Clinging to keepsakes and memories more than two years after their children were killed, the parents of two murdered Orange Coast College students say the pain of reliving the details of their deaths in court can't match their desire for justice.
On Thursday, the families of Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, and Samuel Herr, 26, sat in Orange County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors could move forward with charges of accessory after the fact against Rachel Buffett, 25, the then-fiancée of alleged killer Daniel Patrick Wozniak.
The victims' families said that in spite of media attention garnered by the prosecution of Buffett, who has claimed innocence, they trust the legal system to do its job.
"We're not detectives," said Julie's mother, June Kibuishi. "We totally have faith in [Deputy District Attorney] Matt [Murphy]. We just want the truth."
"We're here to support Matt Murphy, the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Orange County D.A.," said Samuel's father, Steve Herr.
Asked how he felt, Herr replied with a tired sigh. "How do you feel every day in court?"
Kibuishi said it never gets easier.
During a recess in the lengthy and at times gruesome hearing, Kibuishi tugged at a silver ring on a chain around her neck.
"This is the only thing that we got back after it happened," she said. "And a necklace in a little envelope. I wasn't able to see her until the day before the service. And then we found out what happened to Sam [Herr]. Just...." She shook her head.
"It doesn't make any sense to me," Kibuishi said. "My daughter was not at the wrong place at the wrong time. She was used. She thought she was helping out a friend."
Time of the deaths
Julie, police say, was Costa Mesa actor Wozniak's second victim.
After allegedly shooting and killing upstairs neighbor Samuel Herr the afternoon of May 21, 2010, prosecutors say Wozniak, 28, lured Julie, Samuel's friend and tutor, to Samuel's apartment.
When she arrived, prosecutors say Wozniak shot her and then staged her body to look as though Herr had sexually assaulted her.
Wozniak, posing as Samuel through his cell phone, had told Julie that he was having family problems and wanted to talk to someone he could trust.
From the witness stand Thursday, Costa Mesa Police Det. Jose Morales, said, "Julie's response was that he could talk to her and she considered him family."
Murphy argued that Samuel's family problems were fabrications on Wozniak's part, but that in later interviews with police, Buffett echoed the alleged fabrications, saying in an interview on June 9, 2010 that she had heard them directly from Samuel.
That, Murphy asserted, was an intentional lie to investigators.
But later in the hearing, Judge Kazuharu Makino questioned whether Buffett should be prosecuted for that alleged lie because by that point, police said Wozniak had already confessed to the murders.