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