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.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Three)

Lieutenant Ed Everett was the next witness for the prosecution.

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

Lieutenant Ed Everett For the Prosecution

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

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

Lofty Livin’

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

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

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

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

Interviews of Opportunity

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

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

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

Shaking

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

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

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

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

A Mis-Step?

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

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

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

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

Pencil Us In Between Tanning and Sushi

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Princess Screen Test

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

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

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

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

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

Betrayed by an Empathy Deficit?

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

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

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

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

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

Time for lunch. I had a spinach salad.  

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

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

Barbara Stanwyk’s Got Nothing on Her

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

Everett: “Should you marry this guy?”

Rachel: “I can deal with heartache.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Testimony Continues

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

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

Not a Wet Eye in the House

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

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

Defense Cross-Examination

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

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

The Vanishing Third Man

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

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

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

Lieutenant Keith Davis Corroborates

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

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

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

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

Next Time: Chris Williams Takes the Stand

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

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 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!

Is He Guilty?

Whenever I write about Daniel Wozniak, I make sure to use terms such as alleged or accused or suspected as I talk about him being a possible murderer.

I believe in all the “a person is innocent until proven guilty” business we talk about in the United States.

We can’t forget that Daniel hasn’t been tried yet.

I feel kind of bad for Daniel when he’s referred to as a “brutal killer” in the headlines, but he tells me he’s used to it.

He actually did plead “not guilty” at his arraignment.  He is in jail awaiting trial, not serving a sentence.  Technically, he could have been awarded bail. There are other people who are facing charges for this same crime, and they are out on bail.

Why didn’t Daniel Wozniak get bail?  Well, because he confessed.

Yes, I know.  That doesn’t look good for my friend.

Does The Confession Guarantee He’s Guilty?

Here is the thing about confessions: they can’t always be trusted. Sometimes, they are coerced.

Let’s play devil’s advocate (no pun intended) here for a minute.

Perhaps there are some reasons why Daniel’s confession could be taken with a grain of salt:

  1. No lawyer present!
  2. The police threaten the woman he loves with a long prison term if someone else doesn’t take the blame.
  3. He wants to protect members of his family.
  4. No lawyer present!
  5. It takes five different versions of said “confession” before the police think it’s plausible enough to go along with whatever evidence they have.
  6. He is very drunk when he is questioned by the police because he was arrested at the end of his bachelor party.
  7. He is young and naive (only 26 at the time) and believes in the system.
  8. He is young and cocky and believes he is smarter than everyone else (Sorry Daniel, I have to call it like I see it).
  9. Oh and did I mention; NO LAWYER PRESENT!

I’m not willing to completely accept the word of the police, or to call my friend a murderer, unless he confesses to me himself.

Which he hasn’t.  In fact, he’s hinted that the real story is quite different from the one the authorities are telling.

Do I think he is innocent?

Hmmm… No, he’s probably not completely innocent of this crime.

Do I believe that he managed to…

  • Lure a 26 year old combat veteran to a public theatre on a joint forces training base in Los Alamitos, California on Saturday afternoon.
  • Murder the man by shooting him twice, then leave his body hidden in the building.
  • Perform that night as the lead in a sold-out musical with his supposedly unsuspecting fiancé.
  • Return home with his fiancé after the show.
  • Use the murdered man’s cell phone to impersonate him in a series of texts to a young woman who is friends with the man.
  • Convince her to come to the murdered man’s apartment that night (which is in the same complex where Daniel lives with his fiancé).
  • Sneak out of his own apartment, unbeknownst to his fiancée, and go to the murdered man’s apartment to meet that young woman.
  • Shoot her twice in the head.
  • Stage her body to look as though she had actually been raped and murdered by the man who lives in that apartment.  The man who is actually dead in a theatre about twenty miles away.
  • Sneak back into his own apartment and have a good night’s sleep with his fiancé curled up next to him (with no sign that anything out of the ordinary had taken place).
  • Wake up on Sunday, acquire some sharp cutting tools (I’ve read a couple differing statements about exactly what tools and where they were acquired), manage to ditch the fiancé again, and go back to the to the training base.
  • Get the tools into the theatre building in order to decapitate the murdered man and cut off his arm and hand.
  • Sneak presumably blood covered tools and body parts out of the building in the middle of the day.
  • Dispose of the body parts in various areas of a nearby popular nature reserve on a Sunday afternoon.
  • At some point, return home to extremely patient fiancé.
  • On Sunday night, perform as the lead in a sold-out musical with his fiancé.

I’m not quite sure if Daniel is alleged to have disposed of the body parts in the afternoon or at a later time.  However, if he still had them when he returned home, then he managed to hide them from his fiancé Rachel until he was able to get rid of them.

“Just ignore those body parts in the trunk of the car, honey.”

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m in no way belittling what happened to these victims and their families.  The part of this crime that can’t be debated is that Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi are dead.

Do I Think He’s Guilty?

I’m just not positive that my friend, Daniel Wozniak, is the person who killed them.

I’m not positive he didn’t either.

But doesn’t this all seem a little implausible…?

Let me know what you think—leave a comment!