SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Southern California man who killed two people and dismembering one in a scheme to steal money and cover his tracks was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder.
Daniel Wozniak, 31, was convicted by an Orange County jury that must now decide whether to recommend life in prison or the death penalty.
Wozniak was convicted of killing two Orange Coast College students on May 21, 2010.
Wozniak was deeply in debt, needed money for his upcoming wedding and was facing eviction when he concocted a plan to kill a neighbor, Samuel Herr, and steal $50,000 that the Army veteran had saved from his service in Afghanistan, prosecutors said.
Wozniak shot the 26-year-old Costa Mesa man in the attic of a Los Alamos theater where Wozniak performed in community theater productions — including playing the lead in a musical the night after the killing.
He later dismembered Herr and dumped his head and other body parts in a Long Beach nature park.
Prosecutors said Wozniak used Herr's phone to text the victim's friend, Julie Kibuishi. He pretended to be Herr and got the 23-year-old to come to Herr's apartment to talk so he could shoot her and make it appear that Herr had raped and killed her before fleeing.
Wozniak was arrested days later at his bachelor party.
At trial, Steve Herr testified about walking into his son's apartment and seeing Kibuishi bent over a bed with her ripped pants around her ankles and an expletive scrawled on her back.
A 16-year-old boy testified that Wozniak hired him to use Herr's ATM card to withdraw money from the victim's bank account.
Jurors also saw video of a police interview in which Wozniak confessed to the double killing.
Asked about motive, Wozniak replied: "Money and insanity."
"I don't know why I did it," he added. "Mainly it was the money, and it seemed so easy."
During the case Wozniak's attorney unsuccessfully tried to have the Orange County district attorney's office and the death penalty option removed.
He argued that there was misconduct by the prosecution based on allegations that jail informants were improperly used to obtain confessions from defendants in dozens of cases.