A former Disney princess accused of accessory after the fact to a gruesome double murder and the father of the one of the victims met in a tense session of the television talk show "Dr. Phil" Tuesday.
In an episode of the nationally syndicate program, TV Host Phil McGraw interviewed 25-year-old actress Rachel Mae Buffett, who grew up in Seal Beach, about her statements to police officers during an investigation in her former fiancée Dan Wozniak.
Wozniak faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering and dismembering his neighbor Afghanistan Army veteran Samuel Herr in a Los Alamitos Theater in order to gain access to Herr’s bank account, and then killing Kibuishi, Herr’s friend, in an elaborate ploy to cover up his crime. He is also accused of taking parts of Herr's body and hiding them around Long Beach's El Dorado Park, where they were found after Wozniak's arrest.
Prosecutors have argued Buffett misled investigators in three separate instances, and it was about one those allegedly misleading statements that McGraw grilled Buffett.
One of the accusations is that Buffett allegedly said there was a third person at her and Wozniak’s apartment the last night Herr was seen alive. Wozniak later allegedly admitted to fabricating that person to deflect guilt.
McGraw asked Buffett to explain what she said to officers.
Buffett said that Wozniak had told her there was someone else there, and that she hadn’t seen him but she had believed Wozniak.
“If your wife told you that she had just made a pot of coffee, and it was in the kitchen and then you didn’t see it, but later on somehow it became really important whether or not it was there, and a cop asked you 'What was in the kitchen, you’d say, 'Oh a spatula, a fork and a pot of coffee,'” Buffett said. “I trusted him, and I trusted that what he said was true.”
McGraw said he thought her response sounded rehearsed and that authorities had said she initially told them she saw the person.
“I want to know what you have to say about it, not what you worked out in a conference room with your lawyer," McGraw said.
“I truly have not coached my client at all,” said Ajna Sharma-Wilson Buffetts attorney. “I have not even told her anything other than ‘tell the truth, Rachel.’”
An aspiring actress, Buffett worked as a princess at Medieval Times and played several characters at Disneyland, including Princess Ariel.
Steve Herr, Sam’s father, has said he believes she’s lying, that she knew about what Daniel had done. On the show, he spoke to Buffett directly.
“My son is dead and his friend, his tutor, they’re both dead," Herr said. "He was cut up into pieces, and you come on here and go on the TV stations (and say) 'Poor me, Poor me. That offends me.”
Also in the episode, Steve Herr talks about the horrific day in May 21, 2010 when he found his son’s friend Kiri dead at his son’s apartment.
"The first thing you think is 'what happened here? Did he do something?'” Herr said. “And I said, 'This is not my son.’ He couldn’t have done this.’”
Sam, who his father described as “his best friend,” became a suspect immediately. However, a week later police told Steve Herr that they’d found his son murdered.
“Underneath, I felt he was already dead but, when they confirmed it was a tough go,” his father said. “Your lives are crushed when you get news like this.”
He said he remembers when they told him his son had been dismembered.
“That’s when I lost it. They were looking for his body parts at a park,” Herr’s father said. "That was Friday. Saturday, May 29 was Sam’s birthday, and I’ll never forget that on my Son’s birthday I was praying that they would find his head.”
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also appears on the Dr. Phil episode as well as Buffett’s brother Noah.
In December, a judge ruled there was enough evidence for Buffett to stand trial.
Arrested Nov. 20, Buffett pleaded not guilty in court on Dec. 3 to three charges of accessory after the fact. If convicted of all three charges, she would face a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in state prison.