In 2010, a man named Daniel Wozniak murdered two people– Sam Herr and his college friend, Juri Kibuishi. Today, he sits on California’s death row.
What went down on that fateful night that Herr and Kibuishi were murdered? Here’s what we know.
Wozniak was a community theater actor in Orange County, and was deeply in debt. He had no full-time job, no money, and was facing eviction. He also had a wedding coming up and had no means of paying for his honeymoon.
Herr had reportedly saved up to $50,000 from his service in Afghanistan– money that Wozniak wanted as his own.
On May 21, 2010, Wozniak “lured Herr to an attic at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Base”. There, he shot him twice in the head and took his phone and wallet. Reports suggest that Wozniak beheaded Herr and even left different body parts at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.
He then went on to lure Herr’s friend, Julie Kibuishi, to Herr’s apartment, where he killed her, and staged the area to look like an assault. Wozniak wanted police to think that Herr had sexually assaulted and killed Kibuishi. At the time, Costa Mesa police Lt. Ed Everett said “Julie … is basically being killed to cover this thing up. And it just — I mean, it’s horrific.”
The same night he committed these unthinkable acts, Herr performed onstage in a community theater production of “Nine”.
At first, police believed that Herr was responsible for Kibuishi’s murder, and a manhunt for the army veteran was launched by police. It wasn’t until a Wozniak hired a 16-year-old to withdraw money from Herr’s bank account and police confronted the boy that they were led to Wozniak. He was taken in for questioning at his bachelor’s party two days before his wedding.
Wozniak spent hours lying to police about his involvement in the murder. However, his story kept changing. At one point, he told the police, “I saw the goddamn body. Is that what you want to hear? … I was right over the body,” Wozniak said. “I didn’t touch her. I didn’t do anything … I saw two gunshots in her head.”
“His story kept changing,” Everett said. “I think he thought that his acting ability was going to carry him through this performance, so to speak. And it wasn’t doing it.”
Eventually, he confessed and brought authorities to the location of Herr’s body at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.
In court, Wozniak was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death in September 2016.
In November 2018, a jury found Rachel Buffett The former fiancée of convicted murderer Daniel Wozniak guilty of being an accessory after the fact in connection to her being accused of lying to investigators to help protect Wozniak. She was sentenced to 32 months in jail.
“I hope my silence has not been misinterpreted as callous,” Buffett said as she read a statement at her sentencing. “I wish I could have saved them. … I wish I’d never met Daniel Wozniak.”
“My heart goes out to the Herr and Kibuishi families,” she continued. “They will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
A separate jury found Wozniak guilty of two counts of first degree murder on Dec. 16, 2015. A California judge sentenced him to death at a September 2016 hearing and Wozniak was placed on death row.
However, this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in his state, meaning the more than 700 inmates who are on death row, including Wozniak, are not facing execution at this point.