A Costa Mesa man allegedly killed and dismembered an Orange Coast College student who lived in his apartment complex and then killed another student, throwing authorities off his tracks by trying to make the first victim look like a suspect, police said Friday.
Daniel Wozniak, 26, is charged with two counts of murder with sentencing enhancements for doing it for financial gain. The events were described as a bloody scheme to cover up a trail in which he allegedly killed Samuel Herr, 26, and his friend Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, 23, who also attended the college.
Wozniak’s arrest Wednesday represents a dramatic turn in an investigation by Costa Mesa detectives into Kibuishi’s death. An Irvine resident, she was found dead in Herr’s bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head May 22. Herr’s father had gone to his son’s apartment looking for him and discovered Kibuishi’s body.
Herr and Wozniak both lived in the Camden Martinique apartments, 2855 Pinecreek Drive, across from OCC, and reportedly knew each other as neighbors.
Before turning their focus on Wozniak, police had been trying to find Herr, who lived four stories directly above Wozniak and was considered the primary suspect in Kibuishi’s killing.
Officers allege that Wozniak killed Herr at about 1 p.m. May 21 at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, dismembering his remains in order to hide parts of the body. He allegedly removed Herr’s head, left arm and right hand and discarded them at El Dorado Park in Long Beach.
Police found Herr’s remains Thursday night.
Authorities said that Wozniak used Herr’s cell phone to text message Kibuishi in an effort to trick her into coming to Herr’s apartment at about 12:04 a.m. May 22.
There, he shot her in the head and staged it as a possible sexual assault by partially removing her clothes, police said.
Officers initially thought that Herr was the killer because they could not find him in the days after Kibuishi was found dead, and the text messages on his cell phone showed he had asked her to come over, police said.
Police were thrown off temporarily, but as they searched for leads to Herr, they found records showing that his bank account had been accessed at an ATM in Long Beach.
When police contacted the person using Herr’s card, who was a 17-year-old boy, the boy told police he had withdrawn money for Wozniak.
Police arrested Wozniak on Wednesday night at a Huntington Beach restaurant.
He is being held without bail in Orange County Jail.
Other tenants at Camden Martinique couldn’t believe the amiable guy with whom they’d shared beers and meals is a suspected killer.
“He seemed like a nice, outgoing neighbor,” Darrick Morrell, a next-door neighbor, said of Wozniak.
Morrell said Wozniak had come over and introduced himself when he’d moved in and even invited him over for a barbecue.
Jesse Wilds, who lived a few doors away from Herr on the fourth floor of the same building, had played drinking games with Wozniak.
“He was chill. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy,” Wilds said.
Wozniak was quiet, but not unusually so, he said.
Most people remembered seeing him frequently with a blonde woman whom most identified as his girlfriend.
Wozniak’s Facebook page says he is engaged and just last week played Guido in the musical “Nine,” put on by a theater company in Fullerton.
OC Weekly gave his performance a glowing review, writing “Wozniak somehow manages to make Guido eminently likable and even sympathetic ... Wozniak captures the angst of a man staring into the abyss of his own being and seeing his own frailty.”
Facebook records show that as recently as Tuesday, as police continued to look for Herr, Wozniak was commenting on others’ profiles.
The day Wozniak is accused of killing Kibuishi, his MySpace status was listed as “busy.”
Friends of Kibuishi are taking to the Internet to share memories and grieve. A Facebook page dedicated to her has nearly 500 members.
“I’ll never forget how we used to spend hours (talking) in your car listening to music. Your light will never die out! I love you! You are God’s Angel now looking upon us,” wrote one friend.
“Julie was a beautiful bright young woman, taken from us at 23 for reasons I don’t think most will understand or know,” wrote another.
“She was loved by so many and will never be forgotten,” wrote another.
On the Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary website, a friend wrote, “I am so glad that I was able to know you in the short times we had together. Your sincere heart and genuine laughter is something rare in this world.”
Arrest records show that Wozniak had a run-in with Costa Mesa police just two weeks ago.
He was arrested May 14 on a warrant on Harbor Boulevard.
Wozniak is being held at Orange County Jail in Santa Ana and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
He faces life without parole if convicted of all charges.