SANTA ANA – A man was indicted Thursday by the Orange County Grand Jury for using a firearm to murder his neighbor for financial gain and murdering the victim’s friend in an effort to derail the investigation by framing the first victim.
Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 28, Costa Mesa is charged with two felony counts of special-circumstances murder with special-circumstance sentencing enhancements, including multiple murders, murder for financial gain, and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Wozniak is being held without bail and was scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Friday at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the Orange County District Attorney’s Homicide Unit said he sought the indictment to speed up the legal process. Defense attorneys kept saying they weren't ready for the preliminary hearing, so the indictment takes away the need for that type of hearing, he said.
In a press release on June 10, 2010, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office gave the following information on the case, which was investigated by the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD). The OCDA is handling this case as a special prosecutions case, supervised by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and prosecuted by a specially selected OCDA team.
Wozniak is accused of plotting the murder of his neighbor, 26-year-old Samuel Herr, who lived in the same apartment complex in Costa Mesa, with the intention of stealing the victim’s substantial savings.
On the afternoon of May 21, 2010, Wozniak is accused of luring Herr from their apartment complex and driving him to the theater facility at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. The defendant was familiar with the theater because he had previously acted in plays there.
Once inside the theater, Wozniak is accused of murdering Herr by shooting him twice in the head, leaving the body in the theater and stealing the victim’s ATM card, wallet, and cell phone.
Later that evening, Wozniak is accused of using Herr’s cell phone to text-message Herr’s friend, 23-year-old Juri “Julie” Kibuishi. The defendant was acquainted with Kibuishi and was her “friend” on Facebook. Wozniak is accused of pretending to be Herr in the text messages and arranging with Kibuishi to come to Herr’s apartment in the Camden Martinique complex at 2855 Pinecreek Dr.
Shortly after midnight on May 22, Kibuishi arrived at Herr’s apartment. Wozniak is accused of meeting her at the door of Herr’s apartment and luring her into the bedroom, where he murdered her by shooting her twice in the head, then partially removing Kibuishi’s clothing to stage the crime scene to appear as though the victim had been sexually assaulted.
On the afternoon of May 22, Wozniak is accused of returning to the theater, cutting off Herr’s clothes and dismembering the victim’s body by removing his head, left arm, and the lower portion of his right arm, then leaving the victim’s torso and legs in the theater and taking the dismembered body parts to discard them in El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach. The park is a large nature reserve with trails and two lakes.
At approximately 9:20 p.m. on May 22, officers from CMPD discovered Kibuishi’s body upon responding to a call regarding a possible murder from Herr’s father, who had gone to the apartment to check on his son. Herr’s whereabouts at that time were unknown and he initially became the primary suspect in Kibuishi’s murder.
Following the two murders, Wozniak is accused of giving Herr’s ATM card to a 17-year-old acquaintance and instructing the minor to withdraw money from the victim’s account at various ATMs in Long Beach. Costa Mesa detectives investigating the case learned of the ATM withdrawals and arrested the minor after observing him using the victim’s bank card. In all, $2,000 was taken from Herr’s account.
Based on information learned through the ongoing investigation and the arrest of the juvenile, Wozniak was arrested for the murders of Herr and Kibuishi on May 26 at Tsunami restaurant in Huntington Beach. He was at dinner celebrating his bachelor party in anticipation of his upcoming wedding, planned to take place in Long Beach on May 28.
CMPD detectives discovered Herr’s body on May 27 at the base. A search for the dismembered body parts at El Dorado Park Nature Center was conducted by CMPD with assistance from the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), search and rescue personnel from Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties, and investigators from the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office (LACO).
The victim’s head and parts of his left arm, which were decomposed and scavenged by animals, were found over the next two days.
On May 27, Wozniak was transported from the jail to Western Medical Center to be treated for self-inflicted head injuries and was released back to the jail May 29. The OCDA charged the defendant May 28.
Herr and Kibuishi were both students at Orange Coast College and Herr was a military veteran. Kibuishi's friends set up a memorial fund to help her family transport her ashes back to Japan.