A former Disney Princess accused of being an accessory in a grisly double murder and dismemberment case is wrongly imprisoned, her attorney and family said Friday.
The Orange County District Attorney's office accuses Rachel Mae Buffett, 25, of lying to protect her ex-fiancé in 2010 after he allegedly murdered two people in a scheme to steal money to pay for the couple’s wedding.
Her former fiancé is actor Daniel Patrick Wozniak, who faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering and dismembering a neighbor in a Los Alamitos Theater in order to gain access to his bank account and then killing the man’s friend in an elaborate ploy to cover up his crime.
Buffett, an actress who played a number of characters at Disneyland including Princess Areil and a princess at Medieval Times had no knowledge of the murders authorities allege she helped cover up, her brother said Friday.
Noah Buffett, her 30-year-old brother, said the police have engaged in "heavy-handed" tactics such as arresting her the day before Thanksgiving so she'd have to sit in jail a long time before she could be arraigned.
“They’re not holding her on anything,” said Noah Buffett. "They’re holding her on association."
"That little girl has had her life shattered as sure as I am standing here," he added.
As for Rachel Buffett, her brother says she’s not doing well.
“She’s really under some big pressure right now," Noah Buffett said. "She doesn’t understand why she’s been arrested."
Buffett said he understands that the police want to find out who killed two people.
“At the same time, this is really over the line,” he said. "Rachel had no knowledge of anything that has gone on. ... She has nothing to do with it. Even the police department has said 'we don’t view her as an accomplice.'”
He said he hopes people will listen to his family instead of the authorities, who are falsely accusing his sister. Buffett said he wouldn't be surprised if the charges were dropped on Monday. Originally scheduled for Friday, Rachel Buffett's arraignment has been continued to Monday morning in a Santa Ana courtroom.
“We certainly don’t expect this to go far,” he added.
However, authorities paint a picture of a woman willing to lie to investigators to cover up her fiancé’s murders.
According to a statement from the Orange County district attorney’s office, Rachel Buffett fabricated a story about victim Samuel 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."
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 and the next day went to Herr’s apartment in Costa Mesa 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.
Buffett’s attorney Ajna Devi Sharma-Wilson, said her client had no knowledge of the murders. She has filed for Buffett to be released.
“For over two years she has been extremely amicable and voluntarily coming in for all questions,” Sharma- Wilson said. “She actually didn’t know anything about the murders until she was questioned.”
Sharma-Wilson said if charges are pressed, Buffett will plead not guilty.
She argues that the case is more than just one woman’s arrest - it’s about constitutional rights.
“If she’s arrested after cooperating with the police, are we safe to do that?” Sharma-Wilson said. “It’s pretty scary precedent that the police and district attorney are setting."
She said Buffett has had her life wrecked because of the charges and adds that she’s not certain why the district attorney’s office is pressing charges. She said suspect police may have been “overwhelmed with such a high profile case."
The prosecutor could not be reached for comment.
A Disneyland spokeswoman said the company has no comment.
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. Buffett was arrested Nov. 20 and is being held on $100,000 bail.