On Friday, August 14, Daniel Wozniak went to court, again.
I wasn’t there.
I had planned to be there. I prepared in advance to be there. Nothing specific happened to interfere with me being there.
So why wasn’t I there?
That’s a good question. That’s what I kept asking myself as I dilly-dallied around my house until it was too late to go.
I was mad about it. Mad at myself. And the self-bashing escalated when I found out that Steve Herr, the father of murder victim Samuel Herr, spoke in court that day. My understanding is that he essentially asked the judge to get on with it.
Rightfully so. His son was murdered five years ago, as was Sam’s friend, Julie Kibuishi, whom Mr. Herr was the first to find.
There are some people (quite passionate writers, I might add) who have suggested that, because I am admittedly Daniel Wozniak’s friend, I am completely oblivious to the feelings of the victims’ families. That’s not true.
However: do I know what they are going through? Of course not. It would be ridiculous for me, or anyone not in their unenviable shoes, to comprehend their pain.
So I had a chance to personally hear Steve Herr speak in court, and I missed it. It was the opportunity to listen to this grieving father’s own words.
I am writing a blog about my friendship with his son’s accused murderer. How can I be an honest writer without acknowledging his pain?
Clearly, I can’t.
One might ask why I haven’t tried to communicate with the Herr and Kibuishi families. I want to tell a balanced story and show both sides, right?
Of course. However, I suspect that, at this moment, they have enough on their plates to bother with a blogger who is just fleshing out a possible-someday-maybe book. I definitely plan on approaching the loved ones of Sam and Julie in the future. If any relatives or friends of the victims agree to speak with me, I will be honored.
Back to court though: You might be wondering if I was afraid to see Mr. Herr speak. Would hearing the pain in his voice make it difficult to rationalize being friends with Daniel?
Nope. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I didn’t know he was going to speak that day. Had I known, I would have mustered my courage and made it to court. I want to be reminded of the victims and how there lives and Daniel’s will forever be intertwined.
Steven Herr was not the reason I avoided court. I think I didn’t go because I hadn’t sifted out the answers to some legitimate questions. Yet.
For the past couple of weeks, a number of people posted comments on this site’s Facebook page making accusations and assumptions about my motivation for writing this blog. Some commenters were quite vocal about their dislike of this blog, and of me for writing it. Fans of mine or not, some valid questions were raised amidst the insults .
- Why did you write to this murderer, especially since you hardly knew him before this all happened? Are you trying to get famous?
- What kind of sick person would be interested in a murderer in the first place?
- Why have you chosen his side instead of keeping an open mind?
- Are you being played and manipulated by a murdering sociopath?
I had my own internal answers for all of these questions, but I didn’t feel like I had a way of verbalizing them.
“What does this have to do with not going to court?” You might ask. “Are you sure this isn’t all an excuse because you don’t like getting up early in the morning?” and “Did you think that the Facebook commenters were going to show up at the OC Court House to yell at you?”
No, I didn’t think that.
But I did start to wonder, “What if the bailiff or the court reporter happens to ask you who you are, or why you’re there?” Hence, this post topic. I didn’t want to miss court again.
Relevant To My Interests
Let’s start with why I wrote to a “murderer” in the first place.
As I’ve said in other posts, I’ve had a fervent interest in the topic of True Crime since long before I’d ever even heard the name Daniel Wozniak. I’m a admitted True Crime junkie.
I think it’s hereditary! My biological mother is the same way. My seventeen year old watches everything from Dateline to Homicide Hunter with me. We call it “watching crime” in my house.
The genre might not be for everyone, but you can’t deny it’s popularity. If I am sick for having this interest, well, I’m not alone.
I can remember watching the TV movie Helter Skelter in 1976. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Vincent Bugliosi, about the investigation and trial of the Tate-LaBianca murders that were orchestrated and directed by Charles Manson.
Side note: On Facebook, I was accused of being a “Manson girl.” For the record, that comparison is not entirely accurate, since it was actually the “Manson Girls” (Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian), and two male followers of Manson, who committed the murders. I am just writing about a murder case. I didn’t murder anyone.
In 1986, I was glued to the two-part TV movie series The Deliberate Stranger, starring Mark Harmon as convicted serial killer Ted Bundy. I wasn’t the only one tuning in to get a glimpse into the mind a psychopath. Like many, I was fascinated by Bundy. How could this seemingly intelligent, charming man commit numerous horrific murders? More important – why?
I’m a big on asking “Why?”
When I’m directing plays, I ask “why.” Why do characters act the way they do?
Working on a modernized version of the Greek tragedy Medea (the story of a woman who murders her own children), I spent months researching women like Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. It wasn’t enough to just tell the story. I wanted to show the human being behind the story. The audience wasn’t necessarily going to like Medea, but I was going to make them think about her.
I was still working regularly at the Hunger Artists Theatre Company in 2010 when Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi were murdered.
Like everyone else, I believed exactly what the newspapers said about Daniel Wozniak being the savage murderer of these two innocent victims. Since I had actually just met Daniel Wozniak, spent time with him, joked with him, asked him to audition for my play… well, I won’t deny it: I was enthralled.
I wanted to know more.
I wanted to understand why!
Coming To Writing
Even though my public creative focus was on directing, I’ve always liked writing as well. The thing is, you don’t always have the time to do everything you want to do.
Hunger Artists eventually closed its doors. My kids got bigger and more independent. I found myself with time to write, and so, I did.
I wrote about my life. I wrote about Mary Magdalen. I wrote about anything I found interesting.
A guy I’d met four years earlier was accused of and had confessed to double murder, and yet he still hadn’t been sentenced. That, I found very interesting!
I realized maybe I could write a true crime book. It was close friends who kept telling me that it would be more interesting to write about my own involvement with Daniel. Anyone could report, but I had a connection.
Did I think this would lead to me becoming the JK Rowling of the genre? No. Did I hope that other people would be want to read what I write?
Of course. Just like I wanted people to see the plays I directed.
That is why I wrote the first letter to Daniel and hoped that our brief meeting years earlier would be enough to entice him to write me back.
The purpose of the blog was to have a place to write, and think, and question, and prepare, for a possible future book.
My Own Assumptions
The thing is, I already assumed Daniel Wozniak was completely guilty. The police and the newspapers said he confessed. There. Done. So let’s see if I could find out what kind of person would do these horrible acts?
I am not proud of determining anyone’s guilt solely from what I’d read in the paper.
That wasn’t fair. Innocent until proven guilty, I kept telling myself.
Was I a witness to this crime. No.
Have I ever read or heard a recording of the confession? No.
Do I have any information about physical evidence? No.
Have I seen pictures of the crime scenes? No.
That’s not the kind of person I am. I don’t blindly accept without proof, but that’s what I was doing, and I was going to stop.
Like the judge in Miracle on 34th Street, I was going to wait and see. Keep an open mind.
That is what I’m doing.
Do I think Daniel is a completely innocent man who is unfairly incarcerated?
No. I’m guessing that he had something to do with… something. That’s my hunch, but I do not know if he is a murderer. The trial will hopefully answer some of those questions.
Does having questions mean I’m being manipulated by Daniel Wozniak?
I don’t think my blog accomplishes anything for him, although he does like the idea of it. Not that he has any way to read it.
Maybe he’s a narcissist. He might just like that someone isn’t calling him a monster, for once.
You Might Not Like It, But…
Here is the part where some of you are going to get cranky.
I don’t think he is a monster… at least, I don’t think that of the person I now know.
I like Daniel. He writes a great letter. He makes me laugh. He tells the cheesiest jokes. We talk about life, religion, politics and cartoons. I enjoy our conversations on the phone, and I like visiting him.
I’m not alone in that. Daniel has close friends and supporters in and out of jail.
There are even those who believe he’s not a murderer.
And hey… what if he isn’t?