Military Veteran Murder Covers $50k Theft For Honeymoon Cruise (see video below) – I have cases of passenger murdering a newlywed wife, another who murdered his wife on her birthday cruise, another case of a groom overboard on a honeymoon and one that took a cruise to give herself an alibi for a murder, right before a cruise. This is the first case of murder as part of a theft scheme in order to pay for a honeymoon cruise, complete with a fiancé co-conspirator.
On May 21, 2010, Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 26, from Costa Mesa, California, a community theater actor, had just landed the lead role in a local production of the musical “Nine”. Wozniak was engaged to fellow acting partner, fiancée Rachel Mae Buffett. Deep in debt, days before his wedding to Buffett, Wozniak concocts a plan to murder neighbor PFC Samuel Eliezer Herr, 26, the only son of Steve and Raquel Herr, for the $50,000 he’d saved while fighting in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army at Outpost Keating.
The stolen money was going to be used to pay for Wozniak’s upcoming wedding to Rachel Mae Buffett and their honeymoon on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
A week before Herr’s 27th birthday, before performing in an evening showing of “Nine”, Wozniak asked Herr to help him move some furniture in a theater attic at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. While Herr was bending over to pick up a piece of furniture, Wozniak shot him in the head. Still not dead and asking for help, Wozniak shot him again. After killing Herr, Wozniak performed in a staging of “Nine” before returning to the attic. After the performance, Wozniak scattered Herr’s body parts in Long Beach’s El Dorado Park. Wozniak attempted to frame Herr for Kibuish’s murder and make it look like he went into hiding.
Seeking to misdirect police, Wozniak then used Herr’s cell phone to text Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, 23, who had been tutoring Herr in community college. Julie Kibuishi was a beautiful, smart and talented young woman. She was a good friend to PFC Samuel Eliezer Herr – a decorated combat veteran. Wozniak lured Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment where he shot and killed her. Wozniak then staged the crime scene to make it appear as though Julie had been sexually assaulted, suggesting that Herr had raped her, committed the murder and then gone on the run.
Investigators found Herr’s beheaded corpse in El Dorado Park; it had been chopped off by an ax and a saw. Wozniak also cut off his hands and one of his arms, which displayed a tattoo. While Herr’s arm with a distinctive tattoo on it was missing, Wozniak wasn’t aware of the heart and rose, “Mom and Dad” tattoo on Herr’s chest. It was used to identify the body as belonging to PFC Samuel Eliezer Herr. He was no longer missing as a person of interest in the murder of Juri Kibuishi; Herr was another victim.
Wozniak came under suspicion after he instructed a sixteen-year-old to withdraw money from Herr’s accounts. Investigators originally thought it was Herr withdrawing the money after he fled the crime scene to fund his get-away. When the police confronted the boy, they were told by the boy that Wozniak had asked him to withdraw the money for him. Soon after, Wozniak was apprehended at his bachelor party in Huntington Beach, California, two days before his wedding and planned Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise.
Wozniak allegedly gave his brother, Tim, a box, and asked Tim to get rid of the contents. The box held the gun used in both murders, and a backpack chock-full of very incriminating evidence: Sam’s passport, ID, checkbook, blood-covered clothing… and Dan’s DNA was all over it. Tim took the backpack and threw it into his parents’ backyard. Then, he went to a friend for advice about the gun, and the friend took the gun to the Long Beach Police Department the next day.
Justice Gets Court Day
After more than five years of court proceedings, Wozniak went to trial and was convicted on September 23, 2016, on two counts of first-degree murder. Wozniak was sentenced to capital punishment (death). Wozniak was incarcerated on October 3, 2016, at California’s San Quentin State Prison (inmate #BB1116). Wozniak is serving a death sentence and is, therefore, not eligible for parole consideration. A jury had recommended that Wozniak be put to death for the two killings and gruesome “special circumstances” cover-up that included beheading Herr and staging Kibuishi’s body to look like she had been sexually assaulted.
A jury found actress Rachel Mae Buffett, 31 of Seal Beach, California guilty on two counts of being an accessory after the fact in the brutal double homicides. Buffett lied to Costa Mesa police in 2010 while they were investigating Wozniak regarding the dismemberment murders. Buffett, a former Disney princess who played Ariel and others, starred as the actress opposite Wozniak on the night of the murders. Accessory after the fact under Penal Code 32 PC if you “harbor, conceal, or aid” a principal in a felony after it has been committed if you have the intent to help that person “avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.”
Judge Hanson handed down a sentence that wasn’t quite the maximum. Count One: twenty-four months. Count Two: eight months. Rachel was also sentenced to pay $2,016 to the Kibuishi family for lost wages.
Rachel read aloud in court, “I’ve always wanted to express my condolences to the Herr and Kibuishi families and offer support. But I assumed that any contact from me, a complete stranger before this case, would not be welcomed or helpful. So I sought to be respectful by giving them space. I hope my silence hasn’t been misinterpreted as callous. I’m also so sorry that any of my actions caused more pain to the Herr and Kibuishi families. I wish Sam and Julie were still here. I wish I could have done something to save them. I wish I’d never met Daniel Wozniak. I wish I’d never let him into my life. I wish I saw him for the liar and the manipulator that he was from day one. And I wish there was something I could do to fix this now. My heart goes out to the Herr and Kibuishi families and they will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
Samuel Herr had plans for a bright future that included getting a college degree and returning to the Army to become an officer. In his obituary Samuel Eliezer Herr is remembered, “Everyone loved Sam; he was a good man. He was a good, loving son; his parents were his best friends. He will always be missed by those who knew and loved him.
Because Sam was murdered on a military base, both Rachel and Dan could have been prosecuted in Federal court.
Recent Cruise Murder Articles:
- Carnival Elation Passenger Confesses Murder Overboard
- Jail Mistake May Release Lonnie Kocontes After Cruise Ship Murder Mistrial
- Royal Princess Cruise Ship Murder Investigation Underway
- Kenneth Manzanares Emerald Princess Murder Trial Date Set
- Woman Arrested For Disabled Daughter Murder Took 12 Day Cruise For Alibi
Video: What Actor Daniel Wozniak Did To Go On a Cruise