It should have been a joyful time for Daniel Wozniak: The Costa Mesa, California, theater actor had scored the lead role in a local production of the musical Nine alongside his beautiful fiancée, Rachel Buffett, and the pair were set to marry in little more than a week.
But in a grisly turn of events that shocked all who knew him, Wozniak, who had become increasingly desperate to pay his mounting debt and wedding costs, carried out a brutal double homicide in a get-rich-quick plot he later confessed to police.
On May 21, 2010, Wozniak, now 31, fatally shot his neighbor Samuel Herr, a 26-year-old Afghan war veteran, with plans to clean out Herr’s $50,000 savings using his ATM card and PIN number.
Just hours after the killing, Wozniak went on with the show, performing in Nine as scheduled.
From there, things would get even more gruesome. Following the performance, Wozniak committed a second murder, fatally shooting Herr’s friend Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, 23, and posing the body in an attempt to frame Herr for the killing.
“I’m crazy and I did it,” Wozniak told police after being arrested at his bachelor party. He also confessed to dismembering Herr’s body and scattering the parts in El Dorado Nature Center.
“He was a financial mess,” Det. Michael Delgadillo said in grand jury testimony. Behind on his rent and facing eviction from his apartment, “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.”
Buffett, 27, has been charged as an accessory after the fact. She is free on bond and denies any involvement.
Meanwhile, Wozniak remains in Orange County jail as he continues to await trial following numerous delays that have led to mounting frustration for the victims’ families.
“I didn’t think he was capable of this,” a longtime friend of Wozniak’s tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Then again, 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.”
For much more on the bizarre double murder case of killer groom Daniel Wozniak, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
• Reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK