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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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…
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.
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.