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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  October 20, 2019 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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happen. >> that's all for in edition of "dateline." i'm natalie morales. thank you for watching. of "dateline." thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> how am i doing right now? if i had to put it into one word, numb would be the closest. >> she was a young actress starring in a role of a lifetime, a mystery. >> you never heard a gunshot? >> no. >> one of her friends was dead. >> there has been a body discovered in sam's apartment. >> it's so hard. she was 23. >> another friend was missing and wanted. >> you got a dead woman in his apartment. this guy is potentially very dangerous. >> we were pretty confident he was our guy. >> two mysteries to solve but
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one evasive witness. >> rachel didn't tell us the day before. >> i told the truth to the best of my capability. >> police wondered had another murder been planned? >> they said if you had gone back that day they wanted to kill him. >> did rachel have a secret? >> what do you do? >> i think you know what i did. >> would she keep it? >> this is as diabolical as any case i've seen. >> or was the occur fan. to close? >> they are trying to sail i am somebody i'm not. this is my life. this is my entire future. i'm innocent. hello. rachel buffett and dan wozniak were struggling actors and money was tight and they were in love and about to tie the knot but
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the plans were disrupted when somebody was at their apartment complex. police wanted to know were the actors telling the truth or reading from a script? here is "final curtain." >> hello? >> hi, baby. >> what is going on? what do you want me to do? >> i don't know. >> the woman on the phone was just hours away from walking down the aisle to marry the man on the other end of this call. to pledge her love until death did them apart. >> i'm going to do something right now and you won't see me for the rest of your life. >> reporter: instead she found herself in the middle of a twisted murder plot that would change her life forever. >> what do you do? >> i think you know what i did.
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>> her name is rachel buffett. you may remember her from a story we first reported in 2016 about her then fiance dan wozniak and about two families in search of the truth. >> i know a lot of answers now. a lot more than i had the last time we met. >> reporter: now "the final curtain." >> i believe with all of my heart they were trying to get me back and daddy killed me. >> there are things that people need to know and need to be said. >> reporter: the question what would you do for love? we will get to all of that. first, let's go back to where this story began. orange county, california. not too far from the coast you'll find the camden martinek apartments. >> we had pools and hot tubs and where everyone wanted to be. >> reporter: back in 2010,
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violet lived there with her hen thus. they met a 20 something couple named dan wozniak and rachel buffett. >> a couple that is a little more mature and wine drinkers as opposed to the hard liquor drinkers and thought them, perfect. how could we go wrong? >> reporter: rachel and dan act inside community theater and how they met on stage and a few years later that is how they became connected. >> he was my best friend. >> reporter: you thought what? >> i don't want to lose my best friend. >> reporter: were you in love? >> shortly after we moved in together that's when i realized, oh, yeah, i am in love with this person. >> reporter: and when he proposed, she said yes. they moved to camden martin technique, four months before their wedding date. life wasn't easy. >> throughout our whole
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relationship, money was always somewhat of an issue. >> reporter: rachel picked up work here and there, once she said as a princess at disney land. then worked sometimes two, but nothing steady. >> they kind of seemed to struggle financially a lot. you know, if anything, you kind of felt vor for them because they seemed like they were so excited to get married and start their life together. >> reporter: and at the apartments, they settled right in. >> it got to the point where everybody was hanging out with each other, like, every night. >> reporter: part of that circle was 26-year-old sam hare who fought in afghanistan as an army veteran and came home to california. >> there are things that set sam apart there. he seemed more responsible. >> reporter: sam was intent on earning his college degree and that is how he met julie. julie helped sam with his school work. >> she got after him if he
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wasn't studying because his grade reflected her tutoring so she took it very seriously. >> reporter: julie's mom june. >> she told me about sam. he is like a big teddy bear and always nice to everybody and we get together at his place a lot of times. >> reporter: julie, who lived at home, got to know everyone at the complex and rachel connected with julie. they were both dancers. >> we had, like, done some ballet moves in our bathing suits at the pool and talked about how we should take a couple of dance classes together. >> reporter: that chance never arrived. on friday, may 21st, 2010, julie was at home with her mom. >> i was cooking in the kitchen and she said, bye, mom, i'm leaving. >> reporter: sam had been
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texting julie throughout the day. as always, julie was ready to help. she went to sam's place. the next morning, june realized julie had not come home. >> i started to feel like, okay, this is something wrong. >> reporter: across town, sam's parents steve and raquel worried because they couldn't get a hold of their son. >> i drove down there. knocked on the door, no answer. i had the key to his apartment. i slowly walked in there. >> reporter: and that is when he saw it. >> what the hell just happened? what is going on here? i freaked out. >> what had happened in sam's
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apartment. >> coming up. >> my phone rings and it's my husband asking me if i'm okay and, yes, why? he said, track down everybody. >> but not everybody could be found. >> he's missing at the. had been accused of this before and you think this guy is potentially very dangerous. >> when ""dateline"" continues. s fight for blast offs fight for piggyback rides fight for 7 am makeouts. every year, walgreens helps millions of people fight the flu. fight to protect the ones you love. walgreens. be a flu fighter. get your free flu shot today at your neighborhood walgreens.
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tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems, such as eye pain or vision changes, or a parasitic infection. if you take asthma medicines, don't change or stop them without talking to your doctor. so help heal your skin from within, and talk to your eczema specialist about dupixent.
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>> there's a body in my son's apartment. >> there's a what? >> a body. a dead body. >> a dead body. is it someone that you know, sir? >> no, i have no idea who she is. does your son know who it is? >> he's not here. jesus, honey. >> reporter: after sam herr's dad, steve, called 911, the news spread quickly at camden martinique. >> my phone rings and it's my husband, asking me if i'm okay. and i -- "yes, why?" he said, "there's been a body discovered in sam's apartment. track down everybody." >> reporter: rachel and dan had just returned from the theater where they were co-starring in a play. >> dan's, you know, wondering, "was i the last one to see sam? oh my god. oh my god." and rachel is sitting on the chair next to me. and she's squeezing her head. and she's got a terrible headache. >> all of your new best friends that you hang out with every day, one of them's missing. a body was found in one of their apartments. this is something that, like, was affecting the whole atmosphere.
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>> reporter: costa mesa police detective ed everett responded to the call. >> we have a twenty-something-year-old female on the bed. and she's in a position that appears that she was sexually assaulted. >> reporter: police soon id'd the victim, sam's tutor and friend, julie kibuishi. they had to tell julie's parents. >> i think i was screaming like, "no. no, that's not my daughter. no. it's not my daughter." >> reporter: julie had been shot twice in the head. her pants were down and someone had written on her sweatshirt the words "all yours f you." police found julie's phone in the apartment and saw those weird texts sam had sent her. they learned about his combat tour and how sam sometimes had night terrors. and when police searched his name in their database, they found something sam's friends already knew. >> he had done some jail time.
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>> reporter: back in 2002, at 18, sam herr was charged in the murder of another teenager. he was acquitted. but sam's dad knew that in hindsight, it didn't look good. that doesn't buy you a lot of rhythm from law enforcement? >> no, and i understood that. that's why it was imperative to start looking immediately. >> reporter: steve wanted to find his son, to prove he was innocent. orange county prosecutor matt murphy also wanted to find sam quickly for entirely different reasons. >> you got a dead woman in his apartment. yet he's missing. and then you factor in afghanistan. and you start thinking, "okay, he's -- he's a trained killer. he'd been accused of this before." and you think, "okay, this -- this guy is potentially very dangerous." >> reporter: the detectives and the dad hunted sam independently but on parallel tracks. detectives spoke with sam's neighbors. >> i saw sam that day and had a short conversation with sam. >> reporter: rachel and dan said
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sam was with another man they didn't know, a man in a black hat. it seemed a potential lead. meanwhile, steve found there were recent transactions on the bank account he and sam shared. the trail led to long beach where sam's atm card was used to order a pizza. cops staked out the delivery address. >> guns out and ready -- ready to hit it like someone that committed a murder's inside. >> reporter: and that someone is sam herr. >> yes. >> reporter: except it wasn't. instead the cops found this guy, 17-year old wesley freilich. >> sitting in front of officers of the law handcuffed, i'm obviously literally -- i'm sorry. i can't say -- g-rated. but my balls are inside of me. i was -- myself. and i was nervous as all hell. >> reporter: wesley told police he had no idea who sam herr was. he got the atm card, he said, from a guy he knew who told an elaborate story.
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>> that he worked for a bail bondsman agency. and that he wanted me to withdraw money from an atm for legal reasons. >> reporter: wesley said he believed the guy because it was a fellow actor he looked up to, rachel buffet's fiance, dan wozniak. >> coming up. detectives want to talk to dan. >> what's going through my head is shock. this is probably a huge mistake. >> and dan has quite a story to tell. >> she said no. and then he just shot her twice in the head. >> reporter: when dateline continues. great! here you go... well, it does need to be a vehicle. but - i need this out of my house. (vo) with fair, transparent value for every trade-in... enterprise makes it easy.
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welcome back. police believe sam herr murdered julie in cold blood' went on the lamb and all-out manhunt and when the story took a turn. the detectives discovered that dan wozniak might be wrapped up in the mystery. now they were about to bring dan in for questioning where he would make an administratission change the entire investigation. >> reporter: detectives on the hunt for their prime suspect, sam herr, traced his atm card to rachel buffett's fiance, dan wozniak. they found him at his bachelor
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party. >> immediately when he saw me, he turned pale. you could see the blood just draining from his face. >> reporter: detective everett hauled dan to the station and charged him with accessory to julie's murder. dan seemed eager to come clean. he told police sam confessed to him that while drunk and on drugs, sam asked julie for sex. >> she said no, and then he just shot her twice in the head. i'm really like, "you're -- you're totally -- with me right now." like, julie's -- julie's, like, a friend. >> reporter: and then, dan said, sam threatened him and his wife-to-be, rachel buffett. so dan agreed to help sam escape. according to dan, sam offered him money, and dan took it to help pay for his wedding. but as to the anonymous man in the black hat, dan had a confession to make. >> he doesn't exist. that's a lie. that's 100% proof lie. >> reporter: detectives went to the camden apartments to tell
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rachel dan was in custody. >> what's going through my head is shock. this is probably a huge mistake. this gonna be dropped and everything in time for the rehearsal dinner tomorrow night? >> reporter: detectives didn't fully believe dan's story, so they brought rachel in to see him. she's on the side of the angels when you put her in that room, thinking, "she's gonna get daniel to tell me everything?" >> that was our goal. >> so when was the last time you really saw sam? >> reporter: dan told rachel the same story he'd told detectives. sam killed julie, and then dan helped sam escape. >> there's nothing he can do at this point to -- >> sure, absolutely. >> -- make it better? >> absolutely. he can -- >> sure, sure. be truthful with us and truthful with you and truthful with everyone. >> reporter: then detectives spoke with rachel alone. rachel told them she and dan had received an eviction notice. dan had to borrow money to make the rent. she said dan had told her only recently that he'd borrowed the money from dangerous people.
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>> he told me the people were gonna come break his legs, and he was scared out of his mind. >> reporter: she said on the day dan was supposed to pay the leg breakers $2,200 or else, sam stopped by. >> he came down to the apartment because he was gonna give dan a ride. >> reporter: she said dan and sam left together. then dan came back alone, but with money. >> he had $400 somehow on friday. >> reporter: rachel said she couldn't believe that dan was somehow mixed up in julie's murder. is that when you start to think to yourself, "this guy that i'm about to marry is somebody that i don't even know"? >> i was still thinking that i knew his heart. and those crimes that he was saying that he did, at least that still lined up with someone who would do anything to help somebody in need. >> didn't he tell you about this? did he tell you his involvement?
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know anything about this? >> hells, no. >> reporter: in the early morning hours, detectives drove rachel back to the apartments. >> and i go to my friend's and knock on the door. and then at that point, just start bawling. >>and she's shaking violently. and she says, "dan's been arrested." and she's just a mess. >> reporter: with vylet at her side, rachel went to her parents' home to tell them dan was in jail and the wedding was off. >> and my mom's just -- she's lost it. she can't speak. >> reporter: the day was about to get a lot more traumatic. back at the police station, dan asked to speak with detectives again. and this time he said something that blew the case wide open. >> i'm crazy and i did it. >> you did what? >> i killed julie, and i killed sam. >> reporter: you didn't see that coming. >> no. >> reporter: dan wozniak suddenly confessed that he didn't help sam herr. he killed him.
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dan said they drove to a theater where he'd performed, and dan asked sam to help move something from the attic. >> and when he bent down, i grabbed the gun. i shot him once and then he was still alive. >> reporter: so, wozniak said, he fired again. >> he started bleeding. he wasn't moving. he wasn't talking. >> reporter: dan then drove to a different theater later that evening to appear on stage with rachel in the musical "nine. in this video of the performance, dan showed no signs of stress as he played the starring role. dan told police that during the show, he had texted julie from sam's phone, pretending to be sam. after the play, dan said he went to sam's apartment and lured julie into sam's bedroom.
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>> i said, "lean over. look at it right there." when she was leaned over, i put two bullets in the back of her head. >> reporter: dan admitted scrawling those nasty words on julie's back and to splitting her pants with a pair of scissors. the next day, he said he disposed of sam's body and then gave another pitch-perfect performance captured on videotape. detectives asked why. >> and your motive behind killing sam was? >> money and insanity. >> money and insanity. >> reporter: sam had more than $60,000 in the bank, his saved-up combat pay. and julie kibuishi? dan said he killed her to cover his tracks and to frame sam. >> this is as diabolical as any case i've ever seen. >> reporter: police delivered the news to sam's parents. their son had been murdered. >> and for whatever reason, i said, "at least he wasn't dismembered." okay? the next morning, i get a call.
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"steve, before you find out, we just wanna let you know sam was dismembered." and that -- that's when i just lost it. >> reporter: dan wozniak was charged with two counts of first degree murder. the news hit the wire. and at the police station, the phone rang. the caller had a story to tell, one that cast a whole new light on dan's leading lady, rachel buffett. >> coming up -- a witness. >> something was terrifying in the feel of the room. i just wanted out of there. >> and a new suspect. >> we were shocked to learn it. we went back and said, "hey, you know, rachel didn't tell us any of this the day before." >> when "dateline" continues. ely street of dreams ♪ ♪ here i go again on my---
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a rare reversal from president trump now saying 2020 summit will be held at his golf
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club after a decision to use doral a clear review of the president to enrich himself with taxpayer money. bernie sanders had a rally this weekend after facing a heart attack last month. sanders told the crowd i'm more than ready to assume the office of the president of the united states. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm natalie morales. dan wozniak confessed to police he shot sam herr for her money and point police toward sam after he killed him. now a witness was about to step forward with information that would push dan's fiancee rachel
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to center stage. >> california draws people who want to perform. >> it sure does. everyone's kind of pursuing the same dreams. >> reporter: chris williams moved from canada to california for school. >> i ended up falling in love with jazz music and falling in love with california. so i've been down here 20 years and perform, and love it. >> reporter: in early 2010, chris was undergoing some serious health problems. the working musician didn't have insurance, so his friends organized a benefit concert. >> couple thousand people showed up. it was pretty amazing. >> raising money to keep you healthy? >> yeah, yeah. >> and it worked. here you are. >> it did. it sure did, and it changed my whole life. >> reporter: chris, who'd been keeping to himself, began to socialize again.
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and he met two struggling young actors, dan wozniak and rachel buffett. dan was very charming? >> he was very open, and personable, and i felt like we had a lot in common. and rachel was obviously beautiful and they were just very welcoming to me. >> reporter: chris soon learned his new friends had financial troubles, and he offered to help by lending them money. >> all my friends had just done this big benefit for me, so -- >> time to give back? >> yeah. >> reporter: chris also wanted to make sure that he got his money back, so chris told a story that was 100 percent false. >> so i said, "well, i can't lend you the money personally, but i know some people i could get it from, but they're not good people, so we got to get it back." >> reporter: he lent dan and
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rachel $2,000 catch. dan promised to pay him back by the end of the week, friday, may 21st. on the appointed day, chris drove to dan and rachel's apartment. who's there besides dan and rachel and you? >> i didn't know his name at the time, but it was sam. >> reporter: dan left with sam and told chris to hang back with rachel. >> and in my mind this is going to be, like a ten minute -- ten minute thing. >> reporter: meanwhile, said chris, rachel seemed stressed. >> she's on the computer trying to look for other work and ways to get money. >> reporter: three hours later, dan wozniak returned without sam. >> and he throws his $400 down right in front of me. he's like, shaking, and there's this, like wild look in his eyes. and he's, like breathing almost like this, like giant panic attack. and i'm sitting there and i go, "hey, like, everything's okay, man. like, everything's okay." and he's like --
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[ sighs ] and he slumps down in the chair. and i said, "are -- is this every penny that you have?" >> reporter: chris says he handed dan a 20 dollar bill. and he also noticed that rachel was visibly angry. >> things were tense. >> so that relationship was like a clenched fist? >> yeah, i mean, something was terrifying in the feel of the room. i just wanted out of there. >> reporter: he left. and about 20 minutes later, says chris, rachel called. >> and rachel goes, "i think you left a $20 here. i think you dropped some money. you should come back." and i said, "i'm not coming back. i didn't drop a $20. i left a $20 so you guys could get dinner." and she goes, "no, no. you should come back." >> reporter: chris did not return. a week later, as he was getting ready to attend dan and rachel's wedding, he heard about the
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murders of sam and julie, and realized they happened on the same day as his weird meeting with dan and rachel. chris immediately called police. >> we were shocked to learn it. and again, we went back and said, "hey, you know, rachel didn't tell us any of this the day before." >> reporter: so detectives interviewed rachel again, this time not as a witness, but as a suspect. >> why don't you tell me why you forgot to tell me about this? >> because honestly i was afraid that if you knew that chris had seen us that day, i don't know who chris knows, and i don't know if chris knows anybody bad. i'm kind of afraid. >> did you think we were not going to find out? >> they'll come to me. >> we were going to find out? >> i guess not. i'm a little bit afraid for my safety. >> reporter: remember, chris had told dan and rachel the money he lent them came from other
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people -- dangerous people. so was it her safety that rachel was worried about? detectives didn't think so. >> she's given herself more time to think about what she's going to tell us when she has to tell us that. >> and she's protecting dan? >> she's protecting herself and dan. >> reporter: they asked her to take a voice stress analyzer, a kind of lie detector. rachel agreed, and the cops hit her with an aggressive question. >> did you plan the murder with dan? >> no. >> reporter: the results came quickly. >> coming up -- is the curtain is about to close on rachel? >> i think she may have been present when julie was killed. i don't think julie would've gone into the apartment with daniel by himself. >> when "dateline" continues. "da safe sleep aid. and the 12-hour pain relieving strength of aleve. so...magic mornings happen. there's a better choice. aleve pm.
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steven could only imaginem 24hr to trenjoying a spicy taco.burn,
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now, his world explodes with flavor. nexium 24hr stops acid before it starts for all-day all-night protection. can you imagine 24-hours without heartburn? thenot actors, people, who've got their eczema under control. with less eczema, you can show more skin. so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema,
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or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin. and, had significantly less itch. that's a difference you can feel. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis, which is severe. tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems, such as eye pain or vision changes, or a parasitic infection. if you take asthma medicines, don't change or stop them without talking to your doctor. so help heal your skin from within, and talk to your eczema specialist about dupixent.
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welcome back. chris williams had just told variation about a bizarre. chris loaned dan money own the day he came to collect he said the feeling in the room was terrifying. turns out that was the same day that julie and sam had been killed. rachel never told police about the meeting with chris, so now they wanted to know why. here is" final curtain." >> reporter: a reluctant rachel buffett took a voice stress analyzer. the results were less than encouraging. >> i gave you three tests today.
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okay? all three are deceptive. >> i know my stories and timelines are kind of juggled up because my mind is not there right now. i'm trying to remember everything i can. i've told you guys everything i know. i'm completely innocent. >> reporter: maybe. now detectives smelled blood. they circled back to that friday, when dan left with sam and came back without him. >> he's gone for three hours, and he comes back having a heart attack. >> yeah. >> we know he's out killing sam at that point. >> i thought he was just overreacting because he thought he was afraid of loan sharks and getting hurt. >> reporter: rachel insisted she had known nothing about the murders until dan confessed to them. detective ed everett had suspected otherwise from the moment he'd brought her into the interrogation room to see dan. >> what happened? >> he killed julie. >> why? >> it was almost like they were looking at each other, feeding
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off each other and she was waiting for her next line. >> reporter: remember, rachel and julie had been friends. her reaction when she heard what sam supposedly did to julie did not seem to match that. >> i'm sorry that i'm not the kind of person who just goes berserk and loses their mind when they hear this, and i just sit there in shock and soak it in. >> you weren't in shock. you weren't in shock. >> reporter: the young actress was not convincing her audience. everett learned dan had called rachel from jail before his confession. the jail, of course, recorded those calls. >> babe, um, listen to me. i'm gonna go do something right now, and you're not gonna see me for the rest of your life. do you understand that? >> no! no! >> she doesn't say, "what is it?" her response is "no, no, no." i think she realizes that her
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world has the -- the potential to come crashing around her. >> reporter: in other words, maybe rachel already knew what dan had done and what he might tell detectives. or was it just that rachel was figuring things out? >> what did you do? >> i think you know what i did. >> were you the one that killed them? >> reporter: dan didn't answer that. instead he asked rachel to come down to the station so she could be present when he spoke with detectives. as she drove, dan continued to call her. >> why did i do it? why? [ crying ] >> i love you, baby. you are so insane and so stupid. but i know in your twisted little mind you were doing it because you wanted to be happy with me. and i hate you for screwing it
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up. >> reporter: as rachel got closer to the station, she was in tears. >> i love you, sweetie. i'll be right there. okay? >> reporter: before rachel arrived, dan sat down with detectives and confessed to the murders. then he called rachel again and told her what he'd done. >> i shot him two times in the back of the head. and then i grabbed his credit cards, and i grabbed wesley, and we took money out of his account. >> how -- how's wesley involved? how'd you get him involved and why? >> reporter: rachel didn't seem to react. instead, she asked about dan's unwitting accomplice, wesley. and when dan described killing julie, rachel continued to focus on details. >> i opened up the door of sam's apartment, shot her twice in the back of the head. >> how did nobody hear the gun? >> i don't know. i got lucky.
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>> reporter: detectives wondered, did rachel know about the murders before they even happened? and, more disturbing, did she participate? >> i think she may have been present when julie was killed. i don't think julie would've gone into the apartment with daniel by himself. >> reporter: hard even for a homicide detective to imagine. >> you don't look at a disney princess as a hardened, cold-blooded, callous murderer. >> reporter: of course, thinking it and proving it were two different things. and perhaps rachel was just another victim of dan's murder plot. there was no physical evidence placing her at the scene of either murder. she and dan both insisted she didn't know about them in advance. >> two years into the investigation, we made a determination. we didn't have enough to charge her for murder. >> reporter: instead, on november 20th, 2012, rachel was arrested and charged as an accessory to murder after the fact.
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the only case against her is that she didn't tell the truth? >> that's right. >> reporter: according to the d.a., rachel lied about two important figures in the case -- the man in the black hat who wasn't there, and the jazz musician, chris williams, who was. you did catch daniel. you did find out about chris. so what effect did rachel's lies really have? >> so yes, in the end, we got some heroic police officers who solved the case anyway. but is it okay for her to lie to the police? the law says no. >> reporter: like police, sam and julie's parents also thought rachel was more involved than she was letting on. >> they are, like, literally 24/7 together. how could you not know if your fiance committed that kind of a crime and how could you not notice?
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>> i wanted them to charge her with murder. but i'm not the one who has to prove it to everybody. that's not my job. >> reporter: rachel pleaded not guilty. she posted bail and was released. >> yeah, i'm still in shock, disbelief. >> reporter: later that day, she held a press conference. >> are you saying you're innocent? what are you saying? >> i'm completely innocent. >> reporter: she was willing to bet that a jury would agree. >> coming up -- rachel on trial. >> reporter: you an honest person? >> i think so. >> there is not a doubt in my mind that rachel knew. >> when "dateline" continues. >>s it can cause damage to the enamel. with pronamel repair toothpaste, we can help actively repair enamel in its weakened state. it's innovative. with pronamel repair, more minerals are able to enter deep into the enamel's surface. the fact that you have an opportunity to repair what's already been damaged...it's amazing. i think my go-to toothpaste
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welcome back. dan wozniak confessed to the murders of sam and julie. he also told police he acted alone. there was no physical evidence tying dan's fiancee rachel buffett to either killing but detectives believed she had lied to them to protect dan. now the couple, once of toast of their community circle theater, face separate trials. would two grieving families finally learn the truth? here is the conclusion of "the final curtain." >> reporter: in december 2015, five years after sam and julie's murders, the lives of two young actors was playing out, not on stage, but here in court. dan wozniak went on trial first.
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it didn't take long for a jury to convict him of murder and sentence him to death. he is appealing his conviction. sam and julie's parents confronted their children's killer. >> you dan are a coward and a poster boy for the need of the effective death penalty in california. my only regret is that in this state, won't let me kill this coward myself. >> you took advantage of my daughter's kindness and her care for her friend. you took her precious life. and then you disgraced her by pulling off her pants? to you, my daughter was just a decoy, nothing else. >> reporter: the spotlight then turned to rachel buffett. she faced a felony charge, accessory after the fact. police and prosecutors don't believe you were honest with them.
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>> uh-huh. >> reporter: were you honest with them? >> i was. i know my heart. and god knows my heart. and that's my comfort is god's in control. and god knows i'm innocent. >> reporter: you an honest person? >> i think so, to the best of my capabilities. i told the truth to try to help the police get to the bottom of things. my heart was always in the right place. >> reporter: dan kills sam. dan disposes of sam's body. dan lures julie to sam's apartment, using sam's phone. dan kills julie. during all that time, you never suspect a thing? >> not a thing. >> reporter: in september 2018, eight years after the murders, the aspiring actress went on trial accused of lying to protect the man she loved. >> this is my name. this is my life. this is my entire future. and i have nothing to hide. and i'm innocent. >> reporter: some of her former friends did not agree.
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vylet testified against her. >> knowing all the details that they unraveled and the lies over time, and looking at her and going, "how dare you?" >> reporter: vylet told the jury that the night they learned sam had disappeared, while dan was wondering if he was the last person to see sam. >> rachel is telling dan to, "shut up. shut up. that's not what happened, dan. your messed up memories are screwing up my story." >> reporter: the jury also heard from chris williams, the jazz musician who spent hours with rachel the day of the murders. and like detectives, chris thinks rachel was an accessory before the murders, not just after them. >> there is not a doubt in my mind that rachel knew. >> reporter: ahead of time? >> not a doubt. >> reporter: chris also came to believe that when rachel called him that day and asked him to come back to the apartment, it was not to return his $20. >> that's what the police told me.
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they said, "if you would have gone back that day, they wanted to kill you." >> reporter: because you're a loose end? >> what i believe is that when dan got back rachel said, "chris saw you with sam." >> reporter: of course, that was suspicion and not evidence. the trial focused on false statements rachel made to detectives, statements her attorney david medina argued were easily explained. >> anyone who's ever experienced planning a wedding knows the extreme pressure and stress that goes along with that. >> reporter: add murder to that equation, he said, and then an arrest of rachel's soon to be husband. the incredible stress that she was under with all of these things occurring, is it possible she's not entirely accurate about certain things? of course it is. >> reporter: rachel's actions could be explained, he said. but dan wozniak's could not. >> wozniak is a monster.
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he's a psychopath. he's a pathological liar. what he did to those two is unthinkable. but rachel had nothing to do with that. >> reporter: yes, she did, said prosecutor matt murphy, she lied, trying to help dan get away with murder. >> everything that mr. medina just said about daniel wozniak is accurate. he is a pathological liar. he is a monster. but he's her little monster, she knows him. and all of this stuff goes on right under her nose. >> reporter: the jury took five hours to reach a verdict. >> we the jury in the above entitled actions find the defendant rachel may buffett, guilty. >> and when you heard the sounds of the clicks of the cuffs, to me, it was a sweet sound because her arrogance and her lies are now caught up with her.
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>> reporter: sam and julie's parents spoke at rachel's sentencing. >> as part of my son's body lie dead and dismembered in the attic of a los alamitos theater, rachel buffett was spreading lies. as julie kibuishi was lying in my son's apartment, rachel buffett was deliberately deceiving the police, attempting to throw them off the trail of her lover, dan wozniak. >> to me, you and that monster are two peas in a pod. you're both self-centered and truly heartless. i hope you'll live every day regretting your disgusting decisions. >> reporter: the judge sentenced rachel to 32 months behind bars. it was the final scene of this real life drama. chris williams always wondered -- should he have seen the warning signs? could he have stopped the murders from happening? >> i spent all those years wishing i could of done
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something. and then i walked out and went, i did, i did something. i did something to help. that's what i wanted. >> reporter: what two families wanted were some answers and some relief from their pain. those answers finally came. >> i'm pretty much satisfied with the answers right now. never prove everything 100%, josh. but i'm not gonna get much more >> reporter: unfortunately, the criminal justice system has never doubled as a grief therapist. some wounds are too great to be healed in a courtroom. >> and the day that she left the door and then her voice and what she was wearing and, you know, i'm getting old and you forget a lot of stuff. but those things, i just -- >> not that. >> i don't want to forget her, forget, you know, that image and her voice and -- it's hard.
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no matter how many years pass by. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm natalie morales. thank you for watching.

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