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Parents of students allegedly killed by actor demand justice

Image: Family photo of Samuel Herr taken in  2009. Credit: Handout

Clinging to keepsakes and memories more than two years after their children were killed, the parents of two slain Orange Coast College students say the pain of reliving the details of their deaths in court can't match their desire for justice.

On Thursday, the families of Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, and Samuel Herr, 26, sat in Orange County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors could move forward with charges of accessory after the fact against Rachel Buffett, 25, the then-fiancee of alleged killer Daniel Patrick Wozniak. Buffett is accused of helping Wozniak by lying to police after the crime.

The victims' families said that in spite of media attention garnered by the prosecution of Buffett,  who has claimed innocence of murder charges, they trust the legal system to do its job.

"We're not detectives," said Kibuishi's mother, June Kibuishi, expressing her faith in Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy. "We just want the truth."

"We're here to support Matt Murphy, the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Orange County D.A.," said Samuel's father, Steve Herr.

Asked how he felt, Herr replied with a tired sigh. "How do you feel every day in court?"

Kibuishi said it never gets easier.

During a recess in the lengthy and at times gruesome hearing, Kibuishi tugged at a silver ring that had belonged to her daughter hanging on a chain around her neck.

"This is the only thing that we got back after it happened," she said. "And a necklace in a little envelope. I wasn't able to see her until the day before the service. And then we found out what happened to Sam. Just .... " She shook her head.

"It doesn't make any sense to me," Kibuishi said. "My daughter was not at the wrong place at the wrong time. She was used. She thought she was helping out a friend."

Julie Kibuishi, police say, was Costa Mesa actor Wozniak's second victim.

On the afternoon of May 21, 2010, Wozniak shot and killed Herr, his upstairs neighbor, and then dismembered his body, prosecutors say. Wozniak, 28, a community theater actor, then allegedly lured Kibuishi, Herr's friend and tutor, to Herr's apartment.

When she arrived, prosecutors say Wozniak shot her and then staged her body to look as though Herr had sexually assaulted her.

To lure Kibuishi to her death, prosecutors say, Wozniak posed as Herr, using Herr's cellphone to send text messages telling her that he was having family problems and wanted to talk to someone he could trust.

Buffett is accused of making misleading statements to detectives investigating the slayings, including an allegedly fictitious third man who was involved in the crime. The judge Friday ultimately found there was enough evidence to move forward with the case against Buffett, but said it would be a tough case for prosecutors.

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-- Jill Cowan, Times Community News

Photo: Samuel Herr. Credit: Family photo

 
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