Actor may face death for brutal double murder as part of twisted wedding plot

21/gen/2016 04:12:33 Antonieff Contatta l'autore

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AS an actor, Daniel Wozniak’s arrest was fittingly dramatic.

On the eve of his wedding five years ago, police stormed Wozniak’s buck’s party in Huntington Beach, an hour south of Hollywood, slapped handcuffs on him and led him away.

Wozniak, now 31, was accused of a macabre double murder befitting of the most gruesome of slasher films, motivated by his desperation for cash to fund his upcoming wedding.

And today, rather than enjoying wedded bliss with his intended wife, the up-and-coming actor faces a long wait for execution in an Orange County jail, in what could be the final act in his dark and twisted tale.

“[Wozniak hoped to] use his magical acting powers to trick the dumb police,” prosecutor Matt Murphy told jurors in his closing argument, shortly before Wozniak’s was found guilty of the double murders last month.

“The plan has now crashed into the rocks of reality.”


It all began in May, 2010.

Wozniak was engaged to fellow actor Rachel Buffett, 25, and had recently scored the lead role of Guido Contini in a stage production of Nine at a theatre near his home in Costa Mesa, California.

Despite the new gig, Wozniak was broke. Faced with mounting debt and wedding and honeymoon costs, Wozniak knew he needed to get rich quick.

His first victim was his neighbour Samuel Kerr, a 26-year-old war veteran, whom Wozniak intended to kill and rob. Kerr was known by friends as a generous man and a selfless soldier on the battlefront in Afghanistan.

“The guy was always there,” fellow veteran Larry Gonzales told People magazine.

“If other soldiers had issues he was always there. He was always willing to talk to them. He would give you the shirt off his back. He protected everyone in the entire barracks. He spoke up for them. He was always there for a word of advice.”

Julie Kibuishi. Picture: Suppliedpicture: chiffon bridesmaid dresses

Wozniak preyed on Kerr’s generous nature. On May 21, 2010, the actor led Kerr into the attic of the Los Alamitos theatre where he often performed, under the pretence of needing help moving boxes. Kerr happily obliged.

Inside the deserted theatre attic, Wozniak shot Kerr twice in the head with a .38-caliber semiautomatic pistol. His goal was to clear Kerr’s bank account of $US62,000 ($A90,000) to pay for his wedding.

But the plot didn’t end there — Wozniak needed to throw police off his trail. He used the dead man’s phone to text Julie Kibuishi, 23, a friend of Kerr and a fellow community college student.

Wozniak, acting as Kerr, asked Kibuishi to come to Kerr’s house. He made it sound as if Kerr needed help, reported People.

“Please don’t tell anyone. Please,” he wrote.

“You can trust me,” Kibuishi responded. “I promise. I am not going to say anything. I promise. Pinkie promise.”

Wozniak was waiting for Kibuishi when she arrived at Kerr’s apartment. He lured her into Kerr’s bedroom and shot her twice in the head before removing some of her clothes, setting up the crime scene to make it appear that Kerr had sexually assaulted her.

“He said he tried to orchestrate it to try to make it look like it was Sam who had [killed Kibuishi] out of a rage of jealousy,” detective Michael Delgadillo said in grand jury testimony.

Kibuishi had no idea she was being set up. Like Kerr, Kibuishi was known for her kind-hearted nature, and she thought her friend needed help.

“[Julie] was the one who always took care of everyone,” Kibuishi’s mother June toldPeople. “That was her nature. She always wanted to do things for others. He [Wozniak] took advantage of her kindness. She did not deserve this.”

After killing the young fashion student, investigators said Wozniak returned to Kerr’s body in the theatre and used a hatchet to chop off his head, hands and arms, and then scattered them along the El Dorado Park in Long Beach.

He then raided Kerr’s bank account.

“He [Wozniak] was a financial mess,” Delgadillo said. “He had no way of paying for the wedding or the honeymoon. He wanted to go on a cruise, and he had no way of paying for it.”

But a long time friend of Wozniak told People he didn’t think the actor was capable of such horror.

“Then again,” the friend said, “anyone is capable of anything when your life is crashing around you. I think he felt his was. And he wanted to give Rachel everything in the world.”

Hours after dismembering Kerr, Wozniak took to the stage at that same theatre for that night’s production of Nine.


After funds went missing from Kerr’s bank account, it didn’t take long for police to zero in on Wozniak.

They arrested him, days later, at his bachelor party. Wozniak confessed to the gory murders, according to court documents, saying: “I’m crazy and I did it.”

Buffett, a former Disneyland princess, has been accused of being involved in her fiance’s crimes but maintained her innocence in an interview with NBC Dateline this week.

Wozniak was charged with two felony counts of special circumstances murders, including multiple counts of murders, murder for financial gain and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.

He pleaded not guilty in trial but was found guilty of his horrific crimes last month.

On January 10 it took just one hour of deliberation to decide Wozniak deserved the death sentence. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said it was the fastest decision on capital punishment he could recall, reported the Los Angeles Times.

A Superior Court judge is scheduled to consider the jury’s death penalty recommendation as Wozniak’s punishment in March. But even if he is sentenced to death row, it could be a

while before Wozniak meets his fate at San Quentin State Prison — if at all.

The future of capital punishment in the state of California is uncertain, and it is unknown how many death row inmates may actually face the executioner.

California put a hold on the death penalty in 2006 after a judge there ruled a three-drug lethal injection could cause inhumane suffering.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in November, officials unveiled a one-drug injection that could see executions resume, but that proposal still faces months of public vetting and legal challenges may follow.

There is also a massive lag in death sentences being carried out in California — an average of 25 years between the death sentence and the actual execution.

This is due to the limited number of cases heard each year in the Supreme Court, which handles death sentence appeals, and the long time it takes to appoint an appeals lawyer.

Most death row inmates in San Quentin are more likely to die naturally than by lethal injection.

“The reality in California is that, of those who are sentenced to death, very few have been executed and it’s taken an enormously long time,” UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky told the Los Angeles Times.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1977, juries have sent 900 inmates to death row, but only 13 have been put to death.

Further, prosecutors in Orange County seek capital punishment on only about 4 per cent of eligible cases.

But the brutality of Wozniak’s crimes justified the highest available penalty, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said.

“Cases like this are a perfect example of why the death penalty is appropriate,” he told the media after the jury’s decision last month.

But Kerr’s 67-year-old father, Sam Kerr, said he expected a long wait for justice for his murdered son.

“Realistically, I’m not going to be around when he’s [Wozniak] put to death,” he said. “I’ll be dead.”


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