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 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.

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!

Guilty – Part Three

As you all know, on Monday, January 11, 2016, an Orange County jury came back, at breakneck speed, with a recommendation that my friend, Daniel Patrick Wozniak, receive the death penalty.

I was not surprised by their decision (well, the speed of it did actually surprise me), but I was saddened.

Recently, someone sent me a message on this blog’s Facebook page stating that Daniel may be my friend, but he is also a monster.

I get a lot of negative comments on my blog and Facebook page. Most of the time, I choose the “ignore and delete” method of response. But this comment was actually thought-provoking. It touched on one of the main points of why I write about Daniel in the first place.

I know many people think he is merely a monster, and I won’t deny that he did do some monstrous acts. The thing is, I don’t believe that Daniel Wozniak is a monster. I’m not the only one who feels that way, either. I guess I’m just the one with the biggest mouth.

I’ve been contacted by quite a few people who knew Daniel and his family long before the events of May of 2010. The words used to describe him include generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, and a good guy. More than one person has told me that Daniel comes from a loving, religious, and tight family.

I’ve also heard from many of the people in Daniel’s life now. Admittedly, many of them are inmates. But all of us describe Daniel the same way: generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, a good guy, and religious.

So for me, the big question is: what happened? How did he change so much? Is the “old Daniel” back now?

I’m hoping that Daniel himself can tell me the answers to those questions. Some of you might also be curious about the same things. Either way, I want to know for myself. I want to know as a mother. I want to know as a friend.

So, I’m going to continue this blog, and I’m probably going to write a book or a play or both. No one has to read anything I write and I won’t be breaking into your living rooms and forcing you to watch my one-woman show.

But for those of you who are interested, here is my continuing viewpoint of Daniel’s trial:

Guilty – Part Three

See! I told you it wouldn’t take long for my next post.

We were on day two (Thursday, December 10, 2015) and left off after describing the examination of prosecution witness Wesley Freilich (the ATM Kid).

The Law Enforcement Witnesses

After the lunch break, the prosecution put on a bunch of Costa Mesa police officers, and they had plenty of damaging evidence to present.

1) David Casarez: During his questioning, we established where Daniel and Rachel were living at the time of the murders (the Camden Martinique Apartments in Costa Mesa).

We also saw photographs of a red handled ax and a 24″ wood-handled saw (can you say, “chill down your spine?”).

No cross examination.

Murderer Musings TV Lawyer wanted to know where the pictures were taken.  The tools were leaning against a wall in some residence.  This might not necessarily be that important, but MMTVL likes to have all the facts.  

Side note: when I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he didn’t know either.  Maybe Noah Buffett’s (Rachel’s brother, who went on Dr. Phil with her) apartment?

2) James Brown: More photographs were shown during his testimony, including a picture of a plastic grocery bag from Von’s, and a black backpack.  These items and their contents were found in the yard of Daniel’s parents’ next door neighbors. The police believe that it was Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak, who got rid of this evidence for Daniel (and clearly didn’t do a very good job of it). The items collected included:

  • Sam’s wallet with his ID and credit cards.
  • Sam’s passport.
  • A box of Sam’s checks.
  • Sam’s broken cell phone, with the battery removed.
  • A green T-shirt covered in blood.
  • A pair of jeans.
  • A pair of boxer shorts.
  • Two used shell casings for a 38mm handgun.

The Defense did not do a cross examination.

MMTVL – I got nothin’.

3) Kevin Condon: He did a search of Daniel and Rachel’s apartment and found no drug paraphernalia (Hmmm? This does not jive with what was written in one of Daniel’s earliest letters).

A photograph was shown of a laptop and power cords  in a backpack (different from the black one discussed earlier).  This part confused me a bit.  It sounded like the officer was saying this was Sam’s laptop and it was found in David Buffett’s (Rachel’s father) car.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Huh?? Can we go back a bit? Did you just say that Sam’s laptop was found in Rachel’s dad’s car?

4) Dana Potts: He was in charge of looking for human remains in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.  A photograph was shown of Officer Potts next to a human skull lying on the ground. Later identified as belonging to Sam Herr, the skull had been ravaged by animals and insects.  Sam’s hand and forearm were never found.

No cross examination.

MMTVL has no questions.

5) Jean Putinare (I KNOW I’m spelling this wrong): She works in the OC crime lab. Okay, here is where the DNA evidence came in.  Not that anyone is surprised, but Sam’s DNA was found on some of the items contained in the black backpack, the one found in the backyard of the Wozniak’s neighbors.

She also tested a 38mm handgun for DNA.  A mixture of DNA from Tim and Daniel Wozniak was found on the gun and its case.  Tim Wozniak had turned the gun over to the Costa Mesa Police Department. It was registered to Daryl Wozniak, Daniel’s dad.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Uhhh…since the gun belonged to Daryl Wozniak, is it possible this DNA has been on it for years? Perhaps Tim and Daniel had been taken for shooting lessons when they were teens…? (Editor Matt’s comment: “Depends on the sample from which they got the DNA. Skin breaks down quickly.” He’s got a point.)  Oh let’s be honest – we all see that Matt Murphy’s got a slam dunk going here. 

6) Tomas Matsudaira: Orange County Forensics guy who does the “matching spent bullet cartridges to guns” business.  All the cartridges found were from the 38mm handgun with the Wozniak DNA on it. Three were tested. The two from the backpack and one that was found in the theatre attic near Sam’s body.

No cross examination.

MMTVL puts head down on “TV defense table” and waves a small white flag.

7) Ed Everette: Another Costa Mesa Police Department detective.  This guy was busy!

  • Watched ATMs in Long Beach for activity on Sam’s bank card.
  • Interviewed Wesley Freilich and learned that Daniel had given him the ATM card.
  • Canvased the Camden Martinique Apartments trying to find a connection between any of its residents and the city of Long Beach (Daniel grew up in LB).
  • Somehow tracked down an address for a place in Long Beach that later turned out to be Noah Buffett’s apartment.
  • Went to the address, and thinking it was a business, he just walked right in the front door.  It was actually a converted loft. Daniel was there with Rachel, Noah and their mother. Daniel looked at Detective Everette and said, “How did you find me?”
  • Daniel asked to talk to the police outside.  Everette said Daniel appeared nervous and was trembling as he told the police that he’d last seen Sam Herr when Sam and an “unknown man” dropped him off in the afternoon after Sam had supposedly helped Daniel to move some furniture at the Liberty Theatre.
  • Everette also said that at one point, Rachel came outside, too, and he suspected she’d been listening at the door before that.  He wondered why she was so unconcerned that the police were questioning her fiancé.

Now we finally get some cross examination! Scott Sanders asked if there were any notes or recordings of the conversation he’d had with Daniel outside the loft. Everette said no. Scott didn’t really debate anything the detective had said, but when he asked Everette about his own feelings toward Rachel Buffett, the response was a doozy:

“She should be sitting here right next to Mr. Wozniak.”

MMTVL – That statement doesn’t do anything to make Daniel look LESS guilty, but it was as close as the defense had come to a win.

This was the last witness of the day.

The first witness on Monday would be Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak.

“Guilty Part Four” will be coming your way as soon as possible.  I’m sorry that I can’t tell you how many parts there will be in total.  It’s not like you don’t know how the story ends, right?

Guilty – Part Two

Hello dear readers. First, let me apologize for taking so long to get another post out. I’m sure some of you were worried that I’ve lost interest in Daniel and this story. Maybe even hoping (I’m looking at you, fake Matt Murphy).

Nope. A LOT has been happening the past couple of weeks – including Christmas. But I’m back, so let’s talk trial! Murderer Musings TV Lawyer MMTVL is back on the case.

It’s an emotional experience, being in that courtroom. The sadness and anger coming from the victims’ families is palpable. Many supporters show up for both Julie and Sam every day: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, all there to see that justice is done for their loved ones.

Daniel Wozniak has me.

I’m not his only supporter, but I’m the only one who didn’t heed his wish that we not come to the trial. I’m stubborn. I want to get as much of the story as possible.

He’s okay with it now.

Now, before any trolls go crazy in my comment section, when I say “supporter,” I mean someone who is Daniel’s friend.  He has been found guilty of some insanely horrible crimes.  I do not support them.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being his friend.  Let’s be honest, I always figured he’d be found guilty.  He never claimed to be an innocent man.

Day Two

I had trouble finding a seat on day one of the trial, so I decided I better get to the courthouse super early on day two.

Guess what? NOT necessary.

First off, there was no one on the eighth floor when I arrived at about 8:15 am. I probably should have known it wouldn’t be as busy when I didn’t see any news vans outside.  Also, I forgot that court was starting at 9:30 am instead of 9:00 am.  Live and learn.

The First Witness For The Prosecution

The first witness of the day was Joseph Niebles, a special agent for the FBI (cool, right?) . He testified about Google searches that were found on computers in Daniel and Rachel’s apartment.

Right after Niebles took the stand, Scott Sanders asked for a sidebar (I’m not actually sure about the technical term, but the lawyers and the judge went into a back room for about ten minutes).

I’m guessing Sanders was trying to keep the jury from hearing about some pretty incriminating searches.  He didn’t win that one.  So a long list went up on the PowerPoint screen, including “Making sure a body is not found,” “Quick ways to kill people,” and “tux and party rentals.”

There was no cross examination of this witness.

MMTVL would like to know how Special Agent Niebles could be sure that the searches were made by Daniel Wozniak as opposed to Rachel Buffet, who also lived in this apartment.

The Second Witness For The Prosecution

The next witness was Lester James McKinney (apologies for any name misspellings – witnesses spell their names aloud for the record, but sometimes people were mumbly or spoke too quickly), a friend of Sam’s.

Some interesting information came up in questioning.  Lester and Sam became friends while working at the same company in 2008. He met Julie through Sam.

Lester and Julie had mutual interests such and dance and fashion, and they were pretty close.  He was another witness brought forth by the prosecution to show that Sam and Julie were not romantically involved. He stated that Sam protected Julie like a big brother would.

For the cross examination of Lester Mckinney, MMTVL had nothing on Scott Sanders. During questioning, Lester admitted Julie was attracted to Sam and that Lester and Julie had discussed her curiosity about the size of Sam’s penis. The question was answered when Sam “whipped out his penis and flashed it around” as a joke when he’d been drinking at a party.  It didn’t sound like this was nefarious in any way, but it’s not exactly brother and sister behavior either.

I’ve always wondered why the texts sent to Julie on the night of her murder repeatedly mentioned that there would be “no sex” that night.  It would be weird to bring that up again and again when you’re just in a platonic relationship with someone.

Going along with the prosecution’s claim, in one of Julie’s replies to “sham” Sam, she responded “Ew,” and said the two of them were like “bro and sis.”

I don’t know.  I’d think she would have asked, “Dude, why do you keep bringing up sex?” She did say she wouldn’t be spending the night.

Matt Murphy claimed that Daniel believed Julie and Sam were sleeping together because, as Lester McKinney stated on the stand, “Julie was always with Sam.”

What do you all think? Be sure to leave a comment!

The Third Witness For The Prosecution

The third prosecution witness of the day was a young man named Wesley Freilich.  Wesley has the unfortunate honor of being the sixteen year old “ATM Kid” who led police to Daniel Wozniak after being arrested for using Sam Herr’s ATM card.

Wesley talked about meeting Daniel as a ten year old. He didn’t have a father growing up, and Daniel had befriended the kid while the two were doing theater together. Wesley had respected Daniel and saw him as a big brother type who he could go to for advice.

Even though the two of them had not been in contact for a couple of years, when Daniel approached Wesley in 2010 with a money making opportunity, Wesley agreed to help Daniel in spite of his own misgivings.  He became even more uncomfortable when told to wear a hat and sunglasses whenever he used the ATM card to take out cash.  He was supposed to get the maximum amount of cash every day, using the PIN number that Daniel had supplied.

MMTVL really wants to know how Daniel got Sam’s PIN number.  This isn’t something Scott Sanders could learn from a cross examination of Wesley, but since we were on the subject…

During Wesley’s time on the stand, Matt Murphy did a pretty good job of showing how Daniel had betrayed the trust of this kid who looked up to him.

Daniel lied to him about the legality of what he was doing, and ended up getting Wesley into a heap of trouble. It was after using Sam’s ATM card to order a pizza that the FBI was able to track the card’s activity, and they swarmed Wesley’s home (helicopters included).  The sixteen year old was put in handcuffs on his front lawn for all his neighbors to see. As one would imagine, he was terrified.

During police questioning, the confused Wesley told everything about how he had come into possession of a missing man’s ATM card.  Remember, at this point in the investigation, the police still believed that Sam Herr was on the run after murdering Julie in his apartment.

During the defense’s cross examination, Scott Sanders  focused on any changes Wesley had noticed in his friend “Dan.” Wesley said that during this time period, Daniel was agitated and very stressed out, which was completely unlike him.

MMTVL doesn’t see how knowing this about Daniel’s behavior at that time can be used as a “defense.”  It isn’t that difficult for Matt Murphy to say, “Of course he was stressed out, he’d just murdered the card holder.”

You couldn’t help but to feel bad for Wesley, whose life was permanently changed because of his unsuspecting involvement in a double murder scheme. I’m not sure what type of punishment the law will have for him, but Wesley testified that day without having an immunity deal.  Pretty brave.

During the lunch break I told Wesley that I thought he’d done a good job on the stand. The whole situation had to be intimidating even for the now-twenty one year old.  I wanted to ask him about his feelings toward Daniel now, but I’m a blogger, and he was a witness. Raquel Herr had to remind us of that when she quietly told Wesley’s mother that he shouldn’t talk to me.

I felt terrible.  I took the stairs so I could get out of there quickly. MMTVL really should have known better.

Up Next

Okay, it’s going to take a couple more posts to cover the rest of the guilt portion of the trial. I won’t take so long to post next time.

Then, we’ll talk about the gut-wrenching penalty phase.  By the time you all read this post, there will probably be a jury decision about whether Daniel should get life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) or the death penalty (DP).

Keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.  I’ll try to tweet more too.

Next up: Guilty – Part Three

Daniel Wozniak Guilty

Daniel Wozniak has been found guilty.

In a recent letter to me he wrote

The jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of 187. First degree murder. Sam Herr (on 5-21-10) and Julie Kibuishi (on 5 – 22-10). Special Circumstances were elected for both victims: A) Murder for financial gain. B) Multiple murder.    There is also an enhancement: Personal discharge of a firearm.

I want to start by saying that I understand why this jury found Daniel Wozniak guilty.  It didn’t take very long either: about two hours. In their seats, going on just the information put forth in court, they really had no option.

Matt Murphy used the term “clinical” when describing the purpose of the guilt phase.  He told the jury that this was the time to put aside emotions. They shouldn’t wonder about motive. They don’t need to consider if any other people were involved. This is when you just decide the black and white part of the case. Did Daniel Wozniak participate in the murders of two people? Guilty.

Was I in any way surprised by this verdict? Nope.

Daniel wasn’t, either.

He has never tried to convince me that he’s a completely innocent man who is serving unfair time. Nor would I be foolish enough to believe him if he did.

However, the “if you blinked, you missed it” trial I sat though left me thoroughly disappointed.

First of all, it was nothing like on TV.  I will be the first to admit I don’t know the law well enough to figure out why or why not certain questions were asked (or not asked).  Maybe TV lawyers are breaking real laws all the time by bringing in certain evidence or asking specific questions.

But since the real lawyers left me wondering about so many details, I figure I can’t be the only one who is curious.

So, I’ve decided to play TV Lawyer for this post.  From here on, I’ll be referred to as MMTVL (Murderer Musings TV Lawyer).

Let’s start with the first witness.

If you don’t already know this, the prosecution gets to make its case first.  All the prosecution witnesses are put forth before the defense even starts its arguments (unless the defense has made an opening argument, which did not happen in this case).

Each prosecution witness was questioned by Matt Murphy. After that, Scott Sanders was given the opportunity to cross examine that witness. Then, the prosecution gets to re-cross, and the defense can then do a final re-re-cross.

I have no idea how long this back and forth is allowed to go on. But in Daniel’s case, it really doesn’t matter, because the defense rarely questioned the witnesses.

Yes. You read that right.

The Witnesses

1) The first witness was Steve Herr.  He is victim Sam Herr’s father, and was the one to find Julie Kibuishi’s body in Sam’s  apartment.  He, of course, had called the police immediately. He’d been positive that his son had not killed Julie. Mr. Herr was not on the stand long.

No cross examination.

MMTVL  wondered why the jury wasn’t told that Mr. Herr visited Daniel in jail. I don’t blame him for wanting to talk to Daniel. I would just like to know what they discussed. Does Mr. Herr think the prosecution has the correct story?

2) Costa Mesa Police detective Stephanie Selkinske was next. She mostly just gave facts about when she had been called to Sam’s apartment after the body of a young woman was found there.  She gave the address of the Camden apartments.  She referred to photographs of the crime scene (the majority were not shown on the big screen; the jury members were each given printed photos to examine). Selkinske also pointed out that Julie had been wearing a tiara, which her brother had given her earlier, at dinner.

No cross examination.

MMTVL couldn’t think of any questions either.

3) The next witness was another member of the CMPD, Shawna Murry. She’s a crime scene specialist. During her testimony, we found out that there was an open pregnancy test found in Sam’s bathroom. Murry also discussed a piece of paper with a peculiar sketch that was found in the apartment.  She said it appeared to be a drawing of an Asian woman lying on a bed.  Flames had been drawn around the head of the woman and the words, “I’m done,” were written on the picture.

No cross examination.

Your Honor, I object. MMTVL wants to know more.  Were any fingerprints or DNA found on the pregnancy test or the drawing? The pregnancy test was open, but had it been used? If so, what were the results?

4) Ruben Manacho Salas, a close friend of Sam’s, was next. He talked about how he’d met Sam in a speech class at Orange Coast College.  The two of them bonded because both were military veterans. Salas testified that Julie and Sam were only friends, even though it wasn’t unusual for Julie to spend the night in Sam’s apartment. He was one of the many people to say they were like brother and sister. Salas also talked of calling Sam’s cell phone on the day he went missing. The person who answered called him “bro” and was too busy to talk at that time. Salas stated that Sam never referred to him as “bro,” so he was suspicious that he had even talked to Sam.

No cross examination.

MMTVL would waive questioning the witness at this time, while retaining the right to call him back at a later time.  

At this point, one of the previous witnesses (one of the CMPD – sorry I can’t remember which one) was recalled to the stand.  This was to establish that Julie had a Taylor Swift song as her ringtone on her cellphone.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Uh, why did that just happen? 

5) John Randolph. He also lived in the Camden Apartments and was an OCC student. He talked about the big social scene at the apartment complex.  He was friendly with all the parties involved, as the apartment complex had a general party atmosphere because so many students lived there. He was even supposed to officiate Daniel and Rachel’s wedding for free. Randolph was asked about Sam’s possible drug use. He wasn’t aware of any.

Randolph was the first witness to be cross examined by Scott Sanders. I wish I had court transcripts in my hot little hands, because I wrote one note:  “Only asked a couple of questions.” I must not have thought anything noteworthy was brought up.

MMTVL would have asked a bunch of questions about Daniel and Rachel’s relationship. Did they fight at all? Did he think they were a good match? And so on. 

6) Christopher Williams. He was the last witness of the day.  There is no way I can give a one or two paragraph summary of his testimony.  It was, by far, the most interesting and action-packed of the day.  I could probably dedicate an entire book chapter to him.

Christopher Williams’ Testimony

  • Met Daniel and Rachel through one of the actresses in “Nine.”
  • Loaned them money.
  • Told them he got the money from a loan shark (not true).
  • Was with Rachel in her apartment when Sam was supposedly murdered. He described her odd behavior, peculiar computer searches, and her negative comments about Daniel.
  • He may have briefly met Sam and could be the last person to see him with Daniel.
  • Saw Daniel and Rachel in the play on the night of Sam’s murder. He was asked a lot of questions about how Daniel and Rachel were acting that night, on and off stage. Words like “agitated” and “emotional” were used to describe them both.

Overall, Chris Williams’ time on the witness stand brought forth some of the most emotional and intriguing testimony of the trial.

MMTVL thought the defense asked good questions without pushing too hard on Williams, who was very distraught on the stand. 

The End of Day One

At the end of day one, I’m pretty sure that most people in the the courtroom thought it was a very successful day for the prosecution.  That’s how I saw it.

When I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he was surprisingly good tempered.  He seemed pleased about some of the information that came forth during the testimony that day.

Maybe if I knew the whole true story, I could see what he was seeing.

Coming soon: Daniel Wozniak Guilty – Part Two. The continuation of the Prosecution’s witnesses.