A California man who killed and dismembered an army veteran before also murdering the victim’s friend in an attempt to frame the vet and cover his tracks was convicted of first-degree murder.
Unemployed actor Daniel Wozniak, 31, was deep in debt, facing eviction and needed money for his upcoming wedding when he decided to kill his neighbor, Samuel Herr, a 26-year-old Army veteran who had saved $50,000 from his service in Afghanistan, officials said.
Wozniak lured Herr from their Costa Mesa apartment complex and shot him twice in the head on May 21, 2010 at the attic of the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base’s theater, where he played the lead role in a production at the time of the killing.
Wozniak used Herr’s phone to text the victim’s friend and his acquaintance, Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, 23, telling her to come the veteran’s apartment.
He met Kibuishi at Herr’s door shortly after midnight and lured her into his bedroom, where he shot her twice in the head and took off some of her clothes and staged it to make it look like Herr sexually assaulted her before fleeing, prosecutors said.
The next day, he returned to the theater’s attic, cut off Herr’s clothes and dismembered his body before dumping his remains in a nearby park, authorities said.
Wozniak then reportedly hired a 16-year-old boy to use Herr’s ATM card to withdraw money from his back account, the boy testified.
Wozniak took to the stage the night after the killing.
“Last chance to see me and Rachel in "Nine" at the Hunger Artists! Hope to see you all there - for those who have come...Thank You! It was amazing seeing you all! Have a good one everyone,” Wozniak wrote on Facebook about his and his fiancée's performance a day before the murders.
Herr’s father, Steve Herr, discovered Kibuishi’s body in his son’s apartment and called police.
Wozniak was arrested at his bachelor party.
“A greedy groom — in the pursuit of ill-gotten gain — dismembers a young man and discards him like a piece of garbage, after executing him. In an effort to derail the investigation and frame the first victim, he partially disrobes and dishonors a young woman, after executing her,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in 2010.
Wozniak was convicted Wednesday by an Orange County jury that will now decide whether to recommend life in prison or the death penalty.
“Some murders are committed with such a depraved heart and in such a callous manner that the only punishment that fits the crime is the death penalty,” Rackauckas said when his office recommended the capital punishment.
Wozniak’s then fiancée, Rachel Buffett, was arrested as an accessory to murder.
“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,” the district attorney’s office said.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2012. She was released on bail and is now awaiting her own trial.