Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Two)

The Prosecution Presents Their Case

On the afternoon of September 5, 2018, assistant district attorney Matt Murphy called the first prosecution witness in the case of The People vs. Rachel Buffett.

Cellphone Shenanigans

Carlos Diaz, a member of the Costa Mesa Police and partner of detective Jose Morales, was questioned about the cellphone activity that led up to the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

On the night Julie was murdered, she received numerous texts from the cellphone of her close friend Sam Herr.

We now know that Sam had already been brutally murdered by that time, and he was not sending those texts. Daniel Wozniak would later confess he had sent the texts to Julie, with the intention of luring the young woman to Sam Herr’s apartment, to murder her and frame Sam.

Rachel Buffett claimed she knew nothing about Dan’s involvement in either murder until Dan confessed. This meant that Rachel had to be completely unaware of texts sent to Julie Kibuishi using Sam’s phone.

During police questioning, Rachel admitted she and Dan were together during the time the texts were sent, but she never noticed Dan using Sam’s cell phone.

Carlos Diaz was there to show the jury how unlikely a possibility that was.

A Tech Technicality

In May of 2010, Sam Herr was still using an early-generation flip phone, while Daniel Wozniak owned one of the first touchscreen smartphones.

Dan’s phone had a keyboard. Sam’s phone used an alphanumeric keypad, the kind where you have to press the number keys repeatedly select the desired letter.

Dan’s phone could be put on silent mode. Sam’s lit up and vibrated when he received texts.

The broke guy had the brand-new phone.

There were twelve texts back and forth between Sam Herr’s phone and Julie Kibuishi’s… but Rachel Buffett said she never saw or heard Sam’s cell phone.

During his cross-examination, defense attorney David Medina asked the witness about other brands of flip phones in use in 2010.  This was possibly an attempt to show the jury how Sam’s phone wouldn’t have drawn Rachel’s attention because, at the time, flip phones were quite common.

Detective Morales Investigates

The next witness was Costa Mesa Police Detective Jose Morales, who had a lead role in the investigation of the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

Detective Morales arrived at Sam Herr’s apartment soon after the 911 call came in from Steve Herr on the night of May 22, 2010. Steve had reported finding the body of a young woman in his son’s apartment, and the distraught father immediately knew his missing son would become a suspect in her murder.

Matt Murphy’s questions led Morales through a detailed explanation of the initial investigation into Julie’s murder. The detective explained how Julie’s purse and cellphone were found in Sam’s apartment, and an examination of Julie’s cellphone led the Costa Mesa police department to a series of text messages back and forth with Sam Herr’s cellphone.

In spite of Steve Herr’s protests that his son would never hurt a woman, least of all his close friend Julie, a police report was immediately circulated regarding murder suspect Sam Herr. The report did not mention the possible sexual assault of Julie Kibuishi… and that would become important later.

From Suspect To Victim

Rachel Buffett’s jury was given a full rundown of how Sam Herr turned from suspect to victim.

They were told about Daniel Wozniak’s plan to murder Sam for his money. They heard how ATM transactions led to teenager Wesley Freilich, who immediately explained that Dan Wozniak gave him the card and told him to withdraw money every day. That was when Dan Wozniak became a possible accessory suspect in Julie’s murder, and a hopeful lead to the Sam Herr.

Matt Murphy and Detective Morales took the jury through Dan Wozniak’s arrest at his bachelor party, and Dan’s subsequent lies about Sam and his whereabouts.

This is when we got back to the case against Rachel Buffett.

At one point during the investigation, Dan and Rachel were each questioned in separate rooms at the Costa Mesa Police Department. This was before Dan’s confession. The police were still searching for Sam Herr, and Steve and Raquel Herr were suffering the torment of having a missing son who was a murder suspect.

Matt Murphy jumps around a lot when he’s going through the details of this case, and I sometimes wonder if he’s difficult to follow for jurors who are completely new to this story.

I’m sure they got the most important information: Dan Wozniak is a monster. Dan Wozniak is a murderer. There is a lot of physical evidence pointing to Dan Wozniak. There is no physical evidence pointing to Rachel Buffett. Dan Wozniak confessed – eventually – and claimed to be the only person involved in both murders.

The jury saw photos of the ax and saw used to dismember Sam’s body. These tools had been borrowed from Noah Buffett, and Dan made no attempt to sneak around when doing so.

Heavy Sleeper

Photos taken in Dan and Rachel’s apartment showed Sam Herr’s laptop on the couple’s bookshelf, and Dan’s blood-splattered shoes next to the bed.

A picture of the couple’s bed showed it was only twin-sized. Matt Murphy pointed out that the six foot two, 210-pound Wozniak couldn’t possibly leave that bed without Rachel waking up or noticing him missing.

During questioning, Rachel said she and Dan were together the entire evening of May 22… but she later said she had been asleep when Dan left to murder Julie.

At 11:35 pm on May 21, Rachel went on Facebook and replied to a message sent to her from Julie Kibuishi that afternoon.

This was proof Rachel was awake only twenty-five minutes before her fiancée supposedly snuck out of their apartment to commit murder.  It also appeared to the police that Rachel was trying to create an electronic alibi for herself.

The biggest issue for Rachel Buffett was information she gave the police during the early days of Julie’s murder investigation. Rachel stated that she saw a third man with Sam and Dan.

The police know there was no third man.

Collaborators?

Jose Morales told the jury how Rachel was eventually brought into the interrogation room with Dan, so Dan could “confess” to his fiancée that he and Sam had a credit card scam going. Dan also told Rachel how he had helped Sam elude the police after Sam killed Julie. The CMPD didn’t believe any of it, and it was clear to them that Dan was trying to help Rachel keep all the lies straight.

Drug Use Revealed

In his cross-examination, David Medina asked about drug use at the Camden apartments. Detective Morales acknowledged that a group of about a dozen or so residents (including Dan, Rachel and Sam) partied and regularly used drugs together.

Side note – Daniel admitted drug use to me in our very first correspondences, but during Daniel’s trial, Matt Murphy implied there was no drug use at the Camden.  Medina’s line of questioning didn’t really lead to a defense of Rachel Buffett, but it may have reduced any blowback expected to come from the jury, who later saw recorded video questioning of Rachel wherein she admitted to rampant drug use amongst the “Taco Tuesday” group.

Snow White

David Medina also asked Detective Morales about interviews with Wesley Freilich, and Morales admitted that Wesley didn’t say anything about Rachel being involved in the ATM activity.

More importantly, Daniel Wozniak never implicated Rachel during any interviews with the police or on any of their recorded telephone calls from the Orange County Jail. (He has implicated her to me).

When Rachel learned that Tim Wozniak had incriminating evidence including a murder weapon he’d been given by Dan, Rachel called Detective Morales to inform the CMPD.

Just before court adjourned for the day, David Medina got Detective Morales to agree that Rachel Buffett did help him “figure out” the case.

September 6, 2018

Thursday morning began with the continued questioning of Detective Carlos Morales by the defense. David Medina hammered at two major points:

  1. Daniel Wozniak was in fear of losing Rachel Buffett because she was “his light,” and he would lie, steal, and murder if that’s what it took to keep Rachel happy.
  2. Rachel had not lied to the police to protect Daniel, and she helped lead police to important evidence.

Throughout the entire trial and with numerous witnesses, there was a great deal of back and forth about when Rachel called the police about that evidence, and her motives for doing so.

Hot Potato

In case you don’t remember this part from Daniel’s trial:

  • Dan gave his brother, Tim, a box, and asked Tim to get rid of the contents. The box held the gun used in both murders, and a backpack chock-full of very incriminating evidence: Sam’s passport, ID, checkbook, blood covered clothing… and Dan’s DNA wass all over it.
  • Tim took the backpack and threw it into his parents’ backyard. Then he went to a friend for advice about the gun, and the friend took the gun to the Long Beach Police Department the next day (May 27, I believe).
  • Later that same day (I think) Rachel went to Long Beach to tell Daniel’s parents their son had been arrested. When she was about to drive away from the house, Tim Wozniak drove up and parked behind Rachel’s car. Rachel got out of the car and walked to Tim’s car. Rachel says this this was the first time she learned that Dan had any connection to a “murder weapon.” (I’m not positive if the backpack was also discussed at that time.)
  • Minutes later, Rachel received a call from Dan from the Orange County Jail. Rachel was quite aware the call was being recorded. Rachel told Dan about her conversation with Tim, and then revealed to her stupefied fiancée that she was going to call Detective Morales to tell him what she’d just learned. Dan freaked out and told Rachel that if this evidence is found, he would be “doomed.”
  • Rachel got off the phone and called the CMPD. The police soon got a search warrant for the Wozniak home in Long Beach, and that was when the backpack was recovered.

Rachel Buffett wasn’t alone that day.  Her close friend Vylet Randolph had joined Rachel to give moral support (this was new to me). Vylet would soon testify about what Rachel did next.

We’ll get to that…

So Helpful

Rachel’s defense attorney made sure to emphasize how much Rachel helped out the investigation, especially since Rachel supposedly didn’t know Tim’s friend had already turned the murder weapon in to the Long Beach Police.

Side note – Matt Murphy ended up crediting “evil Jeff Spicoli” for his assistance and cooperation with the police.

Next Time…

The next witness up was Lt. Ed Everett, who was the big boss overseeing the entire investigation. In the next post, I’ll go into the details of his testimony and his belief that Rachel Buffett knew of, and assisted in, the entire plan to murder Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part One)

It’s Monday, September 10, 2018. I just got home from the courthouse.

Today’s session of the Rachel Buffett trial ended before eleven.  This wasn’t because of any issues or attorney arguments. It appears that the witness portion of the trial will be soon be ending. Judge Hanson excused the jury, explaining that the remainder of the day would be used by the attorneys to work on stipulations for final jury instructions.

During Daniel’s trial, I stuck around for all the attorney interactions, but Asst. DA Matt Murphy and Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, are so cordial with each other, it didn’t seem like there would be much of a battle.  I won’t lie: Murphy and Scott Sanders were more entertaining when they went head to head.

As I have been watching Rachel’s trial, I can’t help wondering how I personally would vote if I were on the jury and had no previous knowledge of this case. Right now, I would be on the fence.

Day One (9/5/18)

Matt Murphy gave his opening argument, and lucky for me, in order to look at the jury, he turned toward where I sat in the courtroom. This meant I was able to hear him a lot better than I could during Daniel’s trial. Matt Murphy can be so mumbly, each day there are at least six people wearing headphones provided for the court because they have difficulty hearing the proceedings.

Side note – I like to sit in the far back corner because I feel hidden away AND there is an electrical outlet right next to me where I can charge my phone during the trial.

DA Murphy’s Opening Statement

Assistant DA Matt Murphy’s opening statement was so similar to the one he gave during Daniel’s trial that I thought I was having déjà vu.  He made the same joke / reference to the TV show Melrose Place when describing the Camden Apartments complex where Dan Wozniak, Rachel Buffett and murder victim Sam Herr were all living in May of 2010. It was necessary for Matt Murphy to tell the entire disturbing story again because this is an entirely new jury.

Side note – The brutal murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi have been so much a part of my everyday life for the past three years that it always surprises me when Orange County residents know nothing about the case of the “Gruesome Groom” who murdered two people so he could go on an amazing honeymoon.

Still, Murphy’s opening felt like Daniel was on trial again.  I’d expected more changes that related specifically to Rachel’s charges. I get it, though. There are a lot of twists and turns to this story no matter what you believe actually happened.

In Rachel’s trial, Matt Murphy also brought out some “evidence” that he used during Daniel’s trial, and he once again made some unproven claims during his opening/closing arguments.

  • An envelope containing an invitation to Dan and Rachel’s wedding was found in Sam’s apartment. The “S” in the name Sam looked like a lightning bolt. Julie Kibuishi had the words “All yours fuck you” scrawled on her sweater when her body was found in Sam’s apartment. The “s” on her sweater looked like a lightning bolt. Matt Murphy has told two juries that Daniel Wozniak wrote the invitation and the words on Julie’s sweater. However, there has never been any actual proof put forth to prove Daniel wrote either. Rachel could have written them both. I have a tendency to believe she did. However, we were never shown any other proven examples of Dan’s or Rachel’s writing to compare those lightning bolts.
  • A sketchpad was found in Sam Herr’s apartment. On one of the pages was a disturbing and rudimentary charcoal drawing that appeared to be of an Asian woman lying down surrounded by flames. It had words to the effect of “I’m done,” written next the drawing. Matt Murphy has emphatically stated that Daniel Wozniak made this drawing. But I want the proof. Fingerprints? DNA? I know they can test hands for gunshot residue. Ummm… charcoal residue test?

Evidence Optional

Before Daniel Wozniak’s trial, I knew very little about the legal system. I honestly had no idea that during opening and closing arguments lawyers can make any claims and purport any theories they wish, but they don’t actually have to prove them.

This fact is pointed out to the the jury during instructions, but do they all remember this when Murphy is dramatically flashing a disturbing drawing in front of them? Perhaps Matt could have used the “S” and the drawing against Rachel too if, during Dan’s trial, he had just suggested that either one of them was responsible.

But, any tiny hint of Rachel’s culpability during Dan Wozniak’s trial may have lost Murphy his coveted death penalty verdict.

If it seems like I’m writing about Daniel’s trial instead of Rachel’s, it’s because Matt Murphy was putting on the same show. For example, I still don’t understand why he made sure both juries knew that murder victim Julie Kibuishi had a Taylor Swift ringtone on her cell phone.  That is sad as hell, but not evidence of anything.

The One About Rachel Buffett

Finally, Matt got around to talking about Rachel Buffett. He told the jury Rachel grew up in Long Beach, was home schooled, and took dance and acting classes at a local community college. Matt Murphy also emphasized that in the relationship between Rachel and Dan, it was she who “wore the pants.”

Later, he even called witnesses to corroborate that claim on the stand.

 I’ve personally spoken to quite a few people who all say Rachel was the boss. When I’ve brought this up to Daniel Wozniak himself, he denies it and still believes the two of them were equals.

 It’s important to remember that Rachel Buffett professes to be just another one of Daniel Wozniak’s victims. She says she knew nothing about their bank debt, rent issues or the money borrowed from friends.

But during Matt’s opening, he pointed out that Rachel knew she and Daniel were being evicted from their apartment only two months after moving in. They had received an official warning from the Orange County Sheriffs, and had been told to vacate the apartment.

Matt Murphy told the jury that Dan and Rachel moved into the Camden Apartments on February 14. My eyes immediately darted to Julie Kibuishi’s parents.

Julie was born on Valentine’s Day, and I suspected the mention of that date wouldn’t slip past them. I saw June Kibuishi wince at the mention of what was her daughter’s final birthday.

Soon after that, it was Sam’s mother in tears when Matt Murphy showed photos of the ax and saw used to dismember her only child.

Matt Murphy went on to tell the jury about Daniel and Rachel’s mutual debt. Both had individual bank accounts and shared accounts that were in the red. The total debt accrued, including back rent and Dan’s DUI charges, came out to about $3,000. Neither Dan nor Rachel had any credit card debt, and I do wonder how many couples in their twenties have similar debt.

Side note: Murphy wondered why Dan didn’t just get a job acting in TV commercials instead of murdering for money. Ummm, Matt – I can’t count the number of times you and the Costa Mesa Police have commented on Dan’s “bad” acting. Commercial jobs are hard to get even for good actors.

Our Cast of Characters

The DA’s opening argument continued with an introduction to some of the key players, complete with nicknames:

  • “Our hero,” Dan Wozniak
  • “Evil Jeff Spicoli,” Dan’s older brother Tim Wozniak
  • “Naïve teenager,” and ATM dupe Wesley Freilich
  • “Money lender and all around great guy,” Chris Williams
  • Rachel’s brother Noah Buffett (He didn’t get a fun nickname)

When Matt Murphy talked about victims Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, he described the two young people as kind, generous, and beloved by their families and friends.

Casting a Shadow

However, unlike during Dan Wozniak’s trial, this time Murphy introduced Sam Herr’s past legal problems during his opening.

Sam was once on trial for murder. Dan’s jury knew nothing about it (in spite of defense attorney Scott Sanders’ hard fight to have the information brought to light.) I can’t imagine Dan’s jury would have been swayed in any way by this information, but Judge Conley’s ruling to keep it out will probably be one of the MANY appellate claims to come forth in Dan’s legal future.

Reviewing the Investigation

Matt Murphy led this new jury through the beginning of the investigation step by step:

  • Steve Herr, father of Sam, is concerned that he can’t reach his son.
  • Steve drives to Sam’s Costa Mesa apartment to check on his son, who had been known to suffer PTSD from his combat time in Afghanistan.
  • When Steve arrives at his son’s apartment, he makes a devastating discovery: the body of a young woman lying on his son’s bed. The woman looks as though she has been sexually assaulted. Steve immediately calls 911.
  • Soon after, the Costa Mesa Police arrive, and the young woman is identified as Sam’s friend Julie Kibuishi.
  • Sam Herr becomes the prime suspect in the murder and possible rape of Julie Kibuishi.
  • Sam Herr’s ATM card is used in the city of Long Beach, and stakeouts are set up in hopes of finding Sam. This leads the police to teenager Wesley Freilich, who is using Sam’s card to order pizza.
  • Wesley tells the police it was Dan Wozniak who gave him the card.
  • Dan Wozniak is followed, questioned, and eventually arrested during his own bachelor party.
  • After giving the police numerous false statements, Dan Wozniak finally confesses that he murdered both Sam and Julie in order to steal Sam’s money and frame Sam for Julie’s murder.

The Evidence Against Rachel

Matt Murphy then started to dig into the charges against Rachel Buffett. One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against Rachel regarded information she told the Costa Mesa PD during early questioning.

In order to throw the police off his track early on, Daniel told the Costa Mesa PD that he last saw Sam Herr on the afternoon of May 21, 2010, driving away with a third man after dropping off Dan at the Camden Apartments.

This was a big ol’ lie, and during Dan’s later interrogation, he admitted there was no third man at all.

The problem for Rachel was that she also claimed to see Sam with this mysterious man in a black baseball cap. Rachel told the Costa Mesa Police that this third man was a friend of Sam’s and she didn’t personally know the guy even though she said the man was in her apartment on the morning Sam “went missing.” At that point, the police already knew the story was a lie. There was no third man.

Oh… No She Didn’t

I’m going to jump ahead for a minute so you don’t get your hopes up for some big bombshell. Rachel Buffett did not testify during her trial. She did not personally give a reason as to why she lied to the police. That was left up to her attorney to explain.

Considering that Rachel Buffett waited years for her day in court, I have to wonder if she now regrets not getting on the stand. A defendant does not have to testify, and the jury isn’t supposed to hold that against her.

But why didn’t Rachel Buffett face Matt Murphy on the stand? Why did she turn down a plea deal to testify against Daniel Wozniak during his trial?

She wanted the world to know she was also one of his victims, but she wasn’t willing to testify to that claim.

Yes, I will explain my theories (based on numerous conversations with Dan) in my book.

Daniel’s Confession

Matt Murphy gave Rachel’s jury (which was predominantly male) the story of Daniel Wozniak’s confession.

  • Sam was murdered for his money. Dan was going to use Wesley to empty out Sam’s account $400 a day. Dan wanted the money to take Rachel on an amazing honeymoon.
  • Dan murdered Sam Herr in the attic of the Liberty Theater, which was located on a military base in Los Alamitos.
  • Dan cut off Sam’s head and hands and disposed of them in a park.
  • Dan then lured Julie Kibuishi to Sam’s apartment using Sam’s cell phone. Julie Kibuishi went to Sam’s apartment thinking she was there to help her friend who supposedly was going through some emotional turmoil.
  • Dan Wozniak met Julie at Sam’s apartment and led her inside.
  • Dan shot Julie twice in the head.
  • Dan set the scene to look as though Sam had murdered and raped Julie Kibuishi and then disappeared.

During Dan Wozniak’s trial, Matt Murphy asked the jury to believe the entirety of Dan’s confession. However, during Rachel Buffett’s trial, Murphy made accusations that in that confession were lies regarding Rachel’s involvement with the murders of Sam and Julie.

During Daniel’s trial, Rachel Buffett was made out to be a hero who helped solve two murders, but it seemed like Murphy’s opinion of Rachel changed a bit when it came time to put her on trial.

Even texts from Sam Herr’s cell phone were analyzed during Murphy’s opening statement. He pointed out that when Dan Wozniak was alone with the phone, the texts to Julie were innocuous. But as soon as Dan was home with Rachel, the “Sam” texts turned into desperate requests for Julie to come over to the Camden Apartments.

Ironically, this exact point was made by Scott Sanders while defending Dan Wozniak.

When it was time for defense attorney, David Medina, to give his opening statement, Matt Murphy introduced Medina as an extremely professional attorney for which Matt has the upmost respect.

Side note – This was one of many not-so-subtle digs at Scott Sanders.

Defense Attorney David Medina’s Opening Statement

David Medina started off telling the jury that Daniel Wozniak is a monster, a psychopath, and a pathological liar. Dan is a loser. Dan is evil. Dan Wozniak couldn’t properly provide for Rachel Buffett, and he knew it. He lied to Rachel about every aspect of their lives together because he didn’t feel worthy of her.

Medina said Rachel knew absolutely nothing about Dan’s involvement with the murders of Sam and Julie before his arrest and confession. That it was Rachel who led the police to a treasure trove of evidence against Dan and “blew the case wide open.” It was Rachel who “got Dan to confess on the phone.” And it was Rachel Buffett who “assisted the police in eventually convicting” Dan Wozniak of two murders (even though she refused to testify against him).

Hmmm – I wonder if that argument sounded familiar to Matt Murphy?

Next Up…

…I will get into the witnesses for the prosecution.

Rachel Buffett’s Trial For Accessory to Murder (After the Fact) Begins

Rachel Buffett’s accessory (after the fact) to murder trial began on Friday, September 5, 2018, and is well underway.

The jury was chosen. District Attorney Matt Murphy made an opening statement. Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, also made an opening statement.

The trial is scheduled to last until next Friday, September 14, 2018.

I have taken copious notes, but Judge Hanson made a statement about the media coverage of this trial on day one, and I took that to mean, “Wait until the trial is over before you tell the world every little detail.” I will honor that request.

I will say this:

  • Matt Murphy likes David Medina a LOT more than he did Scott Sanders. He makes little comments about how “professional” Mr. Medina is in the courtroom, and it’s so obvious that he’s sending out little digs to an absent Scott Sanders that I have to stifle a laugh when it happens. I miss the Scott and Matt courtroom quarrels, but Medina seems like he definitely has his sh*t together.
  • Before the trial started, I couldn’t imagine Rachel Buffett being found not guilty, but now I can. It’s not a pleasant thought.
  • We are not in Mike the Bailiff’s courtroom anymore! I don’t know the name of Judge Hanson’s main bailiff, but in my head I’ve nicknamed him Major Bailiff. If that man hasn’t been in the military I will eat my hat. (What a strange expression, right?) Remember how I told you there was none of that “all rise” formality during Daniel’s trial? Well Major Bailiff makes sure we rise, and turn off our phones, and have drinks with lids, and sit up straight and pay attention, and not wear sunglasses even if they are just sitting on the top of someone’s head. I don’t dislike Major Bailiff. He’s just a guy who takes his job very seriously. You have to respect that. And Mike the Bailiff, if you’re reading this, please don’t be offended — I enjoy the ritual of standing up before the judge enters. I’m used to seeing that on TV.  But Mike was a lot a friendlier.
  • We’ve seen some familiar witnesses. We’ve heard some familiar questioning and some unfamiliar questioning.
  • We’ve watched interrogation footage of Rachel being interviewed by the Costa Mesa Police. I’ve seen some short clips of her interview, but this was a lot more footage and it was eye opening. (Truth be told, my eyes were already opened, but Rachel made quite a few statements giving me confirmation of stories Daniel Wozniak has often shared with me.)
  • We are in a smaller courtroom and it’s a lot easier to hear Matt Murphy in this space. But some of the video footage is virtually impossible to make out. The jury gets a written transcript, so it doesn’t matter if Rachel and Daniel are mumbling like crazy, but I’d really appreciate some subtitles for those of us in the cheaper seats. (For a couple of actors, they certainly didn’t know how to enunciate or project.)
  • One constant from both Daniel’s and Rachel’s trials has been Sam Herr’s and Julie Kibuishi’s loved ones, ever-present. Their heartbreak is palpable.

That’s about all I’ll go into right now. I promise to give you the complete story when the trial finishes, and until then, I’ll get updates out as much as possible.

Thanks for reading the blog.

Rachel Buffett’s August 29, 2018 Court Appearance

First, I’m going to admit I was wrong when I suggested in my last post that Rachel Buffett might be choosing to have a bench trial instead of a jury trial. I only wondered about this when I noticed there had been no mention of a jury in Rachel’s previous two hearings.  Maybe I watch too much TV, but it would be an interesting defense strategy to leave Rachel Buffett’s fate entirely in the hands of Judge Sheila Hanson.

That is not the case. The jury selection process for Rachel’s trial will begin on Tuesday, September fourth, at nine am.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’ve probably gotten your hopes up in the past, but folks, I really think this time it’s going to happen. After eight years, Rachel Buffett will finally have her day in court. This will be her chance to clear her name and prove she was not an accessory (after the fact) to the murders of Sam Herr or Julie Kibuishi.

It’s important to point out that Rachel is not being charged for the actual murders of Sam or Julie. A thorough and arduous investigation by the Costa Mesa Police hasn’t turned up enough evidence to prove Rachel’s involvement was equal to Daniel Wozniak’s.

However, even during Wozniak’s trial, lead investigator Lt. Ed Everett admitted on the stand that he believed Rachel Buffett should be facing the same capital murder charges as her ex-fiancée.

Admittedly, I’m more curious to hear about the investigation into Rachel’s case than I was about Daniel’s.

I had a lot more information about Daniel and his murder investigation. I also knew Daniel Wozniak was not going to take the stand, and that meant his own confession was going to weigh heavily on the jury’s decision.  I was sure Daniel would be found guilty and that he’d likely get the death penalty.  Daniel Wozniak’s trial held very few surprises for me.

Rachel’s Buffett’s trial is a complete unknown.

During the August 29th hearing, it was established that her trial is expected to take ten days. The amount of time surprised me, considering her charges aren’t that complicated.

The police say she lied to them during their investigation into Sam’s and Julie’s murders. Rachel has claimed this was all a misunderstanding. She had no knowledge and gave no intentional assistance to Daniel Wozniak regarding either of the murders.  Rachel Buffett didn’t confess to anything. Daniel Wozniak confessed to everything.

I have no doubt that Rachel and her defense team will strongly fight any charges against her.

If Rachel or any of her supporters (whom I’ve nicknamed “The Blonde Coalition”) are worried about Rachel’s fate, they certainly aren’t showing any signs of concern while in the courtroom.  I believe both her parents and all three of her siblings were in court on Wednesday showing united support from behind Rachel, who was now officially sitting at the defendants’ table (I believe she stood at a podium previously, but I haven’t been to every one of Rachel’s court appearances).

Steve and Raquel Herr, the parents of murder victim Sam Herr, would be the ones to ask. They have been to every court appearance.  Steve was recently quoted in The LA Times, saying, “We’re ready for another jury trial.”

I don’t doubt that for one minute.

Despite of my friendship with the man who murdered their only son, they’ve shown me nothing but politeness and consideration. Sitting outside of Courtroom 41 last Wednesday morning, I wished Raquel Herr “good luck,” regarding the upcoming hearing. It was the best I could think of at the time.

She smiled at me and thanked me. She also said something I couldn’t quite make out because of her Spanish accent… but I understood the gist of it.

She appreciated my sentiment, but luck wouldn’t be necessary.  Jesus has got this.

I don’t doubt that either.

More updates to come as the trial progresses.

Rachel Buffett’s August 23, 2018 Court Appearance

On Thursday, August 23, 2018, there was yet another court appearance for Rachel Buffett.

There was another trial taking place in courtroom C41 when I arrived. This was a pretty good sign that Rachel’s trial would not begin that morning.

Steve and Raquel Herr sat on a bench across from the courtroom door. I’d be concerned if I didn’t see them there. They’re always there. Seeking justice. It can’t be how they imagined spending their retirement years.

I said “good morning,” and sat on a different bench around a hallway corner.  I never want to encroach upon their personal space.

The courtroom door opened and those involved in the other trial filed out into the hallway for a morning break.  Steve, Raquel, and a few others made there way into the courtroom. I followed a moment later and sat in the back corner of the spectator seats. Pretty much all the same people were in attendance. Masa Kibuishi arrived a few minutes later.

Always there. Seeking justice.

The “blond coalition” (Rachel Buffett and her family and friends) always enter as a group just before the proceedings are set to begin.

District Attorney Matt Murphy was the only expected face missing, but he was able to make a dramatic last minute entrance, explaining he’d been delayed by a freeway closure on the I-5.

When court was called to order, Judge Hanson said her current trial would be finished that afternoon and the Buffett trial would commence on Wednesday, August 29th at 9 am, and she would be ready to “hear arguments” from the attorneys at that time.

There was no mention at all about a jury.

All you True Crime fans know that a defendant has the right to choose a bench trial instead of a jury trial. This means the decision of guilt or innocence is entirely left up to the judge.

It would be an interesting strategy on the part of Rachel’s defense attorney. A bench trial is a way to make sure emotions don’t influence the results. I had to wonder if that’s why there was no talk of seating a jury on Wednesday morning.

I’ll keep you all updated as soon as I know something.

Rachel Buffett’s August 20, 2018 Court Appearance

A hearing for Daniel Wozniak’s ex-fiancée, Rachel Buffett, took place this morning on August 20th, 2018 at 9:00 AM.

Rachel and her coalition of blonde supporters filled up about three rows of seats on the left side of the spectator seating.

Across the aisle, Sam’s parents, Steve and Raquel Herr, were in attendance as per usual. I don’t think they have ever missed a hearing for Rachel Buffett or Daniel Wozniak. They were soon joined by Julie Kibuishi’s father, Masa. These grieving parents greet each other warmly, and I can’t help thinking how sad it is that this friendship formed from mutual pain and heartbreak.

Honorable Judge Sheila Hanson made quick work of the hearing, where the main goal was merely to clarify that everyone involved is ready to finally go to trial later this week.

Trial Date Set

Thursday, August 24th, 2018 is the scheduled date for the for Rachel’s trial to begin, and it sure appears to be the real deal this time around.

Rachel Buffett has been charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact. She could face up to three years behind bars if found guilty.

Will she testify in her own defense?

I have my fingers crossed so tight; my hands are turning color of my hair.

I’ll keep you updated!

Rachel Buffett Court Date Set

On July 17, 2018, Rachel Buffett is once again going to court. It’s a Tuesday. I think this one might be for real. It looks like Rachel’s trial is actually going to happen.

More than a year after Daniel Wozniak was sentenced to death for the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, Rachel will finally face charges for being an accessory after the fact. That’s the good news. At least for Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones, I assume. Steve Herr has often voiced frustration and anger about trial delays.

Rightfully so. His son was murdered over eight years ago.

Unfortunately, I personally wish this trial were pushed back just a couple more weeks. It turns out, my daughter needs to have all four wisdom teeth removed ASAP, and the surgery is the same day that Rachel’s trial is set to begin.  That’s the bad news.

I’m aware that my schedule is of no significance to anyone actually involved in this trial, but I’m still really annoyed by the timing. I have been promising you all that I’d keep you updated on Rachel’s case, and now I can’t go to the trial. Unless it happens to carry over to Monday, I probably won’t get to see any of it. I’m genuinely sorry, folks, but the care and maintenance of my kid will always take precedence.

If you’re thinking “Why can’t her husband take care of their daughter, so MM can go to the trial?” I can answer that question with one word – Comicon

There is always the possibility of another delay, but I feel rueful in wishing for that outcome because Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones deserve to have this over and done with.

I am hopeful though, that one or two of you might end up going to Rachel’s trial yourselves, and then comment about it. I’m sure all of us would appreciate any updates we can get. You should take notes.

I also hope the media will give Rachel’s trial a fair amount of attention, but it probably won’t be the same frenzy that surrounded Daniel’s trial.

By the way, I will buy the trial transcript. Transcripts are pretty pricey, but I shelled out for Daniel’s court transcript and it has been invaluable while working on the book.

And speaking of the book: I’m hard at work. Sometimes I don’t always have as much dedicated and undisturbed writing time as I’d like, but the book is getting written.

Most of the time I love writing. I feel energized when I am telling a compelling story.

Thank you so much STK for acting as my thesaurus via text.

I’ll admit that once in a while I have an aversion to the activity because the words aren’t flowing smoothly from my pen (cliché!) or I’m spending too much time worrying about being judged harshly by the readers for at least a dozen reasons…

I’ll get back to that discussion another time. The topic right now is Rachel and her trial. I really wish I could go to it, but maybe there is some fated reason that I shouldn’t be there. I’ll tell myself that.

Will Rachel Buffett testify? I’m not sure how her lawyer is going to defend her from these charges if Rachel doesn’t take the stand and explain why she was dishonest during police interviews.  We shall see.

Final note – San Quentin is on lockdown again. They have been on this “modified program” for a couple of weeks now. No visits, no phone, etc. I don’t think I’ve spoken to Daniel since the end of June. Luckily snail mail is still available.

UPDATE: July 17, 2018

Hello Readers,

I know this will be a shock for you, but it turns out Rachel Buffett’s trial has been postponed again. I have to say I really thought it was going to happen this time. It was in a courtroom on the eleventh floor and was starting on a Tuesday. My Magic 8 ball said “All signs point to yes.” Her new trial date is August 20, 2018.

I wasn’t in the courtroom, so I don’t know which side asked for the continuance or why, but I can’t deny I am pleased I don’t have to miss her trial.

Thank you for reading the blog!

An Update On Rachel Buffett, Daniel Wozniak’s Ex-Fiancée

Hello Readers!

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.

Thank you for reading the blog!

Responding To Your Comments and Questions

Hello Blog Readers!

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.

Objectivity

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.

My Identity

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.

A Recommendation

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).

Daniel Wozniak’s Fiancée Appears In Court

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

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

Rachel Buffett’s Involvement

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

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

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

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

Stories Changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Buffett Charged

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

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

Rachel Back in Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Up On the Blog

My first trip to visit San Quentin.