachel told them Daniel “spilled everything.” He confessed to both murders (this would be when Vylet and John first learned Sam was dead).

The threesome decided to grab some sushi before heading back to the Camdens. Vylet rode in Rachel’s car and John drove his vehicle. Vylet went inside the restaurant and Rachel stayed in the car. When John arrived, he saw Rachel “losing it” inside her car, so he went inside the restaurant to tell his wife they needed to leave. Vylet saw Rachel was in hysterics, so she returned to the car.

What Was Said?

Back at John and Vylet’s apartment, Rachel and John went into another room together, where Vylet assumed Rachel was telling John the details of Dan’s confession.

They came out of the room and John announced, “Rachel needs to tell you something,” and then left their apartment.

Vylet believes her husband went to tell Dave and Jake (other friends from the Camdens) the terrible news, because they all came back to the apartment together, and everyone was angry and upset.

Instead of asking Vylet what Rachel then told her about Dan and the murders, he put out a strangely worded question in order to show Rachel did tell Vylet something. We were not going to hear what that was.

Medina: Did Rachel then explain any particulars to anyone else?

Vylet: Anyone else besides myself?

Medina: Right.

Vylet: Not at that moment.

Murphy Cross-Examines

On Matt Murphy’s cross-examination of Vylet Randolph, he asked her about the jail phone calls between Dan and Rachel. Vylet couldn’t recall Rachel’s side of the conversation, and she couldn’t hear Dan at all.

Murphy had Vylet tell the jury how Rachel lived with her and her husband for a month after the murders. Vylet got to know Rachel very well. Vylet believes Rachel knew something. Dan and Rachel were “inseparable.” You never saw one without the other. It didn’t seem like Dan could accomplish all he did without Rachel knowing something.

As he did with Chris William, Murphy asked Vylet if she had known anything about the murders beforehand. She knew nothing until Rachel told her.

Next up: Closing arguments!

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Four)

Hi readers! I’m sorry it took so long to get this post out. I needed to go out of town for a family thing.

The Next Prosecution Witness: Christopher John Williams

Rachel and Dan Wozniak met Chris Williams, undoubtedly one of the most interesting and important witnesses in Rachel Buffett’s trial, only two weeks before the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

In May of 2010, Chris was living with his parents in the city of Anaheim, where he was recovering from health issues.

In his testimony, Williams explained he’d had some gall bladder problems and intestinal growths.

When Chris became ill, he didn’t have any health insurance and his bills were piling up. Lucky for Williams, a group of his musician friends held a benefit concert to help him with the expenses. They raised enough money to get Chris back on his feet, and have some left over.

Soon, Chris was on the mend. He started spending time with a young woman named Jenny Jones. She happened to be performing in a production of the musical Nine at the Hunger Artists Theatre in Fullerton, California.

Side note – There are two common spellings of the word theatre / theater. I spent my formative years in Canada, where the word is always spelled theatre. Most of us involved in the art use the “re” spelling.  The official name of the theatre where I met Daniel was The Hunger Artists Theatre Company. If I use the “er” spelling, it is likely I’m writing the proper name of a location that uses that spelling in its name. For example:  The Liberty Theater.

Hunger Artists was a tiny theatre in a converted warehouse located in an industrial park. If we had forty-five people in the audience, it was a sold-out show.

Hungry Artists, Broke Actors

When Chris Williams attended a performance of Nine in early May, he had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting Dan Wozniak and Rachel Buffett.

After most performances, it was common to find the actors and tech people hanging out in the lobby or outside smoking cigarettes.  Often, plans were being made for after-show activities at a local bar or at someone’s home.

After seeing Nine, Chris Williams was outside chatting with the cast members. That is when he heard Rachel Buffett lamenting about how the show almost didn’t go on that evening because her fiancée and the star of the production, Dan Wozniak, had been sitting in a jail cell overnight after being arrested on a failure to appear for a DUI. Rachel had spent all night borrowing and scrounging to get the bail money in time for Dan to make curtain.

Side note – Dan has told me he attended the assigned classes, but forgot about the court date.

Side note two – Actors are expected to arrive at the theatre at least an hour before the show starts. This is referred to as “call time.” When we talk about “making curtain,” that means the actor JUST makes it on time for the actual start of the show.

Matt Murphy asked Chris Williams how he responded to hearing Rachel’s tale of woe.

Chris was feeling intensely grateful after people had just held a benefit to help him with his own money problems. In an attempt to make friends and pay it forward, Williams threw out an offer to the couple. He told Dan and Rachel to give him a call the next time they needed a quick loan. He would be more than happy to help them out a jam.

Bank of Chris

That call came two weeks later. Dan Wozniak wanted to borrow two thousand dollars

During Dan’s trial, the loan request was said to be three thousand dollars. Either way, Williams only loaned Dan two thousand dollars.

Chris Williams testified he had some apprehension about loaning two thousand dollars to these people he’d only just met. Now romantically involved with Jenny Jones, Chris asked her advice about the situation. Chris said Jenny vouched for her cast mates, and offered to put a thousand dollars of her own money toward the short-term loan.

Chris met Dan at a nearby Del Taco to hand over the two grand. But Williams was still concerned about getting his money back and in a timely fashion.

So, Chris made up a story about having family ties to “the mob,” and explained to Dan that the money was not actually his own money, but was borrowed from disreputable people who could easily cause physical harm to anyone trying to rip them off.

Summary:

  • Chris Williams meets Dan and Rachel through Jenny Jones.
  • Chris offers to help Dan and Rachel if they need a quick loan.
  • Chris and Jenny each pony up a thousand dollars and Chris gives the money to Dan.
  • Chris tells Dan the money came from “bad people” who want their money back ASAP, and the topic of broken legs may have come up.

At Hunger Artists, we had performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sunday shows at 7 pm. Each production also had one 8 pm Thursday performance.

For Nine, it was on Thursday May 20. After that show, a small group of people from the audience and cast went to Dan and Rachel’s place for a late night barbecue. I’m not certain if Chris Williams had attended the show that night or not, but he was at the barbecue.

Dan grilled sausages out on the first floor patio and boisterously reassured Chris Williams he’d have his money returned the next morning. Ironically, Dan’s booming actor’s voice carried up to Sam Herr’s fourth floor apartment. Sam jokingly called down from his balcony asking why he hadn’t been invited to the party. Sam then turned down Dan’s offer to join them, saying he wanted to get some sleep.

Side note / dark thought: I’m really glad Dan didn’t say, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

Chris Williams went home around 1:00 am and planned to return about ten thirty Friday morning to collect his money.

Sam I Am? Or… Not?

I’m going to jump ahead here for a second.

When it was defense attorney David Medina’s opportunity to question Chris Williams, we learned for the very first time in either trial that Chris was charging Dan and Rachel interest on this loan: “One hundred dollars for every thousand borrowed.”

Chris Williams testified that he returned to the Camden Apartments that Friday morning around 10:30 am. He was under the impression he’d get his money and be back on the road in minutes.

Instead, there was another man in the couple’s apartment who Dan introduced to Chris as “his brother.”  Chris Williams now believes that man was actually Sam Herr.

Dan told Chris to wait at the apartment with Rachel while he and the other man ran an errand to pick up some of Chris’ money.

What Dan told Chris and Rachel depends on whom you ask (Chris or Rachel)… and when you ask them.

  • The other man was going to give Dan the money.
  • Dan told Chris, “This guy is going to help me out,” with getting some money.
  • Dan and the other man were going to the Wozniak’s parents’ house to either find some cash or take some valuable “memorabilia” that could be easily pawned.
  • Dan and the other man were going to the Liberty Theater (Catch the “er?”), where they planned to hit up the director for a loan.

If Chris Williams is correct and the man introduced as Dan’s “brother” was actually Sam Herr, this would mean Sam was there when Dan told Chris they were headed out to get money to pay Chris back.

However, in the official story gleaned directly from Dan’s confession and used for both trials, the trip to the Liberty was so Sam could help Dan “move some stuff” that was stored in the theatre’s attic.  There was no mention Sam was going to help Dan get money on this day.

Maybe Chris Williams didn’t meet Sam Herr. Maybe he met someone else? Why would Sam let Dan introduce him as his brother..?

Just Kickin’ It With Rachel

Chris Williams testified that he offered to accompany the two men, but Dan told Chris to stay at the apartment with Rachel. Dan and his brother / “Sam” left soon after Williams arrived.

Time, Time, Who’s Got the (Correct) Time

During Rachel Buffett’s trial, Matt Murphy said the cameras at the Los Alamitos Base recorded Sam Herr’s car arriving for the first time at 1:15 pm. I couldn’t read the time stamp from where I was sitting in the courtroom, but I have to admit this time frame doesn’t make sense to me.

I didn’t notice this during Dan’s trial, and I wonder if Matt Murphy meant to say Sam’s car arrived on the base at 11:15 am. Otherwise, it took Sam and Dan two and a half hours to drive sixteen miles. Even in Southern California, that is excessive, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time on the base before Dan heads out again to pick up Wesley.

I asked Daniel about this time discrepancy, and he believes they entered the base at a little past eleven in the morning. It’s not impossible that Matt Murphy accidentally gave the wrong time. At one point during his opening statement, he said “Steve” instead of “Sam” in regards to Sam’s murder. This did not go unnoticed by Sam’s loved ones.

Chris Williams said he ended up waiting for approximately three hours. I think it was a lot longer than that, though. He arrived at the Camden apartments around 10:30 am and left soon before sending a text to Dan at 4:14 pm.

Rachel’s Retail Schemes

Matt Murphy led Williams through a few vague questions about how Chris and Rachel passed the time. For Murphy, it was important to prove Rachel Buffett was completely aware she and Dan were in at huge financial mess.

On the stand, Chris Williams said Rachel was clearly upset that Friday morning and extremely concerned about money. Rachel was looking for a job on Craigslist. She was re-packing a new vacuum cleaner with the thought of returning it for cash. She might also have said something about stealing a vacuum and taking it back to the store for the refund.

Chris Williams had to acknowledge that his memory wasn’t perfectly clear this many years later. It wasn’t even as good as it was in 2015, when he testified in Dan’s trial. In Rachel Buffett’s trial, Chris admitted he could “not recall” numerous details from the time of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

You… Must… Chill.

Williams’ memory was sharp, however, when he described Dan Wozniak’s mental state upon returning (alone) to the Camden Apartments.

Chris said he’d, “never seen anybody so upset” as Wozniak was at that time. Dan threw four hundred dollars cash down in front of Williams and told him the rest of the money owed would come in a couple days. Dan was “super stressed,” and Rachel was obviously angry at him about something.

According to Williams, there was a “weird tension” between Dan and Rachel that made him want to get out of their apartment as quickly as possible. On the stand, he emphasized that he repeatedly told both Dan and Rachel there was no need for them to be so upset about owing him money.

“Everything about my demeanor…everything out of my mouth the whole day was, ‘this does not need to be so stressful. It will be ok.’”

Before making his hasty exit, Chris Williams asked Dan if the four hundred dollars was all the money the couple had. It was. Williams said he gave them back a twenty-dollar bill so they could buy themselves some dinner. He also sent a text to Dan’s phone at 4:14 pm: “Hey man try not to stress so much. It will be fine.”

Step Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly…

Right around the same time, a phone call took place between Chris Williams and Rachel Buffett, who was using Dan’s phone.

In his opening statement, Matt Murphy said Chris Williams initiated the phone call. But during Daniel Wozniak’s trial and in his recent testimony, Williams stated it was Rachel (using Dan’s phone) who called him. I’m not sure what difference it makes, but Murphy did get Williams to say he wasn’t positive who made the call.

Nonetheless, Rachel told Chris Williams that he’d dropped twenty dollars and should return to their apartment to get the money. Williams reminded Rachel that he had given them that money to get dinner, but Rachel said it was another twenty that “roll(ed) onto the floor” (that’s a quote from Matt Murphy).

Chris had no intention of going back to that apartment. He had a bad feeling about Rachel trying to get him to return. He said he would see them at the play that night.

He asked Rachel if she was okay. Was she upset about the money? Rachel said it was about “something else.”

The Show Must Go On.

According to Chris Williams, both Rachel and Dan gave excellent performances in Nine that night. He noticed that Rachel wore sunglasses her entire time on the stage, and he asked Jenny about it. Rachel’s sunglasses were not normally part of the show.

When Chris complemented Rachel on her acting skills and her ability to cry onstage, Rachel told him the tears were real.

Maybe Facebook’s Good For Something After All..?

On March 28, Chris Williams was getting ready to attend the wedding of Daniel Wozniak and Rachel Buffett. He’d just gotten out of the shower when he learned that “one of his Facebook friends was arrested for murder.”

He called the police immediately. They had never even heard the name Chris Williams and they now knew Rachel Buffett had lied to them.

Next Time…

In the next post, I’ll cover the defense’s questioning of Chris Williams and the crucial testimony of Vylet Randolph.

Who Wants to Talk?

I’ve received comments and emails from quite a few people who actually knew one or more of the participants in the story of Daniel Wozniak. Some people who knew Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi have expressed anger toward me or my blog, perhaps interpreting my friendship with Daniel as taking the side of a convicted murderer over the side of the victims.

I get that. I have lost loved ones: family and friends who have died of old age, disease, and tragic accidents. But I am lucky to say that I have not lost anyone to murder (knock wood). THAT must be the most difficult and incomprehensible way to have your loved one taken from you. It sickens my heart to even imagine what that pain must be like – especially for a parent losing a child.

I never met Sam Herr or Julie Kibuishi. Those who had the pleasure use adjectives like kind, generous, funny, and friendly to describe them. Both have been called “people who would do anything for anyone.” And there were plenty of examples mentioned during the trial.

I’ve also heard from family members and friends of Daniel’s. Those people knew him as kind, generous and funny as well. Occasionally someone from Daniel’s childhood will write to me and mention that Daniel seemed like he was insecure and he really wanted people to like him. But no one has come forward to say they “always knew Daniel Wozniak would do something horrible like this one day.” Nothing even close to that.

I really didn’t know the Daniel Wozniak who existed before the murders took place in 2010. And that means I don’t have to look back at my time with my friend and think, “Did I miss something?”

During the short time I spent around Daniel, my goal was to size him up as a possible actor for my next play. I talked to his director about his reliability to show up and learn his lines. I contemplated his general personality. Is this guy fun, but still dedicated? Is he creative, but will also do as he’s told? The male lead in my production was supposed to be in his 40s, and Daniel’s character in Nine was that age range. My thoughts were aimed toward “Do I want to work with this guy?”

Hindsight certainly has made that all insignificant.

Since I’ve only gotten to really know Daniel during his incarceration, I am not sure if the friend I know now is anything like Daniel before he did the unthinkable. People can change significantly when institutionalized.

I want to learn as much as I can about Sam, Julie, Daniel and Rachel. I’m writing about them, and I want to do my best to be fair and accurate. They are the principle characters in this tragic drama.

I know much less about Rachel than I do about Daniel. There are commenters who speak up for her regularly, and they maintain she is also one of Daniel’s victims. However, thus far her defenders have not actually acknowledged personally knowing Rachel Buffett. Perhaps an oversight?

I mention all this because my director side is coming out.

I feel compelled to create a character analysis for each of “the leads” (for lack of a better term). A director does this so the character on the page can become a real-life flesh-and-blood person for the audience. I’m not trying to sound like I’m sucking up to people who knew Sam and Julie, but it does sound like they were both pretty amazing people. Julie and Sam were flesh-and-blood people, but I didn’t get to meet them, and most of the people who read this didn’t get to either.

When directors and actors are trying to learn about a character in a script, the best way to do that is to study what others say about the character, and to look at the character’s own words and deeds.

Before I begin this undertaking, I want to point out that I’m not trying to diminish these actual real human beings by “characterizing” them. Really, my goal is quite the opposite. I want to put out what I’ve learned so far from court witnesses, newspaper articles, TV interviews, people I’ve talked to, people who’ve written to me on the blog, and my own knowledge of human beings. Then, I’m hoping if any of my descriptions are inaccurate, the people who knew Sam, Julie, Rachel or Daniel before 2010 will contact me, and let me pick their brain.

Okay. Character analysis time.

I’m going to begin with the one I actually know-ish.

Daniel

He is the youngest of three boys, and there is a ten-year time gap between him and his next older brother. Daniel grew up in church-going Catholic family. Both of his parents worked, so Daniel spent a lot of time with his grandparents after school. Although Daniel’s mother had an important career with the city, her work didn’t keep her from being a hands-on mother. The Wozniak family never wanted for money. They traveled. They owned nice things. They had a big house. Neither of Daniel’s older brothers created illustrious lives for themselves, and I think Daniel’s mother had envisioned that he would be the son to go to college and have a successful career. Maybe something in accounting.

Daniel wasn’t a problem at all. He was a good kid. He was on the honors roll and good grades came pretty easily to him. He wasn’t a “cool kid,” but he was a natural performer and well liked by teachers and students. Something inside him wanted everyone around “to have a good time,” and he used jokes, singing, dancing and magic tricks to make that happen. I think his mother was proud of her son’s talents, but thought of being an entertainer as a fun yet trivial side project. Daniel never envisioned himself being a future star of stage and screen. He just really enjoyed performing. It made him happy. The world of the theatre was a place where roles came frequently and easily.  And the accolades were many. It was the perfect place for this goofy, dorky, show-off who was a combination of insecure and cocky (like most actors).

In his early 20s, Daniel was pretty casual about his plans for the future. He had a good job. He was acting and singing in musicals, and he was having fun. But he wasn’t really planning his life out the way his mom had hoped.

The Daniel I know plans everything to a T. He is always thinking twelve steps ahead. It’s a dichotomy to me that my friend didn’t have his whole life already totally mapped out.

He took a couple of community college classes, but didn’t have any degree goals. He saw himself as a salesman. He was a successful one too, and believed that real-life experience would be much more useful to him than sitting in a classroom.

Daniel and his mom often locked horns over his life choices. He and his father had similar “more casual” personalities. Partying until the wee hours, dating non-Catholic girls, and having a lackadaisical attitude toward college didn’t go over well with MaryAnne Wozniak.

By the time 2010 rolled around, Daniel was living in an apartment with Rachel, and he was estranged from his parents. Even his easy-going father was against Daniel and Rachel’s fast-moving relationship. Choosing Rachel wasn’t the only reason Daniel moved out of his parents’ house, but it was the one that would become the most life changing . I can’t imagine there was anything more important to him after that than proving to his parents he was right by having a happy marriage and successful life.

I can’t write nearly as much about Rachel, Julie or Sam. I just don’t know as much… yet.

Rachel

Rachel Buffett is definitely the most difficult person for me to figure out. I know very little about her. Sometimes I think Daniel didn’t ever completely understood her, either. There are times he tells me stories about arguments they had, and I think that she was completely right in the situation and I probably would have sided with her if I’d been there. He sounds like he was a bit of a know-it-all with her.

On TV, and in the police interviews I’ve seen, Rachel often comes off as blank and emotionless. It’s a criticism I’ve read about her often. She just doesn’t act the way we think someone should act when her fiancé has just told her he murdered two people. But what if Rachel has always been shy and introverted? These aren’t qualities people normally associate with musical theatre performers, but it really isn’t that unusual for an actor to only feel comfortable on stage and playing another person.

Rachel is the third of five children. She also comes from a very religious family. She and her siblings were all home schooled by their mother. (I just recently learned that Daniel’s mom and Rachel’s mom have the same name.)

Daniel quickly became close with the entire Buffett family. He thought of them as a combination of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver. He couldn’t believe that families still went door to door Christmas caroling. He loved them. He felt like a member of Rachel’s family.

Rachel’s mom and dad were completely supportive of Daniel and Rachel getting married.

When I “met” Rachel at the Hunger Artists Theatre Company during the rehearsals of Nine, she came off as snobby and unfriendly, but I know this often happens with people who are shy. Also, I was directing the next musical, and actors sometimes just know how to act around directors. I wanted her to audition for my show as well, but I kind of just assumed that if I got Daniel there, she’d come along too.

I’m not proud of that lame attitude, but directors in Orange County usually had to focus first on getting their male roles cast, because there are so many less good male actors and there are always tons of great roles available for them. Truth be told, I thought she was a much more talented singer than Daniel.

When it comes to Rachel, there are so many things I can’t figure out. I can’t decide if she’s a silly little airhead or a complete genius. Is she a sweet and demure little princess who has been horribly duped by the man she loved? Or is she the super-stubborn “my way or the highway” hellcat who once physically attacked Daniel at a party?

Maybe she’s all of that.  Maybe I will learn a lot more about her when she’s on trial.

For the descriptions of Sam and Julie, I need to rely on what was said about them in court and through the media. Right now, I know the least about them and I want to be very careful and respectful. I hope through research and interviews that I will learn so much more about them.

I had the opportunity to talk with Sam’s dad Steve on a couple of occasions during the trial, but that wasn’t really the time or place to interview him. I hope to talk with him again in the future. Any chance to speak with anyone in Julie’s family would be so appreciated.

Until Daniel is finally sentenced and leaves Orange County, I can’t bring myself to approach any of Sam’s or Julie’s loved ones. I don’t know if Daniel going to prison will give them closure, but maybe it will help heal the wound a bit. They might never want to talk to me, though. Could they trust a person who identifies herself as a friend of Daniel Wozniak?

I think they can.

Sam

When Sam’s dad called him a “big galoot” during an interview, the smile on his face showed how much Steve Herr liked his son. Of course Sam’s parents loved their son, but Steve really liked Sam, too. He was an only child. His parents didn’t think they could have children, and when Sam came along, he became the most important thing in both his parents’ lives. He was their “prince.”

It sounds like Sam was popular and outgoing. He probably always made friends easily. I’m guessing Sam wasn’t always the best student. I don’t think the academic part of school was his favorite.

We know he got into some major trouble in his late teens. I don’t know what happened there. Did Sam lure his friend to be murdered? Did Sam get off on a technicality? Should he have gone to prison? I don’t know.

But, he didn’t go to prison. He went to war. He defended our country. He was brave and honorable, and became like a brother to many of his fellow soldiers. Sam came back a better man and a richer one. He was going to college and working toward a bright future. Sam Her had his life stolen from him in a stupid theatre, but there was so much more to him than just the way he died.

Julie

I actually start to tear up when I even think about Julie.  I know so many kids who went to OCSA (the Orange County School of the Arts). I can just imagine Julie dancing and singing around the courtyard at the school during lunch. OCSA is a special place filled with extremely talented kids. And Julie was talented. She was a gifted singer and dancer, but also had a flair for fashion design, and she had recently decided to look toward a career in that industry.

Julie was smart and sweet and kind. I’m not just throwing these words around because they sound good – I could see it in the faces of her family members when they testified in court. Julie Kibuishi was part of a very close family. She and her younger sister lived with their parents. There are two older brothers as well. There’s a tribute video to her on YouTube and the photos show a loving, happy family, so it’s sickening to watch the video and know this beautiful girl with the brilliant smile has been ripped away from them.

I suspect that Julie was innocent and perhaps a bit naïve. Not such a strange thing for a young woman of 23. Julie trusted people. On the night she was murdered, her last text to her brother said that Sam was crying.  She must have been told that, because Sam wasn’t there, Julie entered that apartment because she would do anything for her friends, and she thought Sam needed her.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I hope my descriptions were pretty accurate, but there’s a lot more to learn about these four people and finger-crossed that some of you can help me out. If anyone reading this is willing to talk to me (if you don’t want your name used, that is not a problem), please fill out this super short form and I will contact you.  Thanks in advance for your help.