A former Disneyland Princess pleaded not guilty Monday to charges she lied to cover up her ex-fiancé’s alleged involvement in a 2010 slaying and dismemberment in Los Alamitos.
The family of Rachel Mae Buffet, 25, waited outside a third-floor courtroom in Santa Ana on a rainy Monday morning, hoping to see if the middle child of five will come home.
The parents of murder victim Samuel Herr attended as well, and said they would attend every hearing to make sure their son is represented.
Buffett's former fiancé is actor Daniel Patrick Wozniak, who faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering and dismembering his neighbor Herr in a Los Alamitos Theater in order to gain access to his bank account and then killing the man’s friend, Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, in an elaborate ploy to cover up his crime.
According to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s office, Rachel Buffett fabricated a story about Herr, 27, having family problems to throw suspicion off Wozniak and help him “avoid and escape from arrest, trial, conviction and punishment for the felony."
Buffett faces three felony counts of accessory after the fact. If convicted, she would face a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in state prison.
However, her family and her attorney said Buffett had no knowledge of the murders authorities allege she helped cover up.
Following the arraignment, Noah Buffett, the oldest of Rachel’s four siblings, said the drawn-out legal process hurts his innocent sister – an actress who has played a number of characters at Disneyland including Princess Ariel, and a princess at Medieval Times -- and hurts his family, also.
“We’re still kind of in shambles,” Noah Buffett said. “Just waiting for a very slow system of law to get in gear.”
As for the case, he said he feels the prosecution has no reason to hold his sister.
“It’s a little unnerving to see what they’ll try to pull out of thin air,” he added.
However, Steve Herr, father of Sam Herr, said he supports the findings of the District Attorney’s office and the Costa Mesa Police Department, which investigated the incident.
“I would assume it’s a strong case,” Steve Herr said. “They wouldn’t have charged her if it wasn’t.”
Herr adds that he and his wife have attended all hearings for Wozniak and Buffett except the first one and will continue to do so to honor their son.
“I want to make sure he’s represented,” Steve Herr said. “We will be at every one.”
During her short hearing Monday afternoon, Rachel Buffett wore a blue prison uniform and looked straight at the judge as her attorney entered the not-guilty plea.
Buffett was arrested Nov. 20 and is being held on $100,000 bail. An Orange County Superior Court judge set Buffett's bail hearing for 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Buffett's attorney is seeking a lower bail amount.
Buffett’s ex-fiancée Wozniak, 28, is accused of shooting his neighbor Herr inside the Liberty Theater in May of 2010 in order to steal Herr’s savings account. According to prosecutors, Wozniak shot Herr at the theater where Wozniak acted. Prosecutors allege he went to Herr’s apartment in Costa Mesa the next day and lured Herr’s friend, Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, to the apartment by pretending to be Herr via text message.
Police allege that once Kibuishi arrived, Wozniak shot her twice and staged a sexual assault to make it look as though Herr was the killer.
The staged crime scene made Sam Herr, a decorated combat veteran, the No. 1 suspect for detectives.
In the meantime, Wozniak, a community theater actor, performed in a Fullerton production of “Nine” on the night of both murders. According to investigators, Wozniak returned to the Liberty Theater the day after killing Kibuishi and dismembered Herr, leaving his legs and torso and dumping Herr’s head and arms at the El Dorado Park Nature Center.
Investigators also accuse Wozniak of giving Herr’s ATM card to a 17-year-old and asking the boy to withdraw $2,000 for him. The teen was arrested, and Wozniak became the prime suspect in the slaying.
Five days after Herr's death, Costa Mesa police arrested Wozniak during his bachelor party at Tsunami in Huntington Beach the night before his wedding. Investigators believe Wozniak committed the murders to help pay for his wedding.