September in San Quentin

Hello Readers!

I want to thank you all for sticking around.

My posts have been few and far between, and I don’t often chime in on Facebook or blog comments, so it might seem as though I’m not writing anymore.

I started the blog because I didn’t feel I was ready to plunge into writing a book. I wanted / needed some practice. Now, since diving into the deep end of book writing, I haven’t had much time for the blog.

I can assure you, though, that I am still deeply entrenched in writing about Daniel Wozniak and the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. It’s just not happening on the blog quite so often.

Back To San Quentin

I visited Daniel at San Quentin on the weekend of September fourteenth and fifteenth.

It had been a long time since my last prison excursion. A family member had some health problems, but once they were thankfully resolved, I could finally justify a trip to San Francisco.

In August, I mailed a written request to the sergeant in charge of visiting the Condemned unit, and asked to visit on both Saturday and Sunday, with a request for extended time on both days. Since I drive about 500 miles each way, I always mail in my request a month in advance to make sure I am on the visiting schedule.

Daniel completely understood my postponing visits, but I suspect he may have been concerned I was never coming back. The entire week before my arrival, he was quite nervous that something would go wrong and my visit would be canceled.

For instance, last year, the prison went on lockdown four times. There had yet to be one lockdown this year, so Dan was positive one would happen and I wouldn’t be allowed to visit.

But there wasn’t one, and I did (pdf link opens in new browser tab).

Dress Code Revisited

It had been a long time since my last trip to San Quentin, so I made sure to review the visitors’ dress code before I packed my suitcase:

  • No leggings
  • No tank-tops
  • No skirts or shorts above the knee
  • No underwire bras
  • Nothing too form-fitting.

You also want to make sure to not wear olive green or khakis… especially combined, since those are the colors worn by the guards. And nothing blue, not even skirts or dresses.

Daniel told me this particular rule is so guards know who to shoot at in case of a riot.

I didn’t even pack anything blue. I didn’t know about this rule before I changed my hair color, but I am glad my hair isn’t blue anymore… 

I chose a pair of black pants and a gray pattern top to wear on Saturday. I also had an emergency skirt in my car, in case a guard had any issues with the pants.

I passed with flying lack-of-colors.

Checking In

It’s best to try to arrive about thirty minutes before your scheduled visit, so I gave myself plenty of time to drive from my hotel in San Rafael to San Quentin.

I stood around in the visitors waiting area and chatted with other people scheduled for the 8:00 AM time slot. It’s impressive how many people come to see their family member / friend weekly. That is dedication. San Quentin isn’t the most cheerful place to spend your weekend.

I’m glad Daniel’s mother visits as often as she does. I imagine it’s quite depressing for those prisoners who never have any visits.

After I went through the check-in process, I walked from the parking lot to the prison’s visitors’ entrance and stood outside the door, waiting for it to open. I was pretty sure I was at the same entrance I’d used on previous visits, but I didn’t see the little “Condemned” sign that used to hang on the wall. I wonder if they took it down after Governor Newsom had the death chamber emptied out in March, 2019.

The heavy steel door clanked open and I walked into the little vestibule where a guard sat behind glass. I recognized the area.

Yes, I had been there before… but today, Daniel was in a different section.

I walked back out, and over to the next door.

I waited.

It opened.

I entered a different vestibule and slid my paperwork and driver’s license to a different guard behind glass. This time, the door to the outside world shut behind me, the door across from it opened up, and I entered the prison world.

Food First

I saw Daniel standing in one of the little cages. I waved to him, then headed to the vending machines. I bought two waters and a healthy snack, as is my usual routine.

I often see visitors with trays and trays of food. They microwave frozen burritos and cheeseburgers. I’ve asked Daniel if he wants me to get more food, but he says he doesn’t need junk food and would rather not waste our limited time waiting for me to heat up food.

On Saturday, I got him a yogurt parfait. It seems he had never been introduced to this delicious combination of fruit, yogurt and granola.

Baking Under Glass

This visiting area had different cages than the ones I was used to. Instead of bars, it was crisscrossed wires encased in thick Plexiglas.

At the time, we’d been going through a minor heat wave in California. Daniel had warned me that the air conditioning was broken when he had a visit with his mom two weeks earlier, and it might still be out of commission.

It was.

Our Plexiglas cage happened to be next to a little window to the outside. Daniel had the two chairs pushed into a shaded corner, but that didn’t help much, overall. I felt like a lizard under a heat lamp.

That’s not accurate. Lizards like heat lamps.

I made myself one of those folded paper fans using the information sheet I’d been handed when I first checked in. It had Daniel’s face on it. He told me it’s even hotter in the cell block, but then he described how he’s rigged his electric fan to hang from the ceiling of his cell. “It actually helps a lot,” he claimed.

I didn’t say this to Daniel, but I still prefer air conditioning… and not being locked in a prison.

Day To Day

Daniel seemed quite cheerful on both my visiting days, but I think it’s safe to assume that seeing a friend is probably pretty mood elevating – considering the day-to-day minutiae of being behind bars. Part of me always wonders if he’s putting on an act to make me feel better. How could anyone be happy there…ever?

A couple of readers have asked about Daniel’s day-to-day life schedule. He made this and said I could post it (pdf link opens in new browser tab).

A Chance For Some Questions

In total, over two days, Daniel and I talked for about ten hours. This was my opportunity to question him about aspects of the crime without our conversation being recorded.

By this point, I know the majority of Daniel’s story already; it’s what he says is the truth about how and why Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi were murdered.

Why I Added the Question Mark

I will be honest with you guys: there have been times when Daniel’s story just hasn’t made sense to me, and it’s been a real challenge since I learned some hard-to-refute information that completely contradicts some of what Daniel has told me.

I want my book to be an honest examination of the facts and how Daniel’s version compares. I used the visiting time to ask about these new details.

Daniel and I talked about a lot of things during those ten hours. Much of it was mundane, you know, like the weather. Not having air conditioning puts the current heat wave at the front of your mind the entire time.

Also, a part of me feels guilty when I use this visiting time as a way to drill Daniel about the details of the crime. This is the only “break” he gets from the world where he lives, and I don’t want him to dread our time together.

A Seasoned Interrogator At Work(?)

So, I intersperse the tough questions throughout our conversations.

“It sure is hot in here!”

“You told Rachel about Sam’s murder as soon as you returned to your apartment?

“Hey, the new season of Survivor is starting in two weeks.”

“I need to confirm some information about the drug deal. You asked Sam to help finance it?

“I know! Yogurt parfaits are delicious!”

“Is that what Rachel told you happened during Julie’s murder? If you weren’t there, can you be sure Rachel was honest with you?”

“Yes. It sure is hot in here.”

And so on. It’s all about getting confirmation, and questioning the specifics.

About halfway through the visit, I needed to take a pee break and I wanted to buy some ice cream.

Corrections Officer Good Dude

The guard on Saturday was a really personable, considerate guy. He joked around with us about the heat as he was making his passes back and forth.

Daniel told me he’s like that all the time. The guard is, he says, a “good dude.”

I waved Good Dude over so he could let me out of the hamster cage. He had to handcuff Daniel before he was allowed to open the cage door.

Cuffs

It seems like a strange process. Daniel stands with his back to the door and his hands behind his back. Then he is handcuffed through a slot in the door. He then moves aside, and the guard opens the door and lets me out. The door is closed and locked, and then Daniel can have the handcuffs removed.

Inmates on death row must be in cuffs every moment they’re not locked in a cage. The condemned prisoner has no way to defend himself in the event of an attack from mainline prisoners, because he’s in cuffs, so those inmates have to turn their backs when the death row inmates walk past.

When I returned to Daniel, I held two ice creams (Twix, and one covered in nuts), and the guard joked the ice cream would melt before he could even get the cuffs on and off. He told Daniel I was going to eat both of them, and laughed.

I liked that guard. He made the whole experience nicer and more relaxed. He was, indeed, a “good dude.”

Batman

When I was back inside the cage, Daniel and I began some in-depth discussions about the Death Penalty, when he spotted an inmate he knows in one of the other cages. He told me the guy’s nickname is “Batman.”

It seems this inmate had been serving a life sentence for another crime, on the mainline of a different prison. The story goes that a convicted pedophile was about to be released from that prison. The pedophile told people he planned to return to a life of child abuse once he was released, so Batman murdered the pedophile.

Now Batman is on death row.

I spent a little time on the Internet trying to verify this story, but I didn’t know the guy’s name, and after all, there are plenty of inmates murdering each other behind bars.

It’s still an interesting story, and probably… true-ish. I do believe that someone told Daniel that story. There have been times when inmates serving life without the possibility of parole in a different California prison commit murder behind bars in order to end up on Death Row in San Quentin.

Capricious Punishment

There was another story about a guy who ended up on death row because of a car accident fatality that occurred during a robbery. Daniel pointed out that this guy didn’t murder anyone, but he’s on death row.

By the same token, there are people on the mainline who have committed murder.

I told Daniel that his trial defense attorney, Scott Sanders, was definitely correct when he repeatedly described the death penalty as “arbitrary and capricious” throughout his closing arguments.

The District Attorney’s office gets to decide which cases to prosecute as capital crimes. The Orange County DA has made that choice often.

Speaking of prosecutors, our own Matt Murphy is leaving the DA’s office to “work as a victims rights attorney and a television legal analyst.”

Daniel and I spent some time discussing the possible future of capital punishment in California. Considering the anti-death penalty stance of our current governor, it seems possible the whole practice will eventually be eliminated from California completely.

Daniel thinks if the death penalty came up on the ballet again, Californians would finally vote it out.

If that does happen, the issue will be what to do with those people on the row. It would seem simple to just move the condemned inmates to the mainline. Just change their sentences to LWOP (life without parole, and no possibility of ever getting out.)

That is not how the justice system works. It’s a complicated process to re-assign over 700 prisoners. Also, SQ’s mainline is a “Level Two” security prison, and death row inmates have been convicted of “Level Three / Four” crimes.

So, the people on death row have a pretty hazy future. Even with the governor’s moratorium, California prosecutors are still sending people to death row.

Sunday Not-So-Fun Day

My Sunday visit did not run as smoothly as Saturday.

To start, when I arrived at the prison at 7:30 AM I couldn’t find my clear plastic prison purse. I had my suitcase and such with me in the car because I was heading home that afternoon, but no purse.

I had my vending machine money, my unopened package of tissues, my comb, and my driver’s license inside that bag. I’d put my ID in the bag the night before so I wouldn’t forget it.

I could get through a visit without buying ice cream or blowing my nose, but I wasn’t getting inside without identification.

Even though I’d left the hotel, I hadn’t officially checked out. I ran a little late on Sunday morning, and it had been my plan to check out from the room using the TV.

I swear, I’d checked out from there using that method before. When it wouldn’t work, I just left. The hotel had me scheduled to leave that day anyway.

I hightailed it back to my hotel in San Rafael and rushed back to my old room, all the while grateful I hadn’t checked out and still had my key. I went inside and there was my plastic purse, right in front of the door. It must have fallen out of the top of a grocery bag when I was pulling my suitcase out through the door.

Phew!

Back To San Quentin

I drove quite fast. I’m glad I didn’t get pulled over, because who wants to tell a cop that your speeding to get to prison?

I made it by 7:55 AM.

On Sunday, I wore black capris and a burgundy Ear Hustle t-shirt. I thought it clever to show my support of San Quentin’s podcast.

Instead, I freaked out a guard, who pulled me aside before I could be put in a cage. She thought I was representing the show and there to interview Daniel. She was only half wrong; and she thought it was funny when I said I was “just a fan.”

It turned out that the most recent Ear Hustle episode (as I write this) was about death row.  

Guarded Behavior

The other guards were not nearly as friendly as “good dude” from Saturday. It took fifteen minutes of waving, and eventually me standing on a chair, to get let out for a bathroom break. I was scolded for standing on the chair.

“So hey, Mr. Guard,” I wanted to say, “I’m going to pee on the chair if you don’t let me out of here.”

Some guards treat you like a person, and others treat you like a speck of dust. The treatment is basically the same for the visitors as it is for the inmates.

“You get used to it.” Daniel said.

He said that often. I guess there are a lot of things to get used to.

Left Behind

We did get to have forty-five extra minutes to visit because no one came to take me out at 1:15 PM. In fact, at 2:00 PM, we were the only people still in the cages.

An announcement went out that the main visiting room was closed. Daniel joked that perhaps we’d been forgotten in there. I wondered if I should jump back up on the chair.

On The Outside

When I was finally back outside, I took a deep breath of the fresh ocean air. The view is much prettier when you’re walking away from that imposing 167-year-old brick fortress.

I ended up walking back with a woman who had been visiting her husband on the mainline. She was happy, because he was getting out soon. She said he was “going in front of the board” in a couple of weeks.  She said she hoped this was the last time she’d have to come to SQ and leave without him.

I hope so, too.

Depending on the fate of the death penalty in California, it’s very possible I could one day be visiting Daniel on some other prison’s mainline. Maybe even closer to Southern California. Although I do really like the opportunity to see non-incarcerated friends who live in the Bay area.

He definitely will not be getting out any time soon.

Postscripts

PS: Look at the email I received when I got home from San Francisco

Hello Glendele,

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation VPASS System has changed your preferred facility message. Your preferred facility is San Quentin State Prison.

New Message:

BE ADVISED: EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 19, 2019 SAN QUENTIN STATE PRISON IS ON MODIFIED PROGRAM. THERE WILL BE NO VISITS STARTING SEPTEMBER 19, 2019 FOR ANY INMATES UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. YOU CAN ALSO CALL THE LOCKDOWN STATUS LINE AT 1-800-374-8474.

P.P.S. They are off lockdown now.  It was for a mandatory full facility search.

Welcome 20/20 Viewers

Hello Everyone!

I’m taking a day off from working on the book to catch everyone up on a couple of items, especially since there might be new readers after the TV show 20/20 airs an interview with me for a two hour special about the terrible murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi (airing Friday, May 31 at 9:00PM local time on ABC).

For those who are new to the blog: Welcome! Thank you for checking it out. I hope you’ll read all the posts from the beginning.

I Know What He Is

As the title of the blog says, I am friends with Daniel Wozniak, who is currently on death row in San Quentin prison after being found guilty of killing both Sam and Julie.

I need to be very clear: I believe Daniel Wozniak is a murderer.  He’s honest about that with me. He’s not some wrongly convicted innocent person serving time for a crime he didn’t commit.

When I began this blog in 2015, Dan still hadn’t been to trial. Even though I was always pretty sure he was probably guilty of his crimes, I firmly believe a person is innocent until proven guilty, so before Dan’s conviction, everything I wrote about him used the word “alleged” when referring to his crimes. There were plenty of readers who didn’t like that, and didn’t like me because I was willing to “call that monster my friend.”

The murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi were monstrous.

About Sam Herr

Sam Herr was a decorated Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. Sam was stationed at Outpost Keating; which I learned about after reading Jake Tapper’s The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor (recommended to me by Sam’s dad, Steve Herr, during Daniel’s trial).

Sam Herr, his parents’ only child, returned safely from fighting in a war, went to college to better his future, and was then shot and killed by a community theatre actor.

As an extra gut-punch, Steve and Raquel Herr had to learn their son’s body had been dismembered.

His head had been removed. His hand and arm had been sawed or chopped off.  Sam’s body parts were stashed at a public nature center and eaten by animals.

And Sam’s parents learned about it all on what should have been Sam’s twenty -seventh birthday.

About Julie Kibuishi

Julie Kibuishi was a friend of Sam’s from college. The two met in an Anthropology class at Orange Coast College, and Julie offered to tutor Sam, who initially was having some difficulties with his grades. He ended up getting an A, and the two continued a close friendship.

By all accounts, this lovely, talented, and intelligent young woman would come to the aid of her friends at the drop of a hat. Julie is always described as kind, sweet, generous, funny, and talented (she graduated from Orange County School of the Arts, a prestigious arts high school).

She was only twenty-three years old; one of four children in a very tight knit family.

When she was shot twice in the head, she was wearing a costume tiara given to her hours before, when she was asked to be a bridesmaid in her brother’s upcoming wedding.

Why I Used A Pseudonym

There are people who can’t wrap their heads around how, or why, I’m able to be friends with the man who confessed to murdering these two people. I understand the confusion, shock, and sometimes outrage some readers have expressed in this blog’s comment section and on the Facebook page.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know I have used a pseudonym (Murderer Musings) from the beginning. I used pseudonyms for all the people involved, since I wanted to write about Daniel Wozniak without influencing his trial in any way.

When I found out this was not a concern for him, I started using everyone’s real names.

Everyone except me.

The story of Sam and Julie’s murders was already all over the media, but my name wasn’t and I felt the need to keep it that way. Early on, some commenters threatened me, and my children.

But truth be told, anyone could — and some people did — figure out my identity through unintentional but unavoidable “clues” in the blog.

After a while, and hopefully after reading my posts, most people got used to the idea of Dan Wozniak having a friend and that friend writing about him.

Seeking To Understand

Readers discovered that I’m not defending Dan’s actions. I’m just trying to understand how he sunk so low at one point in his life, and write about what kind of person he is today. I don’t want to judge a person by the worst thing he ever did.

I started the blog as a jumping off point to writing a true crime book about the murders of Sam and Julie. It’s my first time writing a true crime book (or any book for that matter) and I felt like I could use a little experience before tackling the Big Kahuna.

After some time, I felt secure enough that I decided to use my real name when the book comes out. Of course, with the 20/20 interview, the cat’s out of the bag a little early.

How It Began

Like many of you who are reading this, I’m extremely fascinated with true crime. I’ve been a huge fan of the genre for a very long time. In 2010, when I learned that an actor from my theatre company had just confessed to murdering two of his friends for money to go on a honeymoon… hell yes, I wanted to know more.

I wrote a letter to Dan at the Orange County Jail and… well you can read the blog to follow the story as it unfolded.

The Official Story Isn’t Necessarily the True Story

From early on, I had doubts that the public had been given the complete and honest story of Sam and Julie’s murders.

When I read about the case and saw interviews with law enforcement, my true-crime Spidey senses told me that, in spite of his confession, Dan Wozniak did not commit these two murders alone.

I’ve been learning the “true” story from Daniel himself these past couple of years, especially once Dan Wozniak was transferred to San Quentin, where our visits are not recorded.

It’s a bizarre story of an engaged couple whose jealousy and game playing led to the murders of two much-beloved people who did nothing to provoke their own deaths.

It’s not a nice story.

But in many ways, to me it makes much more sense than the one that came out in Daniel’s trial.  My plan is to have my book finished in about a year and a half, so I can share that story with all of you.

Thank You For Being Here

Thank you for checking out my blog. I’m writing this before the 20/20 episode airs, so hopefully I come across as the semi-normal person I am.

So, again: welcome new readers!

And to my old readers: Hey guys! I’m on 20/20. And I’m finally dropping that pseudonym!

Hi! I’m Glendele.

Death Penalty Moratorium in the State of California

Hello Readers!

I know. It seems like a long time since you’ve heard from me.

Since I am hard at work on my book, I feel like I’m “talking” to you every day. I do miss our regular chats, but until recently, there really weren’t any new developments happening regarding Daniel Wozniak or his case.

Click to view Governor Newsom’s executive order proclaiming a moratorium on the death penalty in California

However, the brand new governor of my home state of California made an executive order recently, and I knew it called for a blog post.

On March 12, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom told the world that for the duration of his term in office (four or eight years), California would not execute any of its death row inmates.

Dramatically emphasizing his point, Newsom had the San Quentin execution chamber disassembled… essentially.

Technically, the most recent method used to execute prisoners at San Quentin was lethal injection. There also still existed the necessary equipment to complete a gas chamber execution. Newsom made sure neither would be possible.

Uniformed officers were photographed carrying a gurney table, with the arm restraints protruding from the sides, out of the prison. Looking at the picture reminded me of the execution scene in Dead Man Walking where Sean Penn is restrained to the table and they stand the table up so he can face the witnesses. He says his last words positioned as a man about to be crucified.

San Quentin’s table was loaded onto a truck next to a couple of intimidating apple-green steel chairs (with restraints for arms, legs and head) that had been removed from the still-functioning gas chamber.

Was Gavin Newsom worried if he left the table and chairs, employees of SQ would suddenly start executing prisoners willy-nilly for the first time since 2006?

Whether you support the decision or not, it’s obvious this was a dramatic political move to show Newsom means business.

I have a friend on death row, but I’ve never believed Daniel would be put to death by the state of California. I’ve always viewed his sentence as being more like “life without the possibility of parole.” There were already over 700 people on death row before Daniel Wozniak even arrived at San Quentin, and there hadn’t been an execution in nearly ten years.

I don’t envision Daniel being a free man again.

However, I honestly figured the voters of California would eventually get rid of the death penalty. Long before Daniel’s appeals would be exhausted, I just assumed all death row prisoners would have their sentences commuted to LWOP (life without the possibility of parole).

In 2016, while Daniel was still in the Orange County jail awaiting his fate, voters had the opportunity to abolish the death penalty through Proposition 62.

Fifty three percent of the Californians who voted chose to keep it. In fact, another proposition on the same ballot (Prop 66), with the intended purpose of speeding up the execution process, won by around fifty-one percent.

I voted the opposite on both propositions. I’m against the death penalty.

But. I didn’t lose a loved one to murder.

Daniel is on death row because he was found guilty of murdering two innocent people.  A jury decided Daniel should pay for the lives of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi with his own life.

I was in the courtroom when the decision was handed down. I saw the reactions of the Herr and Kibuishi families upon finally learning the fate of the man who was responsible for all their pain and loss.

Above all, they looked relieved, I think. It had taken six years, but they finally knew Daniel Wozniak was facing the justice they wanted.

When I heard about Gov. Newsom’s announcement, I immediately thought about how upsetting this might be for Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones. A quick search revealed a story on CBS where Steve Herr shared his feelings about the Governor’s decision:

The governor “was going against the will of the people.” Herr said the news was “very upsetting… We’re obviously disappointed, highly upset.” Herr acknowledged that it was unlikely he would ever see Wozniak executed anyway, but it was comfort to him and his family knowing the killer was on death row.

“I’d like to hear (Newsom) explain to me and the victims why he thinks the death penalty is not the appropriate consequence” in Wozniak’s case. “He’s going to have to deal with the victims’ families. He has no idea how we feel. None whatsoever.” — from the CBS article

The Governor’s decision came as a surprise to many people, and I wanted to talk to Daniel about it. I wanted to know what happens next for him. I wanted to know how the people on the row were taking this presumably good news.

It turns out the reactions are mixed.

Most inmates are also wondering what will happen next. The timing of this isn’t lost on them; Proposition 66 was supposed to go into effect next month. Now, they are guaranteed there won’t be any executions for at least four years.

This comes as a welcome relief to some men. Daniel told me how an older inmate I’d met during one of my visits was on the “hotlist” of the twenty inmates who were first in line to be executed when / if California started up the process again. Daniel doesn’t know anything about this man’s crime; he doesn’t want to. The human being he knows has hope again and a new appreciation for life, and for Daniel, that was a nice thing to see.

Some inmates are jumping the gun a bit by attempting to taunt the guards with clever jabs such as, “Ha ha ha, we’re not on death row anymore.”

Seriously what kind of frickin’ idiot tries acting superior to a person who is gainfully employed and gets to go home every night because they aren’t locked up for doing something atrocious?!

Dude, you are in the exact same place you were yesterday!

Daniel told me not all the inmates on death row are thrilled with this new situation. There are men who are miserably unhappy and actually “just want to die and get it all over with.”

Overall, though, there’s a consensus with most DR inmates.  They all know there are some innocent people among them. San Quentin has put people to death for crimes they didn’t commit. That is the main reason Newsom’s moratorium on executions is seen as a positive step toward possibly abolishing the death penalty completely.

It’s likely Gavin Newsom’s main goal is to bring the choice back to the California voters in the 2020 election. The winning margins on Props 66 and 62 were small; it’s possible the wave could shift. Some voters might see no point in continuing to fund a death row that won’t be putting anyone to death. In 2018, the Catholic Pope even spoke out for the first time against the death penalty. Who knows how many votes that could change?

For now, life for death row inmates hasn’t changed. Daniel and I were talking on the phone when he received some mail from the prison. Included was a copy of Newsom’s proclamation and another paper basically telling the prisoners “For now – business as usual.”

Death row inmates spend the majority of their time in a cell and they are never transferred anywhere without being handcuffed. They spend yard time individually locked in even smaller cells. Same old same old.

Still, it’s probably nice knowing the table and chairs are gone.

“The Blogger”

Hello! Some of you readers may be new to my blog Daniel Wozniak is My Friend. You may have found this site through the podcast Sleuth. If so… welcome!

This blog and I have come up as a topic of discussion on Sleuth a couple of times. If you’ve come here via Sleuth, you might think of me as “The Blogger,” or “That Blogger Woman,” because that’s the moniker I’ve been assigned on Sleuth.

You should know that I have been using a pseudonym, Murderer Musings, since I started writing DWIMF in January of 2015.

On the recently released season finale, I learned that Sleuth has “two million listeners,” and that is a lot of people, right? I figured at least a dozen or so of those engrossed Sleuth fans might come here to check out what I have to say. Because Daniel Wozniak, the convicted murderer sitting on death row for the brutal murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi, is my friend. And I’m writing a book about all of it.

Don’t worry; I have plenty of friends who are not incarcerated.

Who is The Blogger?

I love true crime.  When the idea came to me that I might want to write a book about Daniel Wozniak, a friend suggested I begin by writing a blog first, and use it as a jumping-off point for the book. I liked the idea and didn’t see the logic in writing the book before Daniel and Rachel had even been to trial. This gave me some much needed time to hone my writing skills in a relatively safe environment. I think you’ll notice a marked improvement in the blog posts as you read them from the beginning.

When Daniel’s former fiancée, Rachel Buffett, was sentenced in November, I decided as soon as the holidays were over, I would put the blog on the back burner for a bit and focus entirely on the book.

Well, not entirely… I am married and I have two children at home. So, seeing Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse and going out for Mexican food with my family will occasionally take priority over my work.

Like Daniel and Rachel, my background is in the local theatre world. I’ve directed. I’ve written. I’ve acted. My goal has always been to share an interesting story in a creative and engaging way. I don’t use the word “journalist” to describe myself. I’m a storyteller, and Daniel Wozniak is only telling his story to me.

Years of Direct Access to Daniel Wozniak

Daniel and I talk on the telephone almost daily, and in the past three years, he’s written to me… a lot. The picture here doesn’t do justice to the number of letters I’ve received from Daniel Wozniak. It’s not even a drop in the bucket. I have hundreds of letters, but I’m not going to put them all on the floor to take a picture because they are organized (at least in a way I understand) in files and crates with titles like “Life with Rachel” and “Leading up to the Murders.”

It’s Enough to Make Your Head Spin (Apparently)

Daniel Wozniak can communicate with whomever he wishes, in spite of the suggestion I’m somehow controlling with my ability to do a 360 with my noggin. Unfortunately, I have no such skill, and I don’t even have a recipe for (vegetarian) split pea soup.

Clever The Exorcist reference was thrown in by Editor Matt. Thanks EM

I do not claim Daniel Wozniak has never communicated with other writers or journalists. He has told me that any contact he’s had in the past three years has been minimal, merely to explain that he will only be telling his story to me, “The Blogger.” I personally have not seen or heard any evidence to the contrary, so I tend to believe he is telling me the truth in this regard.

Why Wasn’t I On That Podcast?

Sleuth host Linda Sawyer asked me to come on her podcast more than once. Despite Sawyer’s claim that appearing on her podcast would be great publicity for my book, I turned her down. Since the book isn’t finished, it seemed like putting the cart before the horse.

Also, I want to tell the story in my own way, and in my own time. True crime and my theatre world crashed into each other, and I really want to understand exactly how and why this horrible event happened. I’ve been piecing together this disturbing puzzle for over three years because I want to know the truth.

I don’t have any illusions that my book will bring more justice to the Herr and Kibuishi families, but maybe they’ll have some questions answered…  assuming Julie’s and Sam’s loved ones believe Daniel has been honest with me.

Has Daniel Heard the Podcast?

Daniel is not able to listen to Sleuth or any other podcast besides San Quentin’s own podcast, Earhustle (Great podcast. You should check it out). Daniel doesn’t have the Internet or a device with which to receive it. I’ve tried to play the podcast over the phone, but SQ background noise is loud and I don’t have great cell phone reception where I live, so I’ve attempted to give him a general overview of each episode.

It would be so convenient if there were written transcripts of all the Sleuth episodes.

Truthiness?

Often, the information stated on Sleuth coincides perfectly with the story Daniel has shared with me.

And sometimes… it doesn’t.

When that happens, I have questions for Daniel. That’s nothing new in our friendship; I’ve bombarded him with questions ever since I first wrote to him. I want to know the truth, and it’s challenging.

I’m aware that most people are going to trust a popular podcaster over a convicted murderer.

What About Tim?

However, Tim Wozniak, Daniel’s brother, is not a convicted murderer. Whatever role Tim may or may not have had in this crime, as of today, he’s never been charged with murder.

I met Tim for the first time when I visited him at the Orange County jail. Daniel wanted to make sure his brother was doing okay behind bars, and I wanted to talk to Tim because he’s an integral part of this story.

I don’t know Tim very well. We’ve messaged a fair amount, we went vintage clothing shopping, we’ve had coffee at Starbucks, and we ate Taco Bell. In all my communications with him, Tim has seemed cautiously aware of what he says to me.

 I’m not suggesting Tim Wozniak is cautious because he’s dishonest. To not be cautious would be foolhardy, considering his situation, and all that has been said about him on the Sleuth podcast.

According to Tim, he had only one brief conversation with Linda Sawyer, and he told her nothing that incriminated him (or Rachel) in the murders of Sam and Julie.

Is he telling the truth?

Show Your Work

It would be a lot easier to know who to believe if Sleuth host Linda Sawyer would play a recording of even one of the conversations she claims to have had with Tim Wozniak.

Overall, the podcast Sleuth has been exceptionally helpful for me as I work on my book. I often feel like it’s paving my way with introductions to information I’ve only previously heard from Daniel himself.

That said… Come on, Sleuth fans. I can’t be the only listener who would like a little more solid evidence to accompany accusations made on the show.

Questions For Me?

Some of you might have a few questions for me. That’s understandable. I just ask you take some time to read the entirety of my blog and get a sense of who I am and how I write before you go comment-crazy. It’s likely I’ve already answered your questions in a previous post…

Again, welcome, and thank you for visiting the blog. I never forget that my “project” only exists because Sam and Julie were viciously murdered and stolen from their families. I hope you’ll read my book when it’s finished, and maybe we can all gain some understanding about this incomprehensible tragedy.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (The Sentencing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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

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

The Scene

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

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

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

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

Medina leaned over to whisper something reassuring to his client.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Princess Dethroned

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

Princess style.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

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

Or is it?

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

The Hearing Gets Underway

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

A Chance For Probation?

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

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

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

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

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

Nope!

It was not.

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

Rachel’s Culpability

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

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

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

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

Victim Statements

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

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

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

June Kibuishi’s Statement

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

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

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

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

June aimed her next statement directly at Rachel.

“Julie thought of you as a friend.”

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

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

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

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

Steve Herr’s Statement

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

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

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

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

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

“Rachel just thinks about Rachel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Plea From Costa Mesa Police Detective Ed Everett

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

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

Rachel’s Kinda-Sorta Apology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sentence

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

Count One: twenty-four months

Count Two:  eight months

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snap. Snap. Snap

And then she was taken out of the courtroom.

Matt Murphy’s Post-Sentencing Press Conference

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

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

“Bad day for u to leave early.”

Are you sure about that? The burrito was delicious.

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

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

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

Short Sentence. Life-Long Payback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working the System Already (Again?)

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

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

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

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

Now That Rachel’s In Jail…

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

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

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

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

Your Questions and Comments

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

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

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Six – Conclusion)

It was obvious something important was happening at the courthouse on the morning of September 11, 2018. Media cameras were set up in a certain courtroom. Since filming was only permitted on the first and last days of proceedings, this was a clear sign it was the final day of Rachel Buffett’s accessory to murder (after the fact) trial.

Seating Arrangements

Back on the first day of the trial, I’d found myself a safe little corner seat in the back row on the right side of the spectator section. Most of the press people and Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones sat on this side. It had the added benefit of an electrical outlet in the wall next to the seat. I have an iPhone, so I always appreciate a charging opportunity.

On the final day of the trial, there was camera equipment on my corner seat, and cords plugged into my outlet. Major Bailiff (remember him?) told the spectators to sit on the left. Today, only loved ones would sit on the right.

I found a seat in the back row on the opposite side of the aisle. The Blonde Coalition took up the first three rows, and I wanted to give Rachel’s people their space.

Who’s Who In the Blonde Coalition

The family resemblance is strong in this group, so it wasn’t difficult to pick them out of the crowd. I saw Rachel’s parents and her younger sister Hannah.

I had trouble figuring out which of the twenty-something blond/redheaded men were Nate, Noah and Abraham Buffett, since there were more than enough present to account for Rachel’s brothers.

A little later, podcaster Linda Sawyer sat in the seat next to mine and identified the brothers for me. I had guessed completely wrong. If I’d been on a game show, I would have heard some kind of angry buzzer telling me I’m not coming back next week to play “Name that Buffett.”

A View to a Jury

Along with phone charging capabilities, my corner had afforded me a good view of the low quality video screen. My new seat had a bad view of a higher quality, smaller, TV screen, which duplicated the view on the large screen.

This side of the courtroom also had a solid view of the jury. It’s always interesting to see if their faces give away any of their thoughts. They didn’t. Poker faces were strong with them.

Rachel Buffett Testifies?

In the last post, I wrote that Vylet Randolph was the final witness in the trial. I guess I should have written “spoiler alert” when so glibly glossing over the defense. After all, we’d only seen prosecution witnesses up to this point. Now was the time when Rachel’s defense attorney, David Medina, had the opportunity to put on witnesses whose testimony might sway the jury to believe Rachel Buffett was a victim, not a perpetrator.

Daniel and I have had numerous conversations about whether or not Rachel Buffett would testify in her own defense. She waited eight years to clear her name. She turned down offers to make a deal with the prosecution. Had she accepted, she would have served very little, or no, time at all.

One could ask why she even took the case to trial if she didn’t want to use her own words to clear herself. Rachel could have  taken the stand to explain not telling the police about Chris Williams. She could tell the jury how she accidentally gave false information to the CMPD about seeing a mysterious man in a black hat. Maybe she could have told the jury she took an Ambien on Friday night, and that’s why she didn’t notice Dan’s numerous and unexplained late night comings and goings.

David Medina put on a solid defense during the cross examinations of prosecution witnesses. At the very least, he must have put some doubt into the minds of the jury. Medina and his client clearly believed that was enough to sway the jury to a not-guilty vote for Rachel.

Court started with Judge Hanson going over Rachel’s right to testify in her trial or not. If Rachel was nervous, her voice didn’t betray a note as she answered, “I don’t think I need to,” when Judge Hanson officially asked her if she wanted to take the stand.

I won’t lie; at that point I thought it was quite possible Rachel would walk out of the courtroom a free woman. The mostly male jury had me wondering if they could imagine a pretty former Disney Princess committing a crime like this.

If any jurors are reading this, I apologize. You folks took this gig very seriously. I know that now.

Trimming Time

The next part of the trial was a process I’d never seen used before. In order to cut down on some time-consuming testimony, the defense and the prosecution made an agreement about some of the witnesses. Both sides accepted how these witnesses would answer questions if they were called to the stand.

Instead, Matt Murphy gave a quick overview of any pertinent information Rachel’s jury needed to know for her case.

Wesley Freilich, for example, didn’t need to testify about taking money out of Sam’s bank account.

Matt Murphy summarized the testimony of Bob Castillo; making sure the jury knew that Tim Wozniak and his friend Bob Castillo went to the Long Beach Police Department and turned in the murder weapon not long after Tim and Rachel talked. Even if Rachel hadn’t done the right thing, the case would still have been solved quickly.

The prosecution and the defense agreed that the gun used in both murders was a Llama 380 handgun.  Dan’s DNA was found on the gun, but Rachel’s wasn’t. No silencer for the gun was located. Rachel’s DNA was not found on any of the evidence from the backpack.

No witness would be called to tell how lividity proved Julie Kibuishi’s body was moved two to four hours after she was murdered. Julie’s body wasn’t staged to look like she’d been sexually assaulted until hours after she was shot. This information was summarized for the jury, accepted, and added to the official record.

Closing Arguments

After that, the defense officially ended its case without calling any witnesses. Judge Hanson gave the jury some basic instructions, and then it was time for closing arguments.

Matt Murphy’s Close

Following the normal procedure, Matt Murphy would speak first and last. Murphy would have the chance to make final comments about any questions brought up during David Medina’s closing arguments.

Matt Murphy started his address to the jury explaining how some prosecutors will hold off sharing nuggets of evidence until after the defense’s closing argument,  making it impossible for the defense to explain away any incriminating information.

It’s called “sandbagging,” but that was not Matt’s plan. He didn’t need to do that.

Added all together, the jury had over “500 years experience studying human behavior,” and Murphy had no doubt they could look at all the evidence objectively. Even if Dan attempted to hide the murders from Rachel, was it possible Rachel Buffett was completely in the dark? Matt Murphy reminded the jury it was only their job to decide guilt or innocence. They were not to consider punishment. That is the judge’s job.

If This Then That

Murphy asked the jury if lies and hiding information is the same as helping with the crime, and then he went into a typical Matt Murphy example tangent.

Summarized:

  • If your neighbor is growing weed, do you have to call the police? No. You don’t.
  • If the cops show up at your house and ask about your neighbor, you don’t have to cooperate.
  • But if you agree to cooperate and then lie – that is a crime.
  • And if you are growing weed, and the cops show up to ask about it, you will be committing a crime if you lie to them.

In Toto (Not a Band That Sings About the Rains Down in Africa)

Matt Murphy went over the “totality of the evidence” with the jury so they could see how many times Rachel Buffett either lied about or hid information from the police during the early investigation of Julie Kibuishi’s murder.

According to numerous witnesses, Dan and Rachel were inseparable. Rachel knew she and Dan were in a grave financial situation, but she saw Dan with cash after Sam’s murder. According to Murphy, Dan Wozniak was a terrible liar and Rachel knew it. So how did he explain his comings and goings during the weekend of the murders?

Dan Wozniak wasn’t doing a great job of hiding evidence from Rachel, either. When the police searched Dan and Rachel’s apartment, they found Sam Herr’s laptop sitting out on their bookshelf. Rachel told the police she frequently used both the computers that were in her and Dan’s apartment., but she didn’t see this third computer sitting out in the open in her living room. Additionally, how could Dan have sent texts using Sam’s old flip phone without Rachel ever noticing?

If Dan Wozniak was attempting to hide his deeds from his fiancée, why did he even bring Sam Herr into their apartment on the morning of Sam’s murder? Why not leave from Sam’s place?

Why Was Julie Murdered?

The questions regarding the murder of Julie Kibuishi also cast doubt on Rachel’s claims she knew nothing about either murder. Matt Murphy acknowledged that the Julie Kibuishi’s murder made no sense if Dan wanted to steal Sam’s money via ATM withdrawals. Murphy explained that without the discovery of Julie’s body, Dan might have been able to “drain the account” before the police even cared Sam was missing.

Side note – I’ve made this point numerous times in my blog. If Dan Wozniak planned to empty Sam Herr’s bank account, he would not want the police searching for Sam. Steve and Raquel Herr were worried about their son, but the authorities weren’t immediately interested in a “missing” 26 year old Army vet. When Steve Herr found a dead body in his son’s apartment, his 911 call resulted in immediate action from the Costa Mesa Police.  If his son’s apartment had been empty, only Sam’s parents would have been looking for him. Why bring on the attention of the authorities with Julie Kibuishi’s murder?

I know – lots of questions. I plan to answer them in my book.

Just Some Stuff Dan Left Around the House

If Dan Wozniak was trying to keep his fiancée Rachel in the dark, Matt Murphy thought he should have done a better job at it.

  • Dan left his blood-splattered tennis shoes out in the open in the couple’s bedroom.
  • Dan made no effort to hide his loan from Chris Williams.
  • Dan took Rachel with him to Wesley’s house twice (on the phone with Dan, she asked him, “Who’s Wesley?” as though she’d never heard the name before).
  • Dan had cash when he came home on Friday after murdering Sam.
  • Dan was extremely upset and worked up–heart-attack-like–when he came home.
  • Dan used Sam’s cell phone to send numerous texts back and forth to Julie Kibuishi. Sam had an old flip phone that vibrated every time it got a text, and it looked nothing like Dan’s smart phone.
  • Dan and Rachel were almost always together.

Side note – Murphy suggested Rachel Buffett wasn’t just aware of Julie Kibuishi’s murder, but likely culpable in the deed as well. There was no attempt made to lure Julie over to the Camdens until Dan and Sam’s cell phone arrived back at the apartment with Rachel.

Ironically, Dan’s defense attorney Scott Sanders made the exact same point in his closing arguments.

  • Dan shot Julie in an apartment that was only three floors up from Dan and Rachel’s (it was the month of May, so maybe windows were open).
  • Moments after shooting Julie Kibuishi, Dan returned to his apartment. Since Dan was so visibly upset for hours after shooting Sam, how could he seem perfectly normal to Rachel right after killing Julie?

A Little Dig at Scott Sanders… and A Hint of What’s To Come

On more than one occasion during Rachel’s trial, Matt Murphy made mention of the actions of unethical attorneys. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to know Murphy was alluding to Daniel’s defense attorney, Scott Sanders.

Opposing attorneys often appear to be fierce combatants when court is in order, but out in the hallway, there is comradery with the fellow lawyer. They don’t actually hate each other. They are just doing their jobs.

I think Matt Murphy genuinely hates Scott Sanders. Murphy told Rachel’s jury he’d make sure to say nothing during this trial that could be used to help Daniel Wozniak’s appeal.

With a foreboding, “winter is coming” vibe, Murphy warned us all that Dan Wozniak’s appeals are inevitable. Murphy was already mentally prepping for the unavoidable storm.

Nineteen Lies

Murphy continued to point a suspicious finger at Rachel Buffett.

Dan Wozniak had told her he was teaching an insurance class on the Saturday morning of May 21.  Yet when Rachel learned Dan had actually been to the faux-partment to borrow tools from her brother Noah, she didn’t question him about his change of plans. Murphy made a joke here about how it seemed like Dan was teaching a “lumberjack class” (he borrowed a saw and ax).

“How could she not know?” Matt Murphy asked the jury. He believed Rachel Buffett knew a lot. Even if she thought Sam murdered Julie, and Dan was just an accomplice, Rachel broke the law by lying to the police.

By Murphy’s count, there were nineteen lies in total, but he only needed the jury to convict Rachel Buffett of one of them.

David Medina’s Closing

Attorney David Medina began the defense with a thought-provoking statement: To find Rachel guilty, the jury had to believe she knew her fiancée butchered two of her friends, and she was okay with it.

Lies Lies Lies Yeah-ah

Dan and Rachel’s entire relationship was based on lies. Dan didn’t feel worthy of Rachel.  He constantly lied to her so she wouldn’t know he was a failure. Why, Medina argued, would he tell her the truth about the murders?

When Dan and Rachel were first questioned outside the faux-partment, according to the detectives, Dan was visibly nervous. Rachel was perfectly calm. Her behavior shows she knows nothing because she has nothing to hide. If Rachel was trying to help Dan, why tell the police he was with Sam at all?

You know that story about a “third man?” The guy with the black baseball cap who Rachel told the police she “saw” in her apartment? Well, Medina reasoned, Rachel could have been referring to Chris Williams.

Maybe Chris was the third man and Rachel didn’t tell the authorities about him because she was afraid. Rachel might have believed Chris Williams had actual Mafia connections. The man stayed in her apartment for hours and wouldn’t leave until he got his money.  That could be scary.

Chris Williams testified about Rachel’s desperation to make money. She certainly wasn’t acting like someone who was about to come into sixty thousand dollars.

It sure didn’t seem like Rachel was trying to protect Daniel Wozniak as she bad-mouthed him to detectives.

It’s true, Rachel Buffett seemed emotionless when being interviewed, but Dan’s own father had a similar response. She shouldn’t be judged, Medina claimed, for how she responds to shock and stress. Rachel’s fiancée had just been arrested. Rachel had been planning her wedding for months and now it would need to be cancelled. She was questioned at three o’clock in the morning.

David Medina wanted the jury to consider all these details so they would understand Rachel’s mistakes and omissions during her interview.

When Rachel learned Tim Wozniak was in possession of a murder weapon, she contacted the Costa Mesa detectives. She didn’t know Tim was going to take the gun to the Long Beach Police. Rachel didn’t have to tell Vylet about the murder weapon. If she were trying to help Dan, she would have kept that information a secret.

David Medina also noted that Tim Wozniak could have been charged as an accessory to murder because he had knowledge of a crime and he was trying to protect Dan. There was direct evidence to prove this, but there was only circumstantial evidence against Rachel Buffett.

If You Doubt, She Gets Out

David Medina ended his closing arguments by reminding the jury if they had any doubts about Rachel’s guilt; they had to find her not guilty. If there was more than one explanation for circumstantial evidence, the jury needed to “choose innocence.”

Most importantly, Medina explained that the jury didn’t have to like Rachel Buffett to find her not guilty.

Murphy’s Counter

As is the practice, the prosecution had the final say in closing arguments. Murphy responded to Medina’s points one by one.

Circumstantial evidence holds the same weight as direct evidence.  Maybe it’s supposed to, but does it really?

Rachel said the “third man” was a friend of Sam’s and he left with Sam and Dan. Murphy told the jury there was no way Rachel was referring to Chris Williams when she told the police about a third man. That did seem like a stretch.

Tim Wozniak was not on trial. He testified against his brother. In a way, “Tim is a victim.” Evil Spicoli is now a victim? That’s a big turn around from day one of the trial.

Rachel was interviewed at three in the morning because she wouldn’t come in earlier. She had an appointment at a tanning salon and a bachelorette party to attend.

Then, Matt Murphy dropped a bomb on the defense’s claim that Rachel told Vylet about the murder weapon because Rachel planned to do the right thing.

From her testimony, we know Vylet Randolph did not overhear the conversation between Rachel and Tim. But when Vylet exited the Mazda Miata and headed toward Rachel with Rachel’s phone in her hand, there was no way to know what Vylet did or didn’t hear. Rachel’s hand was forced, according to Murphy; she couldn’t chance lying to Vylet.

Matt Murphy ended his closing with a strong reminder to the jury: Rachel Buffett was not on trial for murder. He only needed them to find Rachel guilty of one of the nineteen lies.

“Take your time, but take care of business.”

The Jury Deliberates

It was past 4:00 pm when the jury went into deliberations. I decided to stick around until they went home just in case this jury was as zippy as Dan’s.

They weren’t.

I got to the courthouse at 9:00 am the next morning and spent the entire day writing on my iPad and checking my watch. Most of that time, I was sitting on a bench down the hall from the courtroom. It was the only way I’d know when the jury came back.

A Kind Gesture From Steve Herr

Late that afternoon, I saw Steve and Raquel Herr coming off the elevator and heading toward the courtroom.  As they walked by, Steve looked over at me and gave me a “Come on. It’s time,” head tilt. I quickly packed up my belongings and headed to the courtroom.

Thanks Steve. I really appreciated that.

The Verdict

You already know how this ends.

The jury found Rachel Buffett guilty of all charges.

The relief from Julie’s and Sam’s loved ones was palpable.

David Medina attempted to get Rachel released on bail until her sentencing in November. This was denied. When Rachel was out on bail in the past, she had a presumption of innocence. That was gone now.

Rachel was put in handcuffs. She didn’t turn back to look at her family. The Buffetts looked devastated as they watched Rachel, her head low and her hair covering the side of her face, being led through a door at the back of the courtroom.

Next Up: The Sentencing Hearing

Rachel Buffett’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday November 8th. I plan to be there.

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Five)

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

A Recap of the Prosecution’s Examination of Christopher Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Defense Questions Christopher Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture Time

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

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

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

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

Chris couldn’t recall.

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

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

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

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

He knew nothing.

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

Murphy’s Rebuttal

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

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

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

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

Vylet Randolph For the Prosecution

The final witness in the case was Vylet Randolph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shocked Reactions At the Camden

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

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

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

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

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

The Dan and Rachel Story

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

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

She was certain Rachel used the word “story.”

The One With The Murder Weapon

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

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

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

Vylet Randolph was with Rachel that day.

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

Rachel Twirling

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

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

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

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

Mr. Wozniak Is Unmoved

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

Tim’s Cargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vylet Insists

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

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

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

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

The Defense Questions Vylet

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

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

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

Not tonight Dan, I have a headache?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wozniak Schism

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

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

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

Classy Dan

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

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

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

Just Why Did Rachel Make the Call?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Was Said?

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

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

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

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

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

Vylet: Anyone else besides myself?

Medina: Right.

Vylet: Not at that moment.

Murphy Cross-Examines

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

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

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

Next up: Closing arguments!

Rachel Buffett Faces Justice? (Part Four)

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

The Next Prosecution Witness: Christopher John Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hungry Artists, Broke Actors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bank of Chris

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

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

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

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

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

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam I Am? Or… Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Kickin’ It With Rachel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel’s Retail Schemes

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

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

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

You… Must… Chill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Show Must Go On.

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

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

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

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

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

Next Time…

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

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.