By Lauren Williams
11:30 AM PST, February 6, 2013
A community theater actress accused of covering for her former fiance after he allegedly killed two college students proclaimed her innocence during Tuesday's episode of "Dr. Phil."
Rachel Buffett, 25, of Long Beach has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact in the May 2010 deaths of Sam Herr, 26, of Costa Mesa and Juri "Julie Kibuishi, 23, of Irvine.
Prosecutors allege that she lied to police about key details following the crimes in hopes of protecting accused killer Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 28, of Costa Mesa.
Talk show host Phillip McGraw zeroed in on alleged inconsistencies in the information Buffett gave police after Wozniak was arrested on suspicion of killing his neighbor, Herr, and then luring Kibuishi with text messages sent from Herr's phone to Herr's apartment, where she was killed and her body staged to look like she had been the victim of sexual assault.
McGraw, who told Buffett that he knew she was an actress and implored her to tell the truth, asked why she falsely told investigators that she saw a man with a black hat the night Herr was murdered and that Herr had family problems.
Buffett explained that she got the bad information from Wozniak and merely repeated it to police.
"I trusted him, and I trusted what he said was true," she told McGraw.
"She implicitly believed the man she was going to marry," Buffett's defense attorney, Ajna Devi Sharma-Wilson, told the talk show host.
The attorney said she did not coach her client before appearing on "Dr. Phil" beyond telling her to tell the truth.
Buffett was also asked why she told police she went home after appearing in a play in Fullerton with Wozniak and then went to sleep in their Costa Mesa apartment the night Herr was murdered. McGraw pointed out that she sent Kibuishi a Facebook message when she was supposedly sleeping.
Buffett explained that she told police she could not remember exactly what she did that night and that she spoke in generalities, saying that she usually goes home in the evening, pops in a movie and goes to sleep.
Buffett told the Daily Pilot in a previous interview that she was asleep the night Wozniak allegedly left their apartment, lured Herr to the military reserve base in Los Alamitos, shot him, and then spread parts of his decapitated body in a Long Beach park.
Prosecutors allege Wozniak killed his neighbor for his ATM card because he believed he had money saved up from his time in the Army, and then killed Kibuishi to make it look like Herr killed her.
Wozniak has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of murder, plus six sentencing enhancements, and could face the death penalty if convicted. He is in custody in the Orange County Jail.
Buffett faces three felony counts of accessory after the fact and three years and eight months in jail if she is convicted. She has pleaded not guilty.
Herr's father, Steve Herr, appeared on the show, saying that he was certain Buffett was guilty. He accused Buffett of trying the case in the court of public opinion.
"I find it offensive I have to come on TV and do this," Herr said. "I think I should do this in a court of law."
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas explained why he waited about two years after the crimes to charge Buffett.
"By the time we finally got to the point where it seems its going to be pretty clear additional evidence isn't going to come out, it was decided Rachel could only be charged with accessory after the fact," he said.
Rackauckas said he expected the case to go court in about a year from the Dec. 19 taping.
* An earlier version of this story stated that Buffett faces four years and eight months in prison, if convicted. In fact, she faces three years and eight months.