Jurors hear argument for death penalty in Daniel Wozniak case

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Daniel Wozniak listens as jurors hear evidence to decide whether he will face the death penalty or serve life in prison for the murders of Sam Herr and Juri 'Julie' Kibuishi.

Daniel Wozniak listened as the prosecutor told jurors what the defendant did was "as cold as it gets."

"This is the most base, vile motive of all. It's money," prosecutor Matt Murphy said.

The community theater actor was found guilty in December of 2015 of murdering his 26 year old friend, Army veteran Sam Herr, and Herr's 23-year-old friend Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, an aspiring fashion designer.

Both were attending Orange Coast College.

Now jurors must decide if Wozniak should be put to death or serve life in prison.

"Killing Sam to take his money by itself is enough to come back with the death penalty," stressed Murphy.

Prosecutors said Wozniak, facing eviction, with no paying job and about to get married, hatched a plan to kill Herr knowing he had earned more than $60,000 serving in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said he lured him to a theater attic at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in May 2010, then shot and killed him when his back was turned. He later sawed off Herr's head, his arm, and hand to make it harder to identify him.

Herr's body parts were later found scattered in El Dorado Park in Long Beach.

Wozniak then took Herr's wallet and cell phone, and tricked a teenager into withdrawing Herr's money.

Then using Herr's phone and pretending to be Herr, Wozniak sent text messages to Kibuishi to lure her to Herr's apartment. She believed she was helping a friend who needed to talk.

"She was a ruse, she was a stage prop," said Murphy.

Wozniak then performed on stage.

"As she's being lured to her death Daniel Wozniak is singing and dancing. Folks that is disgusting," the prosecutor said.

Wozniak shot Kibuishi twice in the head, then desecrated her body, pulling her pants down to make it look like Herr had raped her. Prosecutors said it was to try to throw police off his trail.

Family and friends of the victims started crying in court as the prosecutor talked about the impact Herr and Kibuishi's murders have had on their loved ones.

The prosecutor cited Steve Herr, Sam's father's testimony as he described the pain and horror of knowing that his only son was brutally murdered with his body cut up.

"In my mind I see him whacking away at my son's head. I see him sawing my son's arm off. I have trouble sleeping at night because when I turn off the TV that's what I see. I don't want to forget the heinousness of this," defense attorney Scott Sanders told jurors. "It is a horrific crime, it is."

The defense asked jurors to consider Wozniak's fiancee Rachel Buffett's role, citing past incidents like when she allegedly encouraged someone to steal.

"She does get off on stuff she shouldn't get off on," said Sanders. "I say Rachel Buffet is relevant to the circumstances of the crime."

The prosecutor said there is no evidence Buffett planned the murder or helped carry it out.

Buffet is charged as an accessory after the murder. The defense plans to continue its closing Monday. The case is then expected to go to the jury.

Related Topics:
murderactordeath penaltySanta AnaOrange County
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