Answers To Your Comments

Hello readers!

I’ve been getting some really insightful questions from commenters who listened to the Sword and Stone podcast. Margie W and Liz G brought up some interesting points, and each asked great questions that often overlapped.

I’m going to answer some of the questions now… but some will have to wait for the book.

Q: Did Noah and Nate (Rachel’s older brothers) know Dan had borrowed tools from their apartment?

At the time of Sam Herr’s and Julie Kibuishi’s murders, there were five Buffett family members living in that converted office space. It’s likely someone saw Dan borrowing the saw and ax, especially since he didn’t try to hide the fact. Dan has said Noah was present when the tools were returned, and Noah learned at some point how the tools had been used.

Q: The day Sam Herr was murdered, Dan Wozniak firmly believed Sam and Rachel had an affair. He learned this information from Rachel one week earlier. Was jealousy a contributing factor to both Sam’s and Julie’s murders?

YES!

Q: Was there jealousy toward Julie Kibuishi from Rachel Buffett?

YES!

I’m going to quote reader Liz G:

“Dan’s downfall was very likely the fact that Julie got murdered.”

In other words, he may never have been caught if Sam had been the only victim.

I have my own opinions on that:

I think she felt she had to wait out a couple of months just to make sure Dan wasn’t going to tell the police anything about her own involvement in the murders. It looked to me like she jumped ship when she felt secure in Dan’s decision to continue to protect her. However, Dan has his own opinion, and it’s more entertaining. He suggested Rachel may have found a sex tape that Dan made with his ex-girlfriend while engaged to Rachel.

Side Note For Rachel Buffett…

Happy belated birthday! I’m guessing it was much more enjoyable than the one you spent behind bars. I apologize for being one month off when I sent you the birthday card at the OC Jail.

Rachel, if you are at all interested in giving me your side of the story, and you believe Dan is being untruthful, please allow me to interview you.

Q: Why did you make the title of the blog a question?

I added the “?” on the title because a close friend kept begging me to change the name. She was worried about some of the meaner comments I’ve received over the years.

I am aware that calling Daniel Wozniak my friend has caused a lot of anger.

I did not expect people to wish for my death.

Still, I originally chose the title because I knew it would grab people’s attention when they searched the case of Sam’s and Julie’s murders. It has.

But after thinking it over, I realized my friend was right about the blog’s title possibly upsetting people so much they don’t actually read the blog. I’m hopeful the “?” shows that I am asking important questions.

I’ve debated with myself on the title of the book. Same as the blog’s name? With or without a “?”

Q: When will the book be released?

I’m just not sure. I work on the book like it’s a full-time job, but a lot depends on my next panic attack (regarding my own anxiety about putting out the best book possible). Also, my kids are home all the time because of the pandemic, so my writing does get interrupted often.

No worries though; I am motivated! I am lucky that, unlike so many people during this pandemic, I’m not having any financial issue to keep me from writing.

It means a lot to me when readers tell me they are excited about reading my book. I also really appreciate compliments about my writing (more than you know.)

I’m so glad I started with the blog first. It has taken some time, and numerous experiments, to figure out just how to tell you all Daniel’s version of the events leading to the murders, but still show that I’m questioning and analyzing his words like we True Crime lovers do.

You readers and I are going to delve into his story together. I honestly find a lot of credibility in what he’s told me. But it’s all very complicated.

A good example is what Dan has told me about Chris Williams.

If you recall, Chris was an extremely important witness in both Dan’s and Rachel’s trials. He was Rachel’s alibi for Sam Herr’s murder.

According to Daniel, the money borrowed from Chris Williams was for the purpose of buying ecstasy and Oxicontin, and Chris was waiting around all afternoon because he wanted to pick up a purchase. That’s how Daniel tells it.

Daniel also claims Rachel didn’t tell the Costa Mesa Police about her own alibi because she didn’t want to admit to a drug deal. This is just one extra branch on the tree of Daniel’s story that wasn’t brought up in trial at all.

So… how much of the story Daniel has told me will you guys choose to believe once you’ve heard everything?

Side note for Chris Williams…

It would be amazing if you’d let me interview you. Don’t worry, you don’t come off as a bad guy in Dan’s story at all, but he does have you included in drug using and purchasing.

Q: Is the blog and the book you’re working on a collaboration with Daniel Wozniak?

The book is in no way a collaboration with Daniel. I don’t share my work in progress with him at all.

There are places in the book when I’m recreating conversations Daniel told me he had with Rachel, Julie, and Sam. I have occasionally sent him early drafts of those pieces to confirm that I’d grasped the gist of what happened.

However, we both agreed early on that he would answer my questions, but have no involvement in what I write. He has absolutely no editorial or “veto” power.

There are numerous quotes included. I believe readers will appreciate the opportunity to hear some of this story in his own words.

I do actually feel like Daniel is a real friend to me. Even a good friend. I also believe this person isn’t the same man he was in 2010.

I’m not saying, “Oh he’s changed. He deserves to be free.” That wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be justice. I’m sure some of you will doubt my sanity, but without Rachel Buffett in Dan’s life, I don’t believe he is dangerous in any way.

I don’t feel like I can say the same about Rachel Buffett. She could probably find any man to help her be dangerous.

Q: Why did Rachel ask, “Did you kill them?”

Yes, Rachel Buffett did ask Dan Wozniak if he killed “them” when she spoke to him on a recorded telephone conversation from the Orange County Jail. This was before Dan confessed, and before he dropped the bombshell that Sam Herr had also been murdered. Rachel found out about Sam’s killing as soon as Dan arrived back at their apartment, and Chris Williams had left.

Finally…

There has been a surprising amount of interest in my hair color change. I actually find it kind of funny for a number of reasons.

  1. I’m a natural blonde. My real hair color is slightly redder than the current color, but when my roots show, it’s difficult to see much of a difference.
  2. I lived as a blonde for many years before Rachel Buffett was even born.
  3. My hairstylist is my really close friend. Going back to blonde was completely her idea. I took some convincing actually. I was worried that I’d look like a member of the Malfoy family. She now thinks it’s hilarious that my hair color has sparked such interest.
  4. My husband and my kids really like the blonde.

I really haven’t taken this “criticism” with much offense, but it’s nice that some readers were worried about my feelings.

Here is a groovy picture of me and my older brother that was obviously taken before Rachel Buffett was born in 1987.

Hopefully, that will put an end to all the silly rumors.

 

A Recommendation

Have any of you watched the HBO docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, about Michelle McNamara’s book on the Golden State Killer?

McNamara’s book is so beautifully written, but she didn’t live to see it published.

I find this story so heartbreaking, especially for her young daughter and her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. The whole situation resonates with me in a way. She was writing a book about terrible crimes, but in the telling, she was also part of the story.

The HBO series focuses a fair amount on Michelle’s anxiety and stress about her writing the best book she could write. I feel rather connected to her overall story. I actually got to meet Patton Oswalt before his show at the Irvine Improv, because he likes my husband’s art. He was extremely friendly and welcoming. He also blew my mind when he did a bit onstage about his True Crime-obsessed wife. I remember feeling very simpatico with their lives.

Murderer Musings on the Sword and Scale Podcast

The Sword and Scale Podcast recently profiled the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi. I was interviewed for the episode (via telephone) in May, and it’s now available here, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

I think the story is covered decently, especially considering all the bizarre twists and turns in the case. They spend the first fifteen minutes or so examining how one of the victims, Sam Herr, was originally considered the prime suspect in the murder of Julie Kibuishi.

The story of Sam’s previous brush with the law has been touched on by the majority of media covering the murders. I wrote about it myself in the early days of this blog.

However, out of respect for Steve and Raquel Herr, Sam Herr’s parents, I wanted to go into a little more detail than provided in the excerpts of my interview used for the podcast. If you’ve come here as a Sword and Scale listener, this might be enlightening and interesting.

More to the Story

Julie Kibuishi’s body was found in Sam’s apartment.   Authorities thought the Army veteran had possibly snapped, murdering his friend.

It was a logical interpretation of a crime scene in which Julie’s clothing was torn and the words “all yours fuck you” were scrawled on the back of her sweater.

In fact, this was Daniel Wozniak’s intention in staging the scene Steve Herr discovered.

Dan had been aware of a dark time in Sam Herr’s life. He knew that when Sam Herr had spent some time in the Los Angeles jail.

When Sam was a teenager, he and a group of other young men had been arrested on a murder charge. So Dan figured the Costa Mesa Police would suspect Sam even more than they already did once they looked into his past.

Sam Herr had been completely acquitted of that original crime. After that, he got away from a bad crowd, joined the Army, and became a highly decorated veteran.

He did everything right. The future stolen from him would likely have been filled with success, family, and happiness.

I hope that extra context adds to your experience of the episode.

Thanks again to The Sword and Scale Podcast for having me on.

‘Rona on the Row – An Update on Daniel Wozniak and COVID-19 at San Quentin Prison

The tests came back, Daniel Wozniak, along with at least 159 other death row inmates, is infected with COVID-19. 

Daniel is, so far, completely asymptomatic. He took the actual test more than five days ago, so it’s unlikely he will end up experiencing any symptoms from the virus. 

Soon after the results came back, a guard with a large roll of red tape walked up and down the tiers, marking the cells of the infected inmates. A friend of Daniel’s who was being walked to the showers commented on seeing that tape on every tier.

Now a nurse comes to his cell twice a day to check his temperature and ask if he’s having any symptoms.

Nurses, guards, and all other non-inmates staff at San Quentin are now dressed in full protective gear at all times.

“They look like Dustin Hoffman in the movie Outbreak,” Daniel remarked.

Daniel hears alarms going off almost hourly. He’s been hearing calls of “man down” from areas throughout the building, but he has no idea if inmates are being removed from their cells. He’s not sure where they would be taken, anyway, since the prison’s hospital is full. 

Daniel did see a stretcher being carried out on a recent Wednesday night. He learned from me that this was probably Richard Eugene Stitely, a 71 year old who had died, but whether or not Stitely was infected is to be determined.

It’s impossible to say how many inmates at San Quentin are actually infected with COVID-19. Daniel Wozniak has no idea of the circumstances on the prison’s mainline. Clearly there are hundreds of positive cases, and overcrowding has to be exacerbating the problem of keeping the healthy separated from the sick. 

Perhaps some readers have trouble sympathizing for men who have been condemned to die, but this prison is filled with so many more people than the 740 or so who are on death row. There are almost 50 sick guards, and the ones that are still healthy are working double and triple shifts to cover for guards who can’t come to work. 

This situation is terrible for everyone in and out of that prison.

Read my previous post on COVID-19 at San Quentin.

COVID-19 In San Quentin

You may have seen some news stories about how many prisons and jails have been dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19 making its way through the inmate population.

In what initially may have seemed like a logical solution, “healthy” inmates have been transferred to prisons with no verified COVID-19 cases. 121 inmates from Chino Prison were taken to San Quentin, and since they were not tested for COVID-19 before arrival… they brought the outbreak with them.

Petri Dish

Within two weeks, San Quentin went from having no cases to — as of this writing — having over four hundred. The number goes up every day.

The question on the mind of Daniel Wozniak and many other prisoners is where, exactly, are the infected prisoners being held? The many guards he’s asked have no answers.

Taking Measures

When it was discovered there were COVID-19 cases in San Quentin, the prison emptied out the Advanced Correction (A.C.) unit in order to safely isolate sick inmates.

The A. C. unit, also known as Solitary, was meant to house those who had broken rules. At San Quentin, that unit only holds a hundred inmates, so that doesn’t even come close to having enough space for all those currently sick, let alone ones who may yet become ill.

Where are the others?

Daniel has noticed that guards now wear clear face plates over their masks, and heavy duty gloves. In fact, while I was talking to him on the telephone yesterday, guards were spraying the air with what looked like a pesticide.

Unlike the San Quentin inmates in general population, Daniel Wozniak gets his own cell. He at least has a semblance of social distancing. Most inmates are stuck sharing cells, which would make it easy for Covid-19 to spread from prisoner to prisoner.

Daniel Wozniak isn’t necessarily concerned about his own health. He doesn’t want to get COVID-19, of course, but he is young and healthy and would likely be just fine. That cannot be said for many of the people around him.

In the Dark

Right around June 19th, 2020, the prison tested every inmate at San Quentin for COVID-19. Even though the number of reported cases continues to rise, as of the 24th, the inmates haven’t been given the results of their own tests.

What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Us?

I have to wonder if there are prisoners who don’t even know they are sick, but are being counted as infected when the numbers are released to the media. I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but having no place to safely house infected inmates could mean the sick are just staying put. If this were the case, would the inmates be kept in the dark for the sake of keeping them calm?

In the 1998 movie Armageddon, an asteroid “the size of Texas” hurtles toward Earth, and when it hits, all life will be obliterated. In the movie, the government chooses to keep this information hidden from the public in order to avoid the complete terror and chaos that would result from people learning of their inevitable destruction. Thankfully, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck lead a misfit team of NASA recruits on a mission to destroy the asteroid and save the world. The people who were in danger never even knew how close they came.

You see where I’m going with this, right? I don’t think it would be that surprising if the warden at San Quentin would attempt to keep the peace for as long as possible.

We’ll see what the future brings. I’ll keep you updated.

And Now, This

On the HBO series Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver did an extensive story on how COVID-19 has been burning through our prisons and jails. He explained how prison outbreaks can be dangerous to so many more people than just the inmates.

I understand if some readers don’t have a great deal of sympathy for the incarcerated, but continued outbreaks of Coronavirus are a threat to everyone.

Here’s the Last Week Tonight segment:

San Quentin Under the Coronavirus Pandemic – An Update

I hope all you readers are all doing well in this new and crazy world of ours.

As of April 22, 2020, it appears that San Quentin State Prison is still keeping COVID-19 from running amok inside its walls. I know there could easily be folks who are asymptomatic or haven’t started to show symptoms yet, but so far, so good. I’m impressed, and I won’t lie, I’m also pleasantly surprised.

Daniel Wozniak has been keeping me updated on how San Quentin has been handling the death row inmates during the pandemic. The prison has some practices in place to keep everyone healthy and safe, but there are still so many ways the virus could quickly spread if it got a foothold.

In the last post, I mentioned a guard who had recently come off a cruise full of passengers who’d tested positive for COVID-19. Rumors had been flying around that he’d been allowed to work, but this was false. He was sent home to quarantine.

Death row inmates are put in handcuffs whenever transferred from one area to another. The likelihood of the cuffs being disinfected between inmates is quite low. On the other hand, since the prison was closed to visitors in March, the inmates only come in contact with guards and other personnel. So, they must be doing a decent job of screening and cleaning overall.

Nothing is perfect.

Click to view larger image.

On March 27th, the inmates received a memorandum from Warden Ron Broomfield that a member of the staff tested positive for COVID-19. Warden Ron Broomfield’s letter to the inmates was informative and reassuring, and the prison has put out other helpful memos to keep the entire population of San Quentin safe and healthy. They’ve been especially aware of the higher risk inmates.

When the memo about the positive staff member circulated, quite a few alarms could be heard going off on different tiers. On Daniel’s tier, one of the older guys was taken away wearing a mask.

Click to view larger image.

Still, San Quentin seems to be holding everything together using some makeshift tactics and seemingly illogical practices.

Click to view larger image.

They check the inmates’ temperatures daily and have provided hand sanitizer for extra caution… but the sanitizer must remain in their cells, even though they most need it when out on the yard with prisoners. A very detailed information leaflet was distributed along with squeeze bottles of sanitizer; starting with how to properly open the bottle and ending with the regulation to keep the bottle in the cell.

I asked Daniel about this, and he said the yards do have one sink available for hand washing, but there could be up to forty inmates who would need to use it. I have to ask him if he’s allowed to take bar soap outside.

Dan told me that every couple of days, a guard goes from cell to cell handing out bars of soap and saying, “I have to give this to you, and I need you to give me an empty cup.” Even though Daniel didn’t specifically say so, I have to assume the inmates don’t have any choice in the matter. The empty receptacle is then filled up from a large bottle of disinfectant.

While Daniel and I were talking on the telephone earlier this week, he noticed a guard coming along the tier and handing out what looked to Dan like a sleeping mask. Dan asked his neighbor about it, and the guy said it was “a mask-mask.”

Unlike the hand sanitizer, the mask came with no instructions, and Dan doesn’t know if the mask is allowed to be taken out of their cells either. If not, he’s going to use it as a sleep mask.

Click to view larger image.

Telephone calls are still available to the inmates, and hopefully this helps alleviate some of the loneliness and stress experienced while being separated from the outside world. GTL, the company that controls California’s incarcerated telephone connections, is now allowing days where all calls are free. This must be a welcome break for the families and friends of inmates, who normally have to pay pretty high rate charges for all the collect calls they receive. Even some free phone calls are helpful in this time when so many people have lost their livelihoods.

I hope you all are taking care of yourselves out there.

Did anyone happen to see Steve Herr on the Dr. Oz show a week or so ago? His heartbreak is evident to anyone who hears him speak about his son Sam.

When I write about Daniel Wozniak’s experiences from behind bars, I never forget how he ended up there. I never forget about Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.

When I write of the difficulties of the lives of inmates, I’m looking at the big picture. I’m not just focused of Daniel’s life.

I think we can all agree we want this pandemic over sooner rather than later. Us regular folks will be let out of our version of prison, and the family members and friends of the incarcerated will be allowed back in again.

We’re All on Lockdown Now

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:

As part of CDC’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, normal visiting and family visits will be canceled statewide until further notice. Only legal visits will be held as scheduled. CDCR values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time the Department must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit state prisons. Stay up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 response and prevention recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Thank you,
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation VPASS System

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are all doing your best to stay healthy out there.

A couple friends let me know they could use some interesting reading while they are sheltering in their homes, and asked me for an update on how San Quentin is handling this health crisis.

I’m writing this on March 23rd, 2020, which is Daniel Wozniak’s 36th birthday.

As of right now, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified inside San Quentin.

Along with everyone else in the state of California, San Quentin is on a limited lockdown.

As a resident of California, I’m still allowed to go to the grocery store or take a walk in the park (well, maybe not that last one any more, depending on where you live in California).

Daniel still gets to go out to yard (locked in an outside cage) every other day, and he can still attend group meetings (locked in an inside cage). Unlike a full lockdown, Daniel is still given access to a telephone a couple of days a week.

The tier phone is passed from inmate to inmate along with a rag and a bottle of spray cleaner. However, Daniel sees no point in spraying the phone when everyone has already touched the bottle and the rag. He has always cleaned the telephone with his own supplies, so he’s already in the habit.

Much like the rest of California, the inmates are not allowed any visitors.

But keeping visitors out doesn’t immunize the prison against possible exposure. The prisoners don’t leave the grounds, but that doesn’t keep them from having any contact with the outside world. Guards still come and go.

One guard was recently sent home when it was learned he’d been a passenger on The Grand Princess, a cruise ship which docked in San Francisco carrying passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.

I wonder if it’s actually possible to keep the virus out of the  prison, and if one prisoner contracting COVID-19 will mean the inevitable infection of the majority of other inmates.

Whether you care about the health of prisoners or not, a COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin Prison isn’t good for anyone.

It would be expensive for taxpayers, and dangerous to anyone who enters  the facility, or comes in contact with anyone who leaves.

I suppose the inmates might actually be safer than the rest of us, considering the large number of people who are not following “shelter in place” guidelines in the “free” world.

No matter what, prisoners have definitely had more practice at being kept away from the rest of society.

Many of them might not notice much of a difference.

Then again… some prisoners are accustomed to regular visits from family and friends. They may experience more loneliness and isolation than they’re used to, even on Death Row.

Prisoners like Daniel Wozniak.

Is Daniel Wozniak Leaving San Quentin?

Hi there readers!

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but I’m still in regular contact with Daniel Wozniak. We talk on the telephone often, so I get continual updates from Dan about his life on the infamous San Quentin’s Death Row.

The truth is, there hasn’t been much to share with you.

No News is… No News

One day Daniel and I spent half an hour talking about the various possible sandwich combinations one could create when given three pieces of bread, a decent sized tube of peanut butter, a decent sized tube of jelly, and a banana.

His personal favorite option is: three “stick” (or half) sandwiches with peanut butter, jelly and three slices of banana on each.

Lately, the convicted murderer of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi has been living an existence that seems more tedious than terrifying.

But Wait! There’s News

Now, though, there’s a chance the tedium might be reduced.

All condemned inmates recently received a ten page informational packet about a new protocol being introduced to death row this year: CITPP, or, the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program.

Consequences of Proposition 66

You might remember that in March of 2019, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, put a freeze on executions. He promised that none would take place while he was in office. But the Governor’s actions didn’t change the law in California, or the fact that the 2016 election saw the passing of  Proposition 66, which was essentially intended to speed up the state’s execution process.

Work for Prisoners, but Not at San Quentin

According to Daniel, there is another lesser known aspect of Prop. 66 that allows condemned inmates to be assigned jobs behind bars. Prison work doesn’t exactly pay well, but it gives a person something to do that’s worthwhile and fills the time.

Death row prisoners don’t have the opportunity to work at San Quentin, where the mainline is a level two security prison, but condemned inmates need to be in at least a level three security prison in order to work. To solve this problem, inmates would need to be moved to other prisons. Enter CITPP.

Placement is voluntary, and Daniel Wozniak is planning to volunteer.

Still on Death Row, Just Not on “Death Row.”

There are a couple stipulations for entering the program.

For one, inmates with disciplinary infractions are disqualified. Some inmates who have been on death row for decades, and don’t know any other life, might not want to leave. Daniel said he wouldn’t be surprised to see inmates deliberately “getting into trouble” to avoid being eligible for the new program.

Two, once an inmate is accepted to the program, he can’t just change his mind and go back to San Quentin any time he wants. That said, technically the inmate is still awaiting a death sentence. If all appeals were denied and an inmate was facing the needle, he’d be moved back to San Quentin for the deed to be done.

I wonder if this change would be upsetting to family and friends of victims. Does the punishment of a death sentence seem less effective if the inmate is no longer segregated and mostly confined to his cell?

Where Will Daniel Wozniak End Up?

There is a good possibility Daniel Wozniak will be moved to a different facility within the year.

There were quite a few location options listed in the CITPP information packet. Even though Daniel might have a preference as to where he’d end up, I don’t know if the inmates really get any say in that decision.

How a Move Might Affect Access to the Truth

It is likely Daniel would end up quite a bit closer to Orange County. That would make visits easier, but if our conversations are recorded, as they were at the Orange County Jail, it also could also limit his ability to be “completely honest” with me regarding the truth behind the murders of Julie Kibuishi and Sam Herr.

At San Quentin, Daniel can speak openly during our visits, and he has told me his story to the best of his recollection.

There is a great deal in Daniel Wozniak’s story that I actually believe, but definitely not all of it. I often still have “questions of clarity” because it is a complicated and convoluted tale. If he’s moved to a prison where he can no longer speak without fear of being recorded, my opportunity to get more of the story from his perspective may be seriously limited.

It’s important to me that I finish this book, because if even ten percent of Daniel’s version of events is true… well, let’s just say it’s scary to think that other people may have gotten away with murder.

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.