California Theater Actor Goes on Trial for Grisly Double Murder
Sam Herr’s father expected his son for a visit on Saturday, May 22, 2010 and when he didn’t show up, he grew worried and decided to go to his Costa Mesa, California, apartment.
Stephen Herr knocked on his 26-year-old son’s door, but he didn’t answer, so Stephen let himself in with a key. In the bedroom, he found the body of 23-year-old Juri “Julie” Kibuishi draped over the bed.
The college student had been shot twice in the head. Her jeans were ripped and pulled down around her ankles, and on the back of her grey sweater was written: “All Yours F— You.”
Sam Herr was nowhere to be found, so police initially suspected that he was the killer. But, less than a week later, the remains of the Afghanistan war veteran were found scattered in a Long Beach park. Police ultimately arrested his neighbor Daniel Wozniak for the brutal double homicide.
‘He Did This for Money’
During opening statements Wednesday, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said 31-year-old Wozniak allegedly killed Herr for financial gain. On the verge of being evicted from his apartment, estranged from his parents, and without the money he needed for his upcoming wedding, the theater actor purportedly planned to clean out Herr’s $62,000 in combat pay savings using his ATM card.
Murphy said Wozniak lured Herr into the attic of the Liberty Theater on the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos claiming he needed help carrying furniture. Once there, he shot him twice in the head with his father’s stolen gun.
“Sam Herr was trying to help a friend he trusted, Daniel Wozniak, and as he turned his back, he shot him twice, Murphy said. “There was nothing to provoke this He did this for money.”
From there, things got even more gruesome. Later that night, after Wozniak performed in a local theater production of the play Nine, he allegedly coaxed an unsuspecting Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment by posing as Herr via text messages from the dead man’s phone, telling her he was having personal problems and to “please don’t tell anyone.”
“You can trust me,” Kibuishi, who had been tutoring Herr in his community college courses, responded. “I promise. I am not going to say anything. I promise. Pinkie promise I never let my friends down when they need me.”
At the apartment, Wozniak shot her twice in the head and posed her body in an attempt to frame Herr for the killing, Murphy said.
According to Murphy, Wozniak went to El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach the following day and dumped Herr’s head and other body parts. Later that night, he performed in the play again and joined the crew for a night of karaoke.
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Authorities ultimately zeroed in on Wozniak after they discovered he stole Herr’s ATM card and convinced a teen to pull money out of Herr’s bank account. Wozniak was arrested on May 26 while at his bachelor party.
According to Murphy, Wozniak initially told detectives that he and Herr were involved in a bank fraud scam, but he later changed his story and said Herr told him he shot Kibuishi “in a drug-fueled rage when Julie refused to have sex with him.”
Wozniak claimed that Herr threatened to kill him and his fianc e if he didn’t help him get away with the murder.
Murphy said Wozniak later confessed to the killings. I killed Julie, I killed Sam,” Wozniak allegedly told detectives. “Sam came first. It was all just about the money, that was it.
Murphy said police checked the Internet history of Wozniak’s computer and allegedly discovered Google searches for killing people and making them disappear.
Police also found a backpack Wozniak gave his brother Tim that contained a bloody shirt and gloves, Herr’s cell phone, his checkbook, wallet, and passport, Murphy said.
If convicted, Wozniak could be sentenced to death. “I hope he gets it,” Herr’s aunt Miriam Nortman tells PEOPLE. “I have no forgiveness in my heart. It was about money and nothing else. It is just so cold.”
Wozniak is represented by Scott Sanders and Tracy LeSage, who chose to waive the defense’s opening statement Wednesday.
In March, Sanders told PEOPLE that what Wozniak did was “a terrible crime,” but said that it doesn’t merit the death penalty.
“It has brought too much pain to these victims, we understand that,” he said. “But the death penalty will never bring the closure [the victims’ families] are looking for. He is willing to plead guilty and begin immediately serving life without the possibility of parole.”