Guilty – Part Three

As you all know, on Monday, January 11, 2016, an Orange County jury came back, at breakneck speed, with a recommendation that my friend, Daniel Patrick Wozniak, receive the death penalty.

I was not surprised by their decision (well, the speed of it did actually surprise me), but I was saddened.

Recently, someone sent me a message on this blog’s Facebook page stating that Daniel may be my friend, but he is also a monster.

I get a lot of negative comments on my blog and Facebook page. Most of the time, I choose the “ignore and delete” method of response. But this comment was actually thought-provoking. It touched on one of the main points of why I write about Daniel in the first place.

I know many people think he is merely a monster, and I won’t deny that he did do some monstrous acts. The thing is, I don’t believe that Daniel Wozniak is a monster. I’m not the only one who feels that way, either. I guess I’m just the one with the biggest mouth.

I’ve been contacted by quite a few people who knew Daniel and his family long before the events of May of 2010. The words used to describe him include generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, and a good guy. More than one person has told me that Daniel comes from a loving, religious, and tight family.

I’ve also heard from many of the people in Daniel’s life now. Admittedly, many of them are inmates. But all of us describe Daniel the same way: generous, funny, smart, goofy, caring, a good guy, and religious.

So for me, the big question is: what happened? How did he change so much? Is the “old Daniel” back now?

I’m hoping that Daniel himself can tell me the answers to those questions. Some of you might also be curious about the same things. Either way, I want to know for myself. I want to know as a mother. I want to know as a friend.

So, I’m going to continue this blog, and I’m probably going to write a book or a play or both. No one has to read anything I write and I won’t be breaking into your living rooms and forcing you to watch my one-woman show.

But for those of you who are interested, here is my continuing viewpoint of Daniel’s trial:

Guilty – Part Three

See! I told you it wouldn’t take long for my next post.

We were on day two (Thursday, December 10, 2015) and left off after describing the examination of prosecution witness Wesley Freilich (the ATM Kid).

The Law Enforcement Witnesses

After the lunch break, the prosecution put on a bunch of Costa Mesa police officers, and they had plenty of damaging evidence to present.

1) David Casarez: During his questioning, we established where Daniel and Rachel were living at the time of the murders (the Camden Martinique Apartments in Costa Mesa).

We also saw photographs of a red handled ax and a 24″ wood-handled saw (can you say, “chill down your spine?”).

No cross examination.

Murderer Musings TV Lawyer wanted to know where the pictures were taken.  The tools were leaning against a wall in some residence.  This might not necessarily be that important, but MMTVL likes to have all the facts.  

Side note: when I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he didn’t know either.  Maybe Noah Buffett’s (Rachel’s brother, who went on Dr. Phil with her) apartment?

2) James Brown: More photographs were shown during his testimony, including a picture of a plastic grocery bag from Von’s, and a black backpack.  These items and their contents were found in the yard of Daniel’s parents’ next door neighbors. The police believe that it was Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak, who got rid of this evidence for Daniel (and clearly didn’t do a very good job of it). The items collected included:

  • Sam’s wallet with his ID and credit cards.
  • Sam’s passport.
  • A box of Sam’s checks.
  • Sam’s broken cell phone, with the battery removed.
  • A green T-shirt covered in blood.
  • A pair of jeans.
  • A pair of boxer shorts.
  • Two used shell casings for a 38mm handgun.

The Defense did not do a cross examination.

MMTVL – I got nothin’.

3) Kevin Condon: He did a search of Daniel and Rachel’s apartment and found no drug paraphernalia (Hmmm? This does not jive with what was written in one of Daniel’s earliest letters).

A photograph was shown of a laptop and power cords  in a backpack (different from the black one discussed earlier).  This part confused me a bit.  It sounded like the officer was saying this was Sam’s laptop and it was found in David Buffett’s (Rachel’s father) car.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Huh?? Can we go back a bit? Did you just say that Sam’s laptop was found in Rachel’s dad’s car?

4) Dana Potts: He was in charge of looking for human remains in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.  A photograph was shown of Officer Potts next to a human skull lying on the ground. Later identified as belonging to Sam Herr, the skull had been ravaged by animals and insects.  Sam’s hand and forearm were never found.

No cross examination.

MMTVL has no questions.

5) Jean Putinare (I KNOW I’m spelling this wrong): She works in the OC crime lab. Okay, here is where the DNA evidence came in.  Not that anyone is surprised, but Sam’s DNA was found on some of the items contained in the black backpack, the one found in the backyard of the Wozniak’s neighbors.

She also tested a 38mm handgun for DNA.  A mixture of DNA from Tim and Daniel Wozniak was found on the gun and its case.  Tim Wozniak had turned the gun over to the Costa Mesa Police Department. It was registered to Daryl Wozniak, Daniel’s dad.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Uhhh…since the gun belonged to Daryl Wozniak, is it possible this DNA has been on it for years? Perhaps Tim and Daniel had been taken for shooting lessons when they were teens…? (Editor Matt’s comment: “Depends on the sample from which they got the DNA. Skin breaks down quickly.” He’s got a point.)  Oh let’s be honest – we all see that Matt Murphy’s got a slam dunk going here. 

6) Tomas Matsudaira: Orange County Forensics guy who does the “matching spent bullet cartridges to guns” business.  All the cartridges found were from the 38mm handgun with the Wozniak DNA on it. Three were tested. The two from the backpack and one that was found in the theatre attic near Sam’s body.

No cross examination.

MMTVL puts head down on “TV defense table” and waves a small white flag.

7) Ed Everette: Another Costa Mesa Police Department detective.  This guy was busy!

  • Watched ATMs in Long Beach for activity on Sam’s bank card.
  • Interviewed Wesley Freilich and learned that Daniel had given him the ATM card.
  • Canvased the Camden Martinique Apartments trying to find a connection between any of its residents and the city of Long Beach (Daniel grew up in LB).
  • Somehow tracked down an address for a place in Long Beach that later turned out to be Noah Buffett’s apartment.
  • Went to the address, and thinking it was a business, he just walked right in the front door.  It was actually a converted loft. Daniel was there with Rachel, Noah and their mother. Daniel looked at Detective Everette and said, “How did you find me?”
  • Daniel asked to talk to the police outside.  Everette said Daniel appeared nervous and was trembling as he told the police that he’d last seen Sam Herr when Sam and an “unknown man” dropped him off in the afternoon after Sam had supposedly helped Daniel to move some furniture at the Liberty Theatre.
  • Everette also said that at one point, Rachel came outside, too, and he suspected she’d been listening at the door before that.  He wondered why she was so unconcerned that the police were questioning her fiancé.

Now we finally get some cross examination! Scott Sanders asked if there were any notes or recordings of the conversation he’d had with Daniel outside the loft. Everette said no. Scott didn’t really debate anything the detective had said, but when he asked Everette about his own feelings toward Rachel Buffett, the response was a doozy:

“She should be sitting here right next to Mr. Wozniak.”

MMTVL – That statement doesn’t do anything to make Daniel look LESS guilty, but it was as close as the defense had come to a win.

This was the last witness of the day.

The first witness on Monday would be Daniel’s brother, Tim Wozniak.

“Guilty Part Four” will be coming your way as soon as possible.  I’m sorry that I can’t tell you how many parts there will be in total.  It’s not like you don’t know how the story ends, right?

Guilty – Part Two

Hello dear readers. First, let me apologize for taking so long to get another post out. I’m sure some of you were worried that I’ve lost interest in Daniel and this story. Maybe even hoping (I’m looking at you, fake Matt Murphy).

Nope. A LOT has been happening the past couple of weeks – including Christmas. But I’m back, so let’s talk trial! Murderer Musings TV Lawyer MMTVL is back on the case.

It’s an emotional experience, being in that courtroom. The sadness and anger coming from the victims’ families is palpable. Many supporters show up for both Julie and Sam every day: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, all there to see that justice is done for their loved ones.

Daniel Wozniak has me.

I’m not his only supporter, but I’m the only one who didn’t heed his wish that we not come to the trial. I’m stubborn. I want to get as much of the story as possible.

He’s okay with it now.

Now, before any trolls go crazy in my comment section, when I say “supporter,” I mean someone who is Daniel’s friend.  He has been found guilty of some insanely horrible crimes.  I do not support them.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being his friend.  Let’s be honest, I always figured he’d be found guilty.  He never claimed to be an innocent man.

Day Two

I had trouble finding a seat on day one of the trial, so I decided I better get to the courthouse super early on day two.

Guess what? NOT necessary.

First off, there was no one on the eighth floor when I arrived at about 8:15 am. I probably should have known it wouldn’t be as busy when I didn’t see any news vans outside.  Also, I forgot that court was starting at 9:30 am instead of 9:00 am.  Live and learn.

The First Witness For The Prosecution

The first witness of the day was Joseph Niebles, a special agent for the FBI (cool, right?) . He testified about Google searches that were found on computers in Daniel and Rachel’s apartment.

Right after Niebles took the stand, Scott Sanders asked for a sidebar (I’m not actually sure about the technical term, but the lawyers and the judge went into a back room for about ten minutes).

I’m guessing Sanders was trying to keep the jury from hearing about some pretty incriminating searches.  He didn’t win that one.  So a long list went up on the PowerPoint screen, including “Making sure a body is not found,” “Quick ways to kill people,” and “tux and party rentals.”

There was no cross examination of this witness.

MMTVL would like to know how Special Agent Niebles could be sure that the searches were made by Daniel Wozniak as opposed to Rachel Buffet, who also lived in this apartment.

The Second Witness For The Prosecution

The next witness was Lester James McKinney (apologies for any name misspellings – witnesses spell their names aloud for the record, but sometimes people were mumbly or spoke too quickly), a friend of Sam’s.

Some interesting information came up in questioning.  Lester and Sam became friends while working at the same company in 2008. He met Julie through Sam.

Lester and Julie had mutual interests such and dance and fashion, and they were pretty close.  He was another witness brought forth by the prosecution to show that Sam and Julie were not romantically involved. He stated that Sam protected Julie like a big brother would.

For the cross examination of Lester Mckinney, MMTVL had nothing on Scott Sanders. During questioning, Lester admitted Julie was attracted to Sam and that Lester and Julie had discussed her curiosity about the size of Sam’s penis. The question was answered when Sam “whipped out his penis and flashed it around” as a joke when he’d been drinking at a party.  It didn’t sound like this was nefarious in any way, but it’s not exactly brother and sister behavior either.

I’ve always wondered why the texts sent to Julie on the night of her murder repeatedly mentioned that there would be “no sex” that night.  It would be weird to bring that up again and again when you’re just in a platonic relationship with someone.

Going along with the prosecution’s claim, in one of Julie’s replies to “sham” Sam, she responded “Ew,” and said the two of them were like “bro and sis.”

I don’t know.  I’d think she would have asked, “Dude, why do you keep bringing up sex?” She did say she wouldn’t be spending the night.

Matt Murphy claimed that Daniel believed Julie and Sam were sleeping together because, as Lester McKinney stated on the stand, “Julie was always with Sam.”

What do you all think? Be sure to leave a comment!

The Third Witness For The Prosecution

The third prosecution witness of the day was a young man named Wesley Freilich.  Wesley has the unfortunate honor of being the sixteen year old “ATM Kid” who led police to Daniel Wozniak after being arrested for using Sam Herr’s ATM card.

Wesley talked about meeting Daniel as a ten year old. He didn’t have a father growing up, and Daniel had befriended the kid while the two were doing theater together. Wesley had respected Daniel and saw him as a big brother type who he could go to for advice.

Even though the two of them had not been in contact for a couple of years, when Daniel approached Wesley in 2010 with a money making opportunity, Wesley agreed to help Daniel in spite of his own misgivings.  He became even more uncomfortable when told to wear a hat and sunglasses whenever he used the ATM card to take out cash.  He was supposed to get the maximum amount of cash every day, using the PIN number that Daniel had supplied.

MMTVL really wants to know how Daniel got Sam’s PIN number.  This isn’t something Scott Sanders could learn from a cross examination of Wesley, but since we were on the subject…

During Wesley’s time on the stand, Matt Murphy did a pretty good job of showing how Daniel had betrayed the trust of this kid who looked up to him.

Daniel lied to him about the legality of what he was doing, and ended up getting Wesley into a heap of trouble. It was after using Sam’s ATM card to order a pizza that the FBI was able to track the card’s activity, and they swarmed Wesley’s home (helicopters included).  The sixteen year old was put in handcuffs on his front lawn for all his neighbors to see. As one would imagine, he was terrified.

During police questioning, the confused Wesley told everything about how he had come into possession of a missing man’s ATM card.  Remember, at this point in the investigation, the police still believed that Sam Herr was on the run after murdering Julie in his apartment.

During the defense’s cross examination, Scott Sanders  focused on any changes Wesley had noticed in his friend “Dan.” Wesley said that during this time period, Daniel was agitated and very stressed out, which was completely unlike him.

MMTVL doesn’t see how knowing this about Daniel’s behavior at that time can be used as a “defense.”  It isn’t that difficult for Matt Murphy to say, “Of course he was stressed out, he’d just murdered the card holder.”

You couldn’t help but to feel bad for Wesley, whose life was permanently changed because of his unsuspecting involvement in a double murder scheme. I’m not sure what type of punishment the law will have for him, but Wesley testified that day without having an immunity deal.  Pretty brave.

During the lunch break I told Wesley that I thought he’d done a good job on the stand. The whole situation had to be intimidating even for the now-twenty one year old.  I wanted to ask him about his feelings toward Daniel now, but I’m a blogger, and he was a witness. Raquel Herr had to remind us of that when she quietly told Wesley’s mother that he shouldn’t talk to me.

I felt terrible.  I took the stairs so I could get out of there quickly. MMTVL really should have known better.

Up Next

Okay, it’s going to take a couple more posts to cover the rest of the guilt portion of the trial. I won’t take so long to post next time.

Then, we’ll talk about the gut-wrenching penalty phase.  By the time you all read this post, there will probably be a jury decision about whether Daniel should get life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) or the death penalty (DP).

Keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.  I’ll try to tweet more too.

Next up: Guilty – Part Three

Daniel Wozniak Guilty

Daniel Wozniak has been found guilty.

In a recent letter to me he wrote

The jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of 187. First degree murder. Sam Herr (on 5-21-10) and Julie Kibuishi (on 5 – 22-10). Special Circumstances were elected for both victims: A) Murder for financial gain. B) Multiple murder.    There is also an enhancement: Personal discharge of a firearm.

I want to start by saying that I understand why this jury found Daniel Wozniak guilty.  It didn’t take very long either: about two hours. In their seats, going on just the information put forth in court, they really had no option.

Matt Murphy used the term “clinical” when describing the purpose of the guilt phase.  He told the jury that this was the time to put aside emotions. They shouldn’t wonder about motive. They don’t need to consider if any other people were involved. This is when you just decide the black and white part of the case. Did Daniel Wozniak participate in the murders of two people? Guilty.

Was I in any way surprised by this verdict? Nope.

Daniel wasn’t, either.

He has never tried to convince me that he’s a completely innocent man who is serving unfair time. Nor would I be foolish enough to believe him if he did.

However, the “if you blinked, you missed it” trial I sat though left me thoroughly disappointed.

First of all, it was nothing like on TV.  I will be the first to admit I don’t know the law well enough to figure out why or why not certain questions were asked (or not asked).  Maybe TV lawyers are breaking real laws all the time by bringing in certain evidence or asking specific questions.

But since the real lawyers left me wondering about so many details, I figure I can’t be the only one who is curious.

So, I’ve decided to play TV Lawyer for this post.  From here on, I’ll be referred to as MMTVL (Murderer Musings TV Lawyer).

Let’s start with the first witness.

If you don’t already know this, the prosecution gets to make its case first.  All the prosecution witnesses are put forth before the defense even starts its arguments (unless the defense has made an opening argument, which did not happen in this case).

Each prosecution witness was questioned by Matt Murphy. After that, Scott Sanders was given the opportunity to cross examine that witness. Then, the prosecution gets to re-cross, and the defense can then do a final re-re-cross.

I have no idea how long this back and forth is allowed to go on. But in Daniel’s case, it really doesn’t matter, because the defense rarely questioned the witnesses.

Yes. You read that right.

The Witnesses

1) The first witness was Steve Herr.  He is victim Sam Herr’s father, and was the one to find Julie Kibuishi’s body in Sam’s  apartment.  He, of course, had called the police immediately. He’d been positive that his son had not killed Julie. Mr. Herr was not on the stand long.

No cross examination.

MMTVL  wondered why the jury wasn’t told that Mr. Herr visited Daniel in jail. I don’t blame him for wanting to talk to Daniel. I would just like to know what they discussed. Does Mr. Herr think the prosecution has the correct story?

2) Costa Mesa Police detective Stephanie Selkinske was next. She mostly just gave facts about when she had been called to Sam’s apartment after the body of a young woman was found there.  She gave the address of the Camden apartments.  She referred to photographs of the crime scene (the majority were not shown on the big screen; the jury members were each given printed photos to examine). Selkinske also pointed out that Julie had been wearing a tiara, which her brother had given her earlier, at dinner.

No cross examination.

MMTVL couldn’t think of any questions either.

3) The next witness was another member of the CMPD, Shawna Murry. She’s a crime scene specialist. During her testimony, we found out that there was an open pregnancy test found in Sam’s bathroom. Murry also discussed a piece of paper with a peculiar sketch that was found in the apartment.  She said it appeared to be a drawing of an Asian woman lying on a bed.  Flames had been drawn around the head of the woman and the words, “I’m done,” were written on the picture.

No cross examination.

Your Honor, I object. MMTVL wants to know more.  Were any fingerprints or DNA found on the pregnancy test or the drawing? The pregnancy test was open, but had it been used? If so, what were the results?

4) Ruben Manacho Salas, a close friend of Sam’s, was next. He talked about how he’d met Sam in a speech class at Orange Coast College.  The two of them bonded because both were military veterans. Salas testified that Julie and Sam were only friends, even though it wasn’t unusual for Julie to spend the night in Sam’s apartment. He was one of the many people to say they were like brother and sister. Salas also talked of calling Sam’s cell phone on the day he went missing. The person who answered called him “bro” and was too busy to talk at that time. Salas stated that Sam never referred to him as “bro,” so he was suspicious that he had even talked to Sam.

No cross examination.

MMTVL would waive questioning the witness at this time, while retaining the right to call him back at a later time.  

At this point, one of the previous witnesses (one of the CMPD – sorry I can’t remember which one) was recalled to the stand.  This was to establish that Julie had a Taylor Swift song as her ringtone on her cellphone.

No cross examination.

MMTVL – Uh, why did that just happen? 

5) John Randolph. He also lived in the Camden Apartments and was an OCC student. He talked about the big social scene at the apartment complex.  He was friendly with all the parties involved, as the apartment complex had a general party atmosphere because so many students lived there. He was even supposed to officiate Daniel and Rachel’s wedding for free. Randolph was asked about Sam’s possible drug use. He wasn’t aware of any.

Randolph was the first witness to be cross examined by Scott Sanders. I wish I had court transcripts in my hot little hands, because I wrote one note:  “Only asked a couple of questions.” I must not have thought anything noteworthy was brought up.

MMTVL would have asked a bunch of questions about Daniel and Rachel’s relationship. Did they fight at all? Did he think they were a good match? And so on. 

6) Christopher Williams. He was the last witness of the day.  There is no way I can give a one or two paragraph summary of his testimony.  It was, by far, the most interesting and action-packed of the day.  I could probably dedicate an entire book chapter to him.

Christopher Williams’ Testimony

  • Met Daniel and Rachel through one of the actresses in “Nine.”
  • Loaned them money.
  • Told them he got the money from a loan shark (not true).
  • Was with Rachel in her apartment when Sam was supposedly murdered. He described her odd behavior, peculiar computer searches, and her negative comments about Daniel.
  • He may have briefly met Sam and could be the last person to see him with Daniel.
  • Saw Daniel and Rachel in the play on the night of Sam’s murder. He was asked a lot of questions about how Daniel and Rachel were acting that night, on and off stage. Words like “agitated” and “emotional” were used to describe them both.

Overall, Chris Williams’ time on the witness stand brought forth some of the most emotional and intriguing testimony of the trial.

MMTVL thought the defense asked good questions without pushing too hard on Williams, who was very distraught on the stand. 

The End of Day One

At the end of day one, I’m pretty sure that most people in the the courtroom thought it was a very successful day for the prosecution.  That’s how I saw it.

When I talked to Daniel on the phone that night, he was surprisingly good tempered.  He seemed pleased about some of the information that came forth during the testimony that day.

Maybe if I knew the whole true story, I could see what he was seeing.

Coming soon: Daniel Wozniak Guilty – Part Two. The continuation of the Prosecution’s witnesses.