Daniel Wozniak

I began writing this blog in 2012 but it was not until January of 2015 that I decided to take a much more serious approach to it. From 2012 until the beginning of 2015 I had made a total of 88 postings.  I decided I was going to make it my goal to spend at least one day a week, preferably Sunday, to devote to research and postings.  I did fairly well considering I made 85 entries in 2015.  For the most part I obviously met my goal of at least one post a week on average.  Some weeks I spent more than one day, while admittedly there were others that I did not spend any days here working on things.  That has been the case the last few weeks, however, just because I have not posted does not mean I have not looked or found more cases for my ever growing list.  I am a self proclaimed Investigative Discovery (ID) addict.  Sadly however I no longer subscribe to that channel (it was the only channel I wanted in the next much higher priced package) and soon I will not have cable at all.  However, this month was a free preview of my favorite channel and I have put my DVR in over drive.  In fact, I debated on blogging today as my DVR is fast filling up with just about every show on there besides my regulars such as Dateline, 48 Hours and 20/20.  But, I decided they can wait and today should be a day of dedication.  
I did not need ID for this story however and just so happened to be on my DVR as I went through it as it was recently shown on an episode of Dateline.  

Admittedly the episode I watched was very new and recent and there seemed to be little extra information out that they had not discussed in the show for the most part.  Also, this case is so recent, or at least the court proceedings are that there is not really a complete end to this story as of yet.  I often tend to stay away from these sorts of cases due to the fact that I may have to come back and update them and I have a hard enough time just keeping up with new ones it seems sometimes.  With that said, the main portion of the case has just very recently seen it's day in court (appeals are in order I am going to assume, as well as official sentencing) with a smaller portion to come.  Although, from everything I have gathered, the smaller portion just may end up being more interesting than the concluded portion.

On May 21, 2010 Steve Herr went to his son, Sam's apartment because he had not come to his house as he was expected to earlier in the day.  Sam was an only child and by all account close to his parents and Steve thought this was odd behavior.  Steve entered his son's place in Costa Mesa California and he was faced with something horrible.  Inside he found the body of his son's friend, Juri "Julie" Kibuishi.  Steve immediately called 911.  At first glace it would appear rather cut and dry.  The autopsy revealed that Julie had been shot in the head twice with a .38 caliber gun.  The position of her body made it appear that she had been sexually assaulted.  And most telling of all, Steve's son, Sam was no where to be found.  Investigators talked to Julie's brother and discovered that he had been with his sister the night before when she began receiving text messages from her college friend, Sam, who appeared to be depressed and asked her to come over so he could basically "cry" on her shoulder.  Julie had texted her brother and let him know she had arrived at Sam's safely. That was the last anyone had heard from Julie.  

The number one goal for investigators was to find Sam.  It was presumed pretty quickly since they believed he had texted Julie, and she was found in his apartment that he had sexually assaulted her, then killed her and took off.  One of the first things investigators do when they are looking for someone is check their banking activity.  They soon realized that Sam's ATM card was being used, with large sums of money being withdrawn every day.  They finally got a hold of a ATM surveillance camera and to their surprise it was not Sam who was taking the money but what looked to be a teenage boy.  They finally found the teenager and started questioning him extensively.  At first they assumed that Sam had given him the card and had him take money out.  What they soon learned was something way different.  The teenage boy said he had no idea who Sam Herr was and had never heard of him aside from seeing his name on the bank card he now possessed.  He did however know the man who gave him the ATM card, asking him to with draw the maximum amount every day and telling the boy he was welcome to grab food from time to time for himself.  His name was Daniel Wozniak, a local small time theater actor.  Hmmmm  so investigators decided to bring Daniel in for questioning.  The knew Daniel lived with his fiancee, fellow actor, Rachel Buffett in the same complex as Sam and that they were friends.  The investigators first assumed that Daniel was a middle man probably helping his friend out as he ran after committing this murder but they were not taking any chances.  Either this man was their new prime suspect or he was helping harbor a suspected murderer. They just so happened (really?) to find Daniel at his bachelor party on May 26th. Some say they waited until Daniel paid the tab before they nabbed him. 

So they get Daniel into the police station and they obviously want to know why this 17 year old boy says Daniel gave him Sam Herr's ATM card, and if it is true how did he get it.  It does not appear that Daniel's acting skills served him very well at this point. He began first telling a few stories.  One was that he was in a credit card scam with Herr.  Later he would say that Herr had committed the murders and had threatened him if he did not help him. Then later, as they say he began singing like a canary before too long. Not only was his acting bad but he also did not seem to be very smart either.  It seems he did some research on "quick ways to kill people" and did a rather awesome job in setting the scene to look as if Sam Herr was guilty and on the run but despite being given his Miranda rights he began telling a story and not asking for an attorney.  It seems his goal at that point was to just tell the police what happened so he could hurry and get out of there so he could make it to his wedding in two days.  Yeah, because you know, when you confess to murdering two people, dismembering one of them, the police just say "Ok buddy... that's great, we'll call you if we need anything more so you go on and get married and have a great honeymoon.  Have fun!"  Essentially though that is what happened.  

So what did go down on May 20, 2010 and why?  Well, Daniel told investigators that he had asked Sam Herr to help him move some furniture at a theater.  It does not seem the theater was actually in production at that time and was empty but some how Daniel had access.  He got Sam into the attic and it was there that he shot him in the head twice.  He apparently cleaned up, leaving the body there for the time being, but grabbing Sam's ATM card (how did he get the number?), cell phone and wallet.  He then went to another theater where he and his fiancee, Rachel were performing in a play together.  An audience member took video of this performance that was later shown to indicate Daniel seemed to be in first rate form.  After the production Daniel used Sam's cell phone and started texting Julie Kibuishi.  Daniel knew her slightly through Sam and Daniel and Julie were friends on Facebook.  Upon further examination later, the text seemed rather desperate and what would have been out of character for Sam, begging Julie to come to his place.  Being the good friend that she was, Julie changed her previous plans so she could go comfort her friend Sam who apparently needed her.  It seems that once she got to Sam's she met up with Daniel.  Once inside she too was shot in the head twice and then Daniel arranged her body to make it appear that she had been sexually assaulted knowing that Sam would be the number one suspect. An autopsy would later prove that she was not in fact sexually assaulted at all. Some time during all of this he also found Sam's passport.  The thought is that Daniel assumed that if no one found Sam's phone, wallet, or passport they would assume that he had taken off. Daniel was not wrong there.  At some point either that day or the next he went back to the theater where he dismembered Sam's body.  He left his torso and legs inside the attic of the theater but his head and arms were taken to a local park where he left them.  

Now, this all apparently came straight from Daniel's mouth to the police on the night he was brought in.  When asked why, he confessed that it was about money.  Sam was an Army Vet.  He had done a tour in Afghanistan and had returned home and enrolled in the local college.  It was common knowledge around people who knew him that Sam had excess of $50,000 saved up (the actual amount was closer to $62,000).  While relating his story to the police (a confession that videotaped) he said that while he was dismembering Sam he said he was smiling and laughing but claimed he was not sure why. Investigators, and later prosecutors would claim that Daniel was in a dire financial situation and while he was in debt up to his eyeballs (or beyond) he was planning this wedding and honeymoon with Rachel and desperately needed the money.  Daniel would go on to claim that his financial situation was greatly exaggerated but even in his own claims he did not sound super convincing.  

So now investigators have a story and they need to prove it.  It seems in his original story Daniel did not indicate that anyone else helped him or knew about things but investigators suspected differently as they looked into things.  As far as Sam and his body... well it was exactly where Daniel said it was.  They were to also learn that Daniel had given his brother, Tim a backpack that contained bloody clothes, gloves and items belonging to Sam Herr.  Tim was arrested for being an accessory after the the murders but I cannot say if he is still facing those charges as some information says that while both he and Rachel's brother, Nick were both arrested on this charge that charges were dropped while others indicate that at least Tim is still facing charges.  They also found the murder weapon and found that it was registered to Daniel's father.

Investigators were very suspicious of Rachel pretty much from the moment that Daniel confessed.  Part of their suspicion was built partly on her behavior when Daniel informed her of what had happened.  They felt as if she did not seem that surprised and almost as if the conversation between the two had been scripted.  It seemed highly unlikely to them that Daniel made these plans alone. It seems that aside from doing a play from time to time they were both unemployed and their rent was at least a few months behind.  They had found the search on their home computer but of course they could not prove that it was Rachel and not Daniel or both of them that had done it so they basically had to take Daniel's word and he did not seem to implicate Rachel.  He apparently seemed to continue to keep his mouth shut when Rachel showed up at the jail about three months after he was incarcerated with another man and proceeded to not in a very subtle way tell Daniel what he could do with their relationship.  It seems it took investigators about two and a half years looking into Rachel and the best they have been able to do at this point is also arrest her for being an accessory after the fact and for lying to the police during their investigation.  She maintains her innocence on all charges and claims she was not involved in any way.  Some wonder if she is just a better actress than her former fiance. 

Although I was unable to truly determine why, it took nearly five years to get Daniel in front of a jury.  His trial began in December of 2015.  While a five year wait is a long time to wait for any trial one of the reasons this confused me more is that it seems the defense did not have one.  It seems as if the defense attorney's were making it their goal to obviously not make it into court at all.  At some point one of the attorney's was quoted as all but admitting Daniel's guilt but that they did not feel the crime warranted the death penalty the prosecution was seeking.  They stated Daniel was fully prepared to take a plea that gave him life without parole to avoid the death penalty but that obviously did not happen.  Then once at trial they provided no witnesses or evidence and just moved on after the state rested. It seems their goal from the onset was to concentrate on trying to prevent the death penalty.  It is little surprise that since they offered little to no defense that Daniel was found guilty as charged. In January 2016 the same jury sat for the penalty phase and recommended a sentence of death.  His official sentencing is set for March of 2016.

Rachel on the other hand seems to be making her rounds.  The Dateline episode that I saw was aired on January 15th just a few days after Daniel's penalty phase had ended.  She returned to court the following week but it seems with all of the media frenzy that has gone on her attorney's asked for a continuance until March and it was granted.  

Daniel has never seemingly, at least openly, incriminated Rachel as being involved in either the murders or the aftermath but that has not stopped investigators.  As far as my opinion of her, I cannot say for sure.  I will say that I did see the video of when Daniel told her of his crimes and I agree with investigators that it did in fact seem odd and or scripted.  Also as I watched her on the Dateline episode I just felt as if she was "acting." Then again I could be very wrong.  Investigators obviously have not been able to prove at this point anything to say she was involved before hand, and until they get into court they obviously have not proven yet her involvement after.  That being said, I think I have to say I am with them, that it would be highly unlikely that she was not involved in some way.

Comments

  1. Rachel is 100 % innocent. Her life has been ruined by Dan and his evil selfishness. A long with the victims. Just because she didn't cry hysterically during an interview that took place a long time after the crimes or at the station doesn't mean she is involved at all or hiding anything. She openly spent hours and time of day helping the police with any and all information she had the entire time they investigated. Some people cry in private. And she had cried and cried. I am tired of seeing people say she is an actress blah blah she is not crying so Shes lying. Bullcrap! Cannot wait ├╣ntil she is exonerated.

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  2. If you knew Rachel and Dan...you would know he wouldn't blink without asking her first...think about that

    She's behind the whole thing.I believe she was especially involved in Julie's murder..if you read between the lines..a twisted female came up with that plan..the whole plan out of greed and jealousy.

    I think if you conspire to murder.have intent to murder ...manipulate another to carry out that murder...then the law should hold you accountable for that murder.
    If there is Justice one day she will spend many years behind bars.
    If there is a god he will send them both to hell!

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