California theater actor convicted of killing veteran, friend

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[December 17, 2015]  LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California community theater actor was found guilty on Wednesday of killing his neighbor in a plot to drain his bank account, then slaying the man's friend to try and cover up the crime, according to court records and media reports.

The Orange County jury that convicted Daniel Wozniak, 31, will now decide whether he should face the death penalty for the murders, court records show.

Wozniak had sought to steal thousands of dollars from his neighbor, Army veteran Samuel Herr, 26, when he lured him from his Costa Mesa home in 2010 and fatally shot him, cutting off his head and arm and dumping the body parts in a Long Beach park, the Orange County Register reported.

Hours after Wozniak killed Herr, he performed in a musical and a local community theater, the newspaper said.

In an attempt to cover up the murder, prosecutors said Wozniak shot and killed Herr's friend, Juri Kibuishi, 23, hoping police would believe the Army veteran had acted in a jealous rage and then fled, the Register said.

During the trial, prosecutors said Wozniak was deeply in debt and trying to fund his wedding when he targeted Herr, who had $62,000 saved up from his service in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Wozniak, who was represented by public defenders, had unsuccessfully sought to get the possibility of a death sentence taken off the table.

The penalty phase is set to begin Jan. 4, court documents said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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