Community theater actor Daniel Patrick Wozniak considered himself "a star" and everyone and everything he encountered in real-life as props in his own play, and when it came to Samuel Herr and Julie Kibuishi, the financially broke Wozniak wrote them out of his script when he was done using them, snuffing both out for financial gain days before the 26-year-old Costa Mesa resident was to get married.
That is how Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas put it this morning while announcing his office will seek the death penalty against Wozniak.
"Some murders are committed with such a depraved heart and in such a callous manner that the only punishment that fits the crime is the death penalty," Rackauckas told a crowd in his Santa Ana office's first-floor library that included members of the media, prosecutors and detectives working the case against Wozniak.
The District Attorney's Special Circumstances Committee had just met and decided the "senseless," "callous" and "heartless" double murder warranted California's ultimate penalty.
"How tragic is this murder plot? A greedy groom--in the pursuit of ill gotten gain--dismembers a young man and discards him like a piece of garbage, after executing him," Rackauckas said. "In an effort to derail the investigation and frame the first victim, he partially disrobes and dishonors a young woman, after executing her.
"For the execution-murder for financial gain of 26-year-old man Samuel Herr, we are seeking the death penalty," the DA continued. "For the execution murder for financial gain of 23-year-old woman Julie Kibuishi, we are seeking the death penalty."
A yet-to-be-assigned Veteran prosecutor Matt Murphy, who has prosecuted several other homicide cases, including four where the death penalty was sought, will be the lead prosecutor in Wozniak's trial, according to OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder.
However, Rackauckas indicated at the press conference that, "I will personally supervise it."
Among the circumstances he said warranted the death penalty against Wozniak were:
- Plotting to steal Herr's substantial savings and luring the victim to a remote location.
- Stealing the victim's wallet and cell phone.
- Acting in a play and going about his life after Herr's murder.
- Using Herr's cell phone to lure Kibuishi.
- Murdering Kibiuishi to derail the investigation and frame Herr.
Executing Kibuishi by shooting her twice in the head.
- Partially removing Kibuishi's clothing to stage the crime scene to appear as though the victim had been sexually assaulted.
- Dismembering Mr. Herr's body by removing his head, left arm, and the lower portion of his right arm.
- Leaving Herr's body in the theater at the Los Alamitos Joint Training Facility, where Wozniak was starring in a play, and discarding the dismembered body parts in El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach.
- Acting in another play after Kibuishi's murder.
- Callously going on with his personal plans by celebrating his upcoming nuptials at a dinner with friends with no regard or remorse for his victims.
"This wasn't a close call as to whether to seek the death penalty," Rackauckas said. ". . . [Wozniak] had no regard whatsoever for the lives of other human beings in his path."
Costa Mesa Police Chief Chris Shawkey then took the podium and said, "This case was solved from many hours of good, old fashioned police work."
Many of the officers who worked non-stop 24 to 36 hours at a time on the case were staring back at Shawkey from the other side of the podium.
Shawkey said his force endorses the DA's decision to seek the death penalty and is glad to have played a role in preventing Wozniak from "preying on other victims."
Asked about some, including Wozniak's brother and who was to be his brother-in-law, who were originally arrested as accessories and then released, Shawkey said the investigation is ongoing and many more people are being interviewed.
It was previously announced Wozniak had suffered a self-inflicted head injury and had to be taken to Western Medical Center, where he had been in a coma before his eventual release to the Orange County Jail.
Rackauckas explained that it was a medically induced coma to treat the injuries, and when Wozniak was brought back around he was no longer hurt so he was returned to jail.
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The district attorney would not say whether Wozniak had tried to kill himself. That was among several details police and prosecutors either could not or would not divulge because they are saving them for the trial.
But Shawkey did say an unusually large amount of information about the case has been released to the public.
Here is our original post on the murders.
Here is a follow-up post.