Death Penalty Sought For Actor Who Committed Grisly Double Murder
A month after Daniel Wozniak was found guilty of dismembering his neighbor and murdering the neighbor's friend, prosecutors are now pushing for the death penalty. Wozniak, now 31, was a community theatre actor who befriended his neighbor, 26-year-old Sam Herr, a U.S. Army veteran who had served in Afghanistan. They lived in an apartment complex in Costa Mesa. Prosecutors said that in order to steal Herr's life savings—which amounted to $62,000—Wozniak staged an elaborate plot in May of 2010. First, he tricked Herr into accompanying him to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, where he shot Herr twice in the head and then dismembered his body and dumped it in El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach. Wozniak also used Herr's cellphone to text Herr's friend, 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi, pretending to be Herr to get her to come to Herr's apartment. When Kubuishi arrived, Wozniak shot her twice in the head. He then staged the murder to appear as though Herr and raped and murdered Kibuishi and then fled the scene.
While investigator initially pursued Herr as Kibuishi's alleged killer, Wozniak's deception didn't hold up for long. He was convicted guilty of both murders last month, OC Weekly reports. Prosecutors are now advocating for the death penalty for Wozniak.
Herr's father, Steve Herr, testified on Monday, saying he doesn't want to forget what Wozniak did to his son.
"In my mind, I see him whacking away at my son's head. I see him sawing my son's arm off. I have trouble sleeping at night because if I turn the TV off that's what I see. I don't want to forget the heinousness of this," he said, according to the OC Register.
He continued, "Animals got to my son's body parts in El Dorado park. They found him. They ate the flesh off him. They urinated on my son."
Kibuishi's brother, Taka Kibuishi, testified that he and his sister had gone out for dinner the same night that she was killed, the L.A. Times reports. He said she had agreed to be a bridesmaid in his wedding, and that she left because she began receiving text messages from Herr saying he needed to talk to someone. Those messages, of course, were actually from Wozniak.
He told Wozniak that he was a "disgusting monster" in court, and accused him of disrespecting his sister by taking her pants off to stage the scene.
At the time of the murder, Wozniak was acting in the musical Nine at Hunger Artists Theatre Company, and was engaged to Rachel Buffett, an actress who once worked at Disneyland as a princess. However, prosecutors alleged he was desperate for money, both to pay his rent and for their upcoming wedding. He was arrested at his bachelor party after police investigated withdrawals from Herr's bank account. Wozniak confessed to killing the pair for money. Investigators also found that Wozniak had googled "quick ways to kill people."
Buffett was charged with three counts of being an accessory after the fact, but not of any direct involvement in the killings, according to City News Service. She is the one who pointed investigators to where the murder weapon could be found. She was also found to have been searching for "topless" jobs online on the day of the killings, which indicated to investigators that she was unaware of any plot to get a large sum of money. She is, however, accused of lying to detectives, telling them a story that Wozniak made up about Herr having family problems. Buffet has stated she was duped by Wozniak, and was innocent of the crimes.
If Wozniak does not receive the death penalty, he will get life in prison without the possibility of parole. One of Wozniak's friends has kept a blog about his relationship with Wozniak throughout the case called Daniel Wozniak Is My Friend.