Actress convicted of lying to police pleads innocence in interrogation tapes
ABC News (COSTA MESA, Calif.) — In police interrogation tapes obtained by ABC News, a California theater actress, who was later convicted of lying to police about two murders her then-fiancé had committed, is seen pleading with investigators that she knew nothing about these crimes.
“The truth is, I did not know,” Rachel Buffett is heard telling police during the 2012 interrogation. “I was not involved, and that truth doesn’t change.”
Buffett, who was 23 years old at the time, was accused of lying to investigators to help protect her then-fiancé Daniel Wozniak during a murder investigation.
“I’m innocent,” Buffett told ABC News in a previous interview. “It was like the person I loved never really existed, and it was somebody pretending to be somebody they weren’t.”
Wozniak, a community theater actor in Costa Mesa, California, was convicted in 2015 of two counts of first-degree murder for the gruesome killings of Sam Herr, an Army war veteran, and Julie Kibuishi, a 23-year-old college student and dancer, in May 2010.
Prosecutors said Wozniak shot and killed Herr, his 26-year-old neighbor, in an attempt to steal the $62,000 Herr told him he had saved from his combat pay. At the time, authorities said Wozniak had no full-time job and no money, and was about to be evicted from his home. He was getting married to Buffett, and was in desperate need of money to pay for their honeymoon.
When Wozniak was initially detained for suspicious ATM withdrawals on Herr’s bank account, he made a jailhouse phone call to Buffett in which he begged her not to tell police about incriminating evidence against him, including the murder weapon.
Buffett reminded Wozniak that the conversation was being recorded and that she was calling detectives as soon as she got off the phone with him. Wozniak confessed to the murders shortly after.
But then another witness named Chris Williams came forward and told police he had gone to Wozniak’s apartment on the day Herr disappeared. Williams said he was there to collect money on a loan he had given Wozniak and Buffett, and saw the two of them and Herr there together. Williams told police that at one point Wozniak and Herr left and he was with Buffett for three hours before Wozniak came back with $400, without Herr, and was acting very emotional and panicked.
Police believe that by then, Wozniak had killed Herr and they claimed Buffett never told them Williams was in the apartment. Additionally, she echoed a story Wozniak had told police about seeing Herr leaving with an unidentified man wearing a black hat.
When police brought Buffett in for questioning, a detective asked her why she didn’t mention Williams before. She is heard saying on the interrogation tape, “Because honestly I was afraid that if you knew that Chris had seen us that day, I don’t know who Chris knows, and I don’t know if he knows anybody bad.”
“I’m sorry. I really don’t have any more information that I can think of to give you guys right now,” she continued.
Police then gave her a voice stress analyzer test, which they said would measure whether the person was being truthful. She continued to deny all wrongdoing.
“The entire testing process she was very soft-spoken,” said Michael Cohen, a now-retired Costa Mesa detective who performed the stress test.
“Her answers were very mumbled and she wouldn’t give me a full ‘yes or no’ answer on the questions. … I felt that she was deceptive … and not telling us the truth.”
Throughout the police interview, Buffett is heard denying over and over again any involvement or knowledge of the murders.
“Her reason for not talking about Chris Williams was because she had some concern about the origin of the loan,” her attorney David Medina told 20/20. “Daniel lied to Rachel about everything. He lied to her about jobs that he had. He borrowed money from people without telling her. He was a master at the lie. He was psychopathic, as we know from his actions. He was a monster. … His entire life essentially was built around lying to people … that was the way he maintained the relationship with Rachel. He did not want to lose Rachel.”
“She got [Wozniak] to confess on a recorded phone call. …She contacted Costa Mesa PD voluntarily,” Medina continued. “If she wanted to protect Daniel Wozniak … why did she do all that?”
In November 2018, a jury found Buffett guilty of being an accessory after the fact in connection to her being accused of lying to investigators to help protect Wozniak. She was sentenced to 32 months in jail.
“I hope my silence has not been misinterpreted as callous,” Buffett said as she read a statement at her sentencing. “I wish I could have saved them. … I wish I’d never met Daniel Wozniak.”
“My heart goes out to the Herr and Kibuishi families,” she continued. “They will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
A separate jury found Wozniak guilty of two counts of first-degree murder on Dec. 16, 2015. A California judge sentenced him to death at a September 2016 hearing, and Wozniak was placed on death row.
However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in his state this year, meaning the more than 700 inmates who are on death row, including Wozniak, are not facing execution at this point.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.