Wozniak found guilty of double murder

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

A Southern California man who killed two people and dismembering one in a scheme to steal money and cover his tracks was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder. Wozniak was deeply in debt, needed money for his upcoming wedding and was facing eviction when he concocted a plan to kill a neighbor, Samuel Herr, and steal $50,000 that the Army veteran had saved from his service in Afghanistan, prosecutors said.

Wozniak shot the 26-year-old Costa Mesa man in the attic of a Los Alamitos theater where Wozniak performed in community theater productions — including playing the lead in a musical the night after the killing. 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.

He pretended to be Herr and got the 23-year-old to come to Herr’s apartment to talk so he could shoot her and make it appear that Herr had raped and killed her before fleeing. At trial, Steve Herr testified about walking into his son’s apartment and seeing Kibuishi bent over a bed with her ripped pants around her ankles and an expletive scrawled on her back. 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. He argued that there was misconduct by the prosecution based on allegations that jail informants were improperly used to obtain confessions from defendants in dozens of cases. 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.

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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