Man convicted in grisly OC double murder

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actor guilty of dismembering neighbor, then killing again in cover up.

SANTA ANA – A Costa Mesa community theater actor was found guilty of murder on Wednesday for killing two people in a plot to steal money, and now a jury will decide whether to sentence him to death. An Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated for just over two hours before convicting Daniel Wozniak, 31, of killing his neighbor, Samuel Herr, 26, an Army veteran, and Herr’s friend, 23-year-old Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, in May 2010.

In a trial where the defense neither gave an opening statement nor called any witnesses, and a video of Wozniak confessing to the crimes was a key piece of the prosecution’s case, the outcome seemed a foregone conclusion to many. “There was never any doubt,” said Samuel Herr’s father, Steve Herr, outside the courtroom. “We’re relieved. Jurors will be tasked with recommending whether Wozniak should be sent to death row or spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Wozniak further tried to confound investigators by dismembering his first victim and dumping Herr’s body parts in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, Murphy said. After killing Herr at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, Wozniak used one of the victim’s phones to lure 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment so he could shoot her and stage the crime scene, Murphy said.

In his closing argument, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy listed the “overwhelming” evidence against Wozniak, including DNA found on the murder weapon and his confession to Costa Mesa police detectives. He also tricked a 16-year-old boy who looked up to the defendant into withdrawing cash from Herr’s bank account in order to pay his rent, avoid eviction and have money for his wedding and honeymoon, the prosecutor said. The penalty phase will focus more on the circumstances of the crimes and how Wozniak “manipulated” people and plotted to kill two friends for money, Murphy said. It’s what’s wrong in his heart.” Closing arguments, which began this morning, were done by the lunch break, with Murphy telling jurors the evidence was overwhelming. The panel reached its verdict late this afternoon, convicting Wozniak of the murder counts and finding true special circumstance allegations of multiple victims and murder for financial gain.

Attorneys will return to court Tuesday to discuss whether jurors will hear evidence that Herr was charged with murder in Los Angeles County but ultimately acquitted. The case took a long route to trial, with Wozniak’s attorneys trying to make a case of outrageous governmental misconduct based on the defendant’s encounter with a jailhouse informant. Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders sought to have Conley and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office removed from the case, but the effort failed. While questioning some witnesses, Sanders focused on Wozniak’s ex-fiancée, Rachel Buffett, an actress and former Disney princess who is charged with being an accessory after the fact.

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