‘I’m innocent,’ convicted murderer Daniel Wozinak’s ex-fiancee tells ‘Dateline NBC’

Rachel Buffett has been accused of playing a role in her ex-fiancee’s grisly double murders, but in an interview with “Dateline NBC” on Friday night, she says she had nothing to do with the killings.

“I’m innocent and that’s what hurts me most in this whole situation is they’re trying to say I’m something I’m not,” said Buffett, 28, in an interview with correspondent Josh Mankiewicz.

Friday’s Dateline episode “Plot Twist,” revisited the high-profile Orange County case of Daniel Wozniak, a 31-year-old Costa Mesa community theater actor, who was convicted in December of killing two Orange Coast Colleges students, Samuel Herr, 26, and Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, 23, in a bizarre plot to steal money in May 2010.

On Monday, a jury deliberated for just over an hour before recommending that Wozniak be sentenced to death.

An actress and former Disneyland princess, Buffett, 28, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of being an accessory after the fact and lying to Costa Mesa police detectives. She is due back in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing.

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Among other allegations, prosecutors said Buffett lied to detectives about a third man being with Wozniak and Herr on the day Herr was killed.

In her interview Friday, Buffett said she doesn’t remember telling police that she specifically saw a third person and was only under the impression that there was a third person.

Buffett said she only learned of the killings when Wozniak told her over the phone from his jail cell, and was speechless when his elaborate scheme was revealed.

Mankiewicz, however, raised questions about Buffett’s seemingly calm behavior as she’s seen on tape talking with Wozniak in a police interrogation room. He noted that authorities believe Buffett is lying to them.

“If police or prosecutors tell us, ‘That was all a setup between the two (Wozniak and Buffett) of them. They were a couple of actors and they were reading lines,’ that’s what? That’s bull?” Mankiewicz asked.

Buffett replied: “That’s bull, yeah.”

In the episode, Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ed Everett said he believes Buffett played a role in the crimes but does not have enough evidence to prove it.

“She’s a better actor than Daniel,” he said.

Prosecutors said Wozniak was broke and had no money to pay for his wedding when he plotted to kill Herr, an Army veteran, and steal the $60,000 in savings he had earned from combat service in Afghanistan.

On May 21, 2010, Wozniak lured Herr to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, and then shot and killed him. The actor returned the next day and cut off Herr’s head, hand and forearm and tossed the body parts in Long Beach’s El Dorado Park.

That evening, Wozniak took the stage as the lead in the musical “Nine” at the Hunger Artists Theatre Co. in Fullerton.

In an attempt to throw police off his trail, Wozniak used Herr’s cellphone to lure Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment. Prosecutors said Wozniak then shot and killed her and pulled her pants down to make it look like Herr had killed Kibuishi and sexually assaulted her.

Police arrested Wozniak at his bachelor party at a Huntington Beach sushi restaurant, two days before his wedding.

He later confessed to the killings in videotaped interviews.

In the trial, Wozniak’s defense attorneys argued that he was manipulated by Buffett, who they said had a role in the crimes.

Contact the writer: kpuente@ocregister.com

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