The ex-fiancee of a convicted Orange County double-murderer was handed a 32-month jail sentence Thursday for lying to police as they investigated the killings of two people—one of whom was partially buried in Long Beach.
Rachel Buffett, 31, will not have to stay behind bars for the last six months of her jail term, but will be placed on mandatory supervision, which allows for probation officers to monitor her for violations that could land her back in jail.
Buffett was given credit for 158 days in jail since her conviction for being an accessory after the fact in the May 2010 killings carried out by Daniel Patrick Wozniak, who is on death row for the financially motivated dismemberment murder of 26-year-old Samuel Eliezer Herr and the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi.
The maximum punishment on paper was 44 months behind bars, but because of new laws to reduce prison overcrowding, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson was restricted to sentencing Buffett to jail. Hanson ended up giving the defendant the toughest sentence available under the new laws.
“I would have liked to see her sent to prison,” Herr’s father, Steve, said after the hearing. “I’m frustrated she didn’t get the full term.”
Kibuishi’s mother told Hanson that her daughter “had so much she wanted to accomplish. I will never get to see her fulfill her dreams in fashion, be a bride or a mom.” June Kibuishi added that her daughter “would have been the most loving and caring mom as she had the biggest heart.”
Speaking to Buffett, she said, “Julie even thought of you as a friend and was so happy for your engagement (to Wozniak). How and why? I will never know, but I know for sure that you were never a true friend to her or Sam and never deserved hers or Sam’s love and friendship.”
Buffett and Wozniak “are two peas in a pod and I’m glad you both found each other—you’re both self-centered and truly heartless. The world doesn’t need more people like you or him. They need more people like my daughter Julie and Sam,” Kibuishi said.
In his victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing, Steve Herr said that as his son was “dead and dismembered … Rachel Buffett was spreading lies.”
He added that the defendant “lied to the police, she lied to her friends, she lied to the local and national newspapers, and she lied to the nation when she appeared on national television, ‘The Dr. Phil Show’ and ‘Dateline,’ proclaiming her innocence.”
Buffett apologized in court, but the victims’ parents did not buy it.
“I don’t think it was an apology—it was the last lie she told,” Kibuishi told reporters after the hearing.
“She never admitted lying in her apology,” Herr told reporters. “Anything from that girl is hollow.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said that Buffett, who has been attacked by other inmates while in jail, will continue to pay for her crimes long after she is released from custody.
“She’s studying for a master’s degree in psychology now,” the prosecutor said outside the courtroom. “But anyone who goes to Google her is going to know she was involved in (the cover-up of the murders). It’s something that will follow her for the rest of her life.”
Wozniak and Buffett met while working as local community theater actors. They were planning a wedding and honeymoon, but were dogged by financial problems. Murphy told jurors that Wozniak concocted a scheme to kill Herr, a veteran who had saved about $62,000 in pay from his service in combat in Afghanistan, to steal the victim’s cash to pay for the wedding and honeymoon and to keep the couple from being evicted.
Wozniak lured Herr, his neighbor and friend, to the Liberty Theater on the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on May 21, 2010, where he shot Herr twice in the head and left his body there. That night, Wozniak took the stage with Buffett in a community theater production in Fullerton.
After the show, Wozniak lured Julie Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment by using Herr’s cell phone to text her. He shot her twice in the head, cut off part of her jeans, pulled down her underwear and posed her in a way to make police think a sex crime had turned deadly, Murphy said. He wrote “all yours, (expletive) you” on her shirt and left, the prosecutor said.
Wozniak was attempting to set Herr up for Kibuishi’s killing, Murphy said.
The next day, on May 22, 2010, Wozniak returned to the Liberty Theater and sawed off Herr’s head and arms, then buried the body parts in shallow graves in El Dorado Park in Long Beach, where they were later uncovered by wildlife, Murphy said.
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