Actress accused in double slaying tells Dr. Phil she's innocent
A community theater actress accused of covering for her former fiance after he allegedly killed two Orange County college students proclaimed her innocence during Tuesday’s episode of “Dr. Phil.”
Rachel Buffett, 25, of Long Beach has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact in the May 2010 deaths of Sam Herr, 26, of Costa Mesa and Juri “Julie" Kibuishi, 23, of Irvine.
Prosecutors allege that she lied to police about key details following the crimes in hopes of protecting accused killer Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 28, of Costa Mesa.
Talk show host Phillip McGraw zeroed in on alleged inconsistencies in the information Buffett gave police after Wozniak was arrested on suspicion of killing his neighbor, Herr, and then allegedly luring Kibuishi with text messages sent from Herr’s phone to Herr’s apartment, where she was killed.
McGraw, who told Buffett that he knew she was an actress and implored her to tell the truth, asked why she falsely told investigators that she saw a man with a black hat the night Herr was murdered and that Herr had family problems.
Buffett explained that she got the bad information from Wozniak and merely repeated it to police.
“I trusted him, and I trusted what he said was true,” she told McGraw.
“She implicitly believed the man she was going to marry,” Buffett’s defense attorney, Ajna Devi Sharma-Wilson, told the talk show host.
The attorney said she did not coach her client before appearing on “Dr. Phil” beyond telling her to tell the truth.
Buffett was also asked why she told police she went home after appearing in a play in Fullerton with Wozniak and then went to sleep in their Costa Mesa apartment the night Herr was killed.
Buffett told The Times in a previous interview that she was asleep the night Wozniak allegedly left their apartment, lured Herr to the military reserve base in Los Alamitos, shot him and the spread parts of his decapitated body in a Long Beach park.
Prosecutors allege Wozniak killed his neighbor for his ATM card because he believed he had money saved up from his military service and then killed Kibuishi to make it appear that Herr had killed her.
Wozniak has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of murder, plus six sentencing enhancements, and could face the death penalty if convicted. He is in custody in Orange County Jail.
Buffett faces three felony counts of accessory after the fact and a possible sentence of four years and eight months in jail. She has pleaded not guilty.
Herr’s father, Steve Herr, appeared on the show, saying that he was certain Buffett was guilty of the crimes of which she was charged. He accused Buffett of trying the case in the court of public opinion.
“I find it offensive I have to come on TV and do this,” Herr said. “I think I should do this in a court of law.”
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas explained why he waited about two years after the crimes to charge Buffett.
“By the time we finally got to the point where it seems it's going to be pretty clear additional evidence isn’t going to come out, it was decided Rachel could only be charged with accessory after the fact,” he said.
-- Lauren Williams