In the sixth episode of Sleuth—the iHeartRadio original true-crime podcast focused on a bizarre 2010 double murder of Orange County college students—we learn about the partying, pre-killing activities of the murderer, Daniel Wozniak, and his conniving fiancée, Rachel Buffett.
Wozniak landed on California’s death row in 2016, and last month, a jury found Buffett, a former Disneyland princess, guilty as an accessory after the fact in the murders of their neighbor, 26-year-old Sam Herr, and his friend, 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi.
What placed Wozniak on San Quentin State Prison’s condemned housing unit was the unthinkable motive for killing and dismembering Herr, and then killing Kibuishi in Herr’s bedroom as an explanation for the disappearance: to raid Herr’s bank account to pay for his upcoming honeymoon cruise.
Despite the convictions, Sleuth producer Linda Sawyer, a veteran investigative journalist who spent three years digging into the case, believes not only that there are important remaining mysteries, but also that, despite years of court action, not every player in the killings has been fully exposed for his or her participation.
Those who’ve heard earlier segments of the podcast know Sawyer takes particular aim at Buffett, and in the show released this week, she dissects her interrogation by Costa Mesa Police Department detective Jose Morales during the early stages of the investigation.
Sawyer has voice actors play the roles of Buffett and Morales, and occasionally, she pauses the reading of the transcript to alert listeners to parts she finds suspicious or outright fibs.
For example, she says multiple sources told her Buffett was a highly skilled drug user, but for Morales, she minimized her use of intoxicating substances while maximizing Wozniak’s eagerness to get high with ecstasy (or “E”), crystal meth, booze and marijuana during pool or house parties in the months leading up to the murders.
Buffett described frequently seeing “E-tards” partying at night and during weekends at the Camden Martinique Apartments across from Coast Community College attended by Herr and Kibuishi.
What’s fascinating is that while Buffett quickly—too quickly—assures Morales that her fiancé is a chronic liar, she utters her own whoppers. Sawyer nails the deceptions.
Buffett is scheduled to be sentenced next month inside Orange County Superior Court.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; featured in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.