Crime

Jury Recommends Death Penalty for California Man Who Killed Two Friends For Money

| by Nik Bonopartis
Daniel WozniakDaniel Wozniak

A California man who killed two people to pay for his wedding should be executed for his crimes, a jury recommended on Jan. 12.

Daniel Wozniak, 31, was convicted in December of killing 26-year-old Sam Herr and Herr's friend, 23-year-old Juri 'Julie' Kibuishi. Wozniak, who admitted the crimes, told police that "money and insanity" were the motives behind the gruesome murders, in which he shot Herr, dismembered his body, and disposed of the body parts in several different locations.

Wozniak then killed Kibuishi and made it look like Herr had raped her, the Daily Mail reported.

"I don't know why I did it," Wozniak told police during the recorded confession. "Mainly it was the money, and it seemed so easy."

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Prosecutors said Wozniak, a community theater actor, needed the money because he was jobless, on the verge of getting evicted from his home, and had an upcoming wedding with no cash to pay for it. That's when he devised the plan to kill Herr, a military veteran who had saved $60,000 in hazard pay from his deployment to Afghanistan.

Wozniaki killed Herr at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on May 21, 2010, the Daily Mail reported. After shooting the victim twice in his head, Wozniak paid a teenager to withdraw the $60,000 from Herr's account using his ATM card.

Using Herr's cellphone, Wozniak texted Kibuishi and said that he "just needed a girl's shoulder to cry on" because of family problems. When Kibuishi arrived at Herr's apartment in Costa Mesa, California, Wozniak shot and killed the 23-year-old, the Mail reported.

Wozniak also placed Kibuishi's body on Herr's bed and removed some of the victim's clothes to make it look like she'd been sexually assaulted by Herr, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The unemployed actor slipped up, the Los Angeles Times reported, during a police interrogation, when he inadvertently mentioned details of the crime scene that he wouldn't have known unless he was the killer.

Wozniak tried to improvise, saying he had seen the body but wasn't the killer. That story didn't fly with investigators, who later recovered the murder weapon and learned Wozniak gave the gun and the clothes he wore during the murders to his brother, telling him to burn the evidence.

Wozniak will return to court on March 11 for a formal sentencing hearing.

The victims' families, including Julie's mother, June Kibuishi, said they were pleased by the jury's decision to recommend the death penalty.

"This is closure," June said, "to our nightmare chapter."

Sources: Daily Mail, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: Facebook and Costa Mesa Police via Daily Mail