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November 29, 2012

Fiancée of man indicted for murder at JFTB theater charged as accessory

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Daniel Patrick Wozniak, courtesy of Costa Mesa Police Department

The following information was released by the Orange County District Attorney.

The fiancé of a man indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury for the double execution-style murder of his neighbor and neighbor’s friend for financial gain will be arraigned tomorrow for being an accessory to the crime. Rachel Mae Buffett, 25, Costa Mesa, is charged with three felony counts of accessory after the fact. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of three years and 8 months in state prison. Buffett is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.

In 2010, Buffett is accused of becoming engaged to 28-year-old Daniel Patrick Wozniak. They are accused of planning to marry May 28, 2010 in Long Beach, a week after the murders of 26-year-old Samuel Herr and Herr’s friend, 23-year-old Juri “Julie” Kibuishi.

Circumstances of the crime

Prior to May 21, 2010, Wozniak is accused of plotting the murder of his neighbor, Herr, who lived in the same apartment complex with the intention of stealing the victim’s substantial savings. On the afternoon of May 21, 2010, Wozniak is accused of luring Herr from their Costa Mesa apartment complex and driving him to the theater facility at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. Wozniak is accused of being familiar with the theater because he had previously acted in plays at that location.

Once inside the theater, Wozniak is accused of murdering Herr by shooting him twice in the head with the intention of stealing the victim’s savings. He is accused of leaving Herr’s body in the theater and stealing the victim’s ATM card, wallet, and cell phone.

Later that evening, Wozniak is accused of using Herr’s cell phone to text message Herr’s friend, Kibuishi. He is accused of also being acquainted with Kibuishi and was her “friend” on Facebook. Wozniak is accused of pretending to be Herr in the text messages and arranging with Kibuishi to come to Herr’s Costa Mesa apartment. The apartment is located in the Camden Martinique complex at 2855 Pinecreek Drive.

Shortly after midnight on May 22, 2010, Kibuishi arrived at Herr’s apartment. Wozniak is accused of meeting her at the door of Herr’s apartment and luring her inside into the bedroom, where he murdered her by shooting her twice in the head. Wozniak is accused of then partially removing Kibuishi’s clothing to stage the crime scene to appear as though the victim had been sexually assaulted.

On the afternoon of May 22, 2010, Wozniak is accused of returning to the theater, cutting off Herr’s clothes and dismembering the victim’s body by removing his head, left arm, and the lower portion of his right arm. He is accused of leaving the victim’s torso and legs in the theater and taking the dismembered body parts to discard them in El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach. The park is a large nature reserve with trails and two lakes.

At approximately 9:20 p.m. on May 22, 2010, officers from Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) discovered Kibuishi’s body upon responding to a call regarding a possible murder from Herr’s father, who had gone to the Costa Mesa apartment to check on his son. Herr’s whereabouts at that time were unknown and he initially became the primary suspect in Kibuishi’s murder.

Following the two murders, Wozniak is accused of giving Herr’s ATM card to a 17-year-old acquaintance and instructing the minor to withdraw money from the victim’s account at various ATMs in Long Beach. Costa Mesa detectives investigating the case learned of the ATM withdrawals and arrested the minor after observing him using the victim’s bank card. In all, $2,000 was taken from Herr’s bank account.

Based on information learned through the ongoing investigation and the arrest of the juvenile, Wozniak was arrested for the murders of Herr and Kibuishi on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, at Tsunami restaurant in Huntington Beach. Wozniak was at dinner celebrating his bachelor party in anticipation of his upcoming wedding that Friday.

CMPD detectives discovered Herr’s body May 27, 2010, at the base. A search for Herr’s dismembered body parts at El Dorado Park Nature Center was conducted by CMPD with assistance from the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), search and rescue personnel from Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties, and investigators from the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office (LACO). The victim’s head and parts of his left arm, which were decomposed and scavenged by animals, were found over the next two days.

On May 28, 2010, Wozniak was charged for the murders of Herr and Kibuishi.

Several times in May and June 2010, Buffett is accused of lying to CMPD officers, propagating the false story that Wozniak told police about Herr having problems with his family, with the intent to assist Wozniak avoid and escape from arrest, trial, conviction, and punishment for the felony.

On June 10, 2010, the special circumstances committee met on the Wozniak case, and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas made the decision to pursue the death penalty.

On May 3, 2012, Wozniak was indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury and charged with two felony counts of special circumstances murder with special circumstance sentencing enhancements including multiple murders, murder for financial gain, and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.

Herr and Kibuishi were both students at Orange Coast College and Herr was a military veteran.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Featured photo

Booking photo of Daniel Patrick Wozniak courtesy of Costa Mesa Police Department.

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