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Death penalty sought in double-killing case

Circumstances surrounding slayings of two OCC students warrants first request this year for death penalty, D.A. says.

June 11, 2010|By Joseph Serna
(Orange County District…)

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Daniel Wozniak, the Costa Mesa man accused of killing and beheading his neighbor then killing a friend of the neighbor to cover up the first crime, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced Thursday.

The Wozniak case marks the first this year in which the county's top prosecutor and his team are seeking the death penalty. It is the second murder case in Costa Mesa in 2010.

"Some murders are committed with such a depraved heart and in such a callous manner that the only punishment that fits the crime is the death penalty," Rackauckas said at a news conference in Santa Ana.

On Thursday morning, Rackauckas and his office's Special Circumstances Committee decided that the details behind the slaying of Samuel Herr, 26, and Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23 — both Orange Coast College students — warranted death for their suspected killer.

Wozniak, 26, is charged with killing Herr for money, then killing Kibuishi in Herr's apartment and staging it like a sexual assault so investigators would think that Herr did it and was on the run.

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Herr lived three floors above Wozniak in the Camden Martinique apartment complex in Costa Mesa.

The special circumstances of allegedly killing for money and using a gun made Wozniak eligible for the death penalty.

"This was not a close call. Parents are not meant to bury their children, especially when the victim's future is snuffed out by callous brutality," Rackauckas said. "We will bring Daniel Wozniak to justice for these senseless murders."

Herr's parents had a memorial service for their son Thursday. Herr was an army veteran who returned from overseas duty last year and was attending Orange Coast College on the G.I. Bill.

The methodical way that Wozniak killed Herr and Kibuishi, while keeping up appearances with everyone around him, made the case even more chilling, police said.

Wozniak, an actor who was broke and about to be evicted from his apartment and had no steady job, killed Herr on May 21 and took his ATM card, wallet and cell phone, authorities claim. He told Herr in the afternoon that he needed help moving equipment in a theater at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, where Wozniak had acted months before, police said. Officials at the base said the area is typically quiet when military exercises are not going on there.

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