Former Disney princess lied to police to help ex-fiancé get away with brutal murders of veteran and student
The ex-fiance of a theater actor from California who killed a war veteran and his friend in 2010 was convicted on September 12 for lying to the authorities in what was her attempt to protect him from prosecution.
Rachel Buffett has now been found guilty of two counts of being an accessory after the fact in the murders of 26-year-old veteran Sam Herr and his friend 23-year-old Juri "Julie" Kibuishi who was a college student studying fashion. The two were shot dead by actor Daniel Wozniak. Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Buffett lied to the authorities on purpose multiple times.
The Orange County Register reported that Buffett had also changed her story many times to protect Wozniak. Matt Murphy, the prosecutor, told PEOPLE that the woman had lied at least 20 times saying: "She lies repeatedly. There are little lies and big lies."
David Medina, Buffett's defense attorney countered by saying that she had no idea of the murders. According to the Register, he told the jury in the court during the trial: "She did not know what Dan’s involvement was. She did not know what Dan had done."
31-year-old Buffett now faces up to 44 months behind vars at her sentencing which is set to take place in October 8.
The murders were brutal. Kibuishi's body was found in Herr's bedroom in May, 2010 in his California home in Costa Mesa. Like Herr, she had been shot twice in the head. Only days later, Herr's decapitated remains were found in various spots around the El Dorado Nature Center close by. Herr's torso was later doscovered in the theater where he had been shot dead.
Prosecutors have said in court that Wozniak, who had been arrested almost immediately, had been so desparate for money to pay his rent and for the upcoming wedding with Buffett that he killed Herr. The veteran had lived close to him in the Camden Martinique apartment complex. Wozniak's intial plan had been to withdraw all of Herr's money in the bank account earned from his time in the Afghanistan War which totaled $62,000.
Mere hours after he brutally murdered Herr, he performed the lead role in the local play 'Nine' which took place at the Hunger Artists Theater Company in Fullerton, California. Later that same night, Wozniak baited Kibuishi into Herr's bedroom and then shot her twice in the head. He did this in an attempt to throw the police off his trail. Wozniak proceeded to make the crime scene look like Herr had sexually assaulted Kibuishi.
He confessed to the police later by saying: "I'm crazy and I did it." After Wozniak was arrested for the murders, Buffett spoke on live television and denied that she was involved with the murders. She said: "I’m innocent and that’s what hurts me most in this whole situation. They’re trying to say I’m something I’m not."
During the trial, however, Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ed Everett testified and said that he believed Buffett was more involved than she was admitting to. He said: "In my opinion, she should be sitting next to Mr Wozniak right now."
Wozniak was sentenced to death in September 2016. Buffett, who is a former actress and ex-Disneyland Princess, was charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact and lying to the police.
Acquaintances of the couple said during the trial that the two of them had been acting weirdly around the time that the murders occurred. Vylet Randolph, a friend, testified that the same day Kibuishi's body was found, Wozniak had allegedly been "freaking out" by saying he had been the last person to see Herr alive. Randolph said that it was at this time that Buffett told Wozniak: "Your messed up memory is messing up my story."
Medina, Buffett's attorney, told PEOPLE: "We are currently exploring our options and preparing for the sentencing hearing. We are obviously disappointed with the verdict and Rachel’s family is devastated."