Friday, June 11, 2010

Dan Wozniak Fooled Us All


In 2005, my two daughters were bitten by the acting bug and auditioned for the cast of “The Music Man,” produced by Orange County Children’s Theater (OCCT). The lead role, the actual Music Man himself, was played by Dan Wozniak. The now-infamous Dan Wozniak. You know . . . the guy from Costa Mesa who just murdered two people in Orange County, California, severing the head and limbs of his first victim without nary a nudge from his conscience, and then shot an innocent woman to cover up his first crime, making it appear as though his first victim killed his second one?

Today, I am angry that I was fooled. I’ve always prided myself on being such a good judge of character, a learned skill that has steered me clear of several potentially bad relationships.

Dan was a great local actor. A rising community theater star, who we have since learned, had staged his entire life. Little did anyone know how eerily good of an actor he really was. The perpetually happy guy with the aw-shucks personality and gentle disposition, the guy who everyone loved and admired – including both my daughters -- was not the gentle soul he pretended to be. Underneath all that fake niceness was a killer. It’s shocking. I mean, who would have known?

Certainly not Brittany, who is undoubtedly counting her lucky stars today. I forgot Brittany's last name, but she was a longtime member of OCCT who starred alongside Dan in a number of shows. Dan and Brittany became an item. Kind of romantic, when you think about it. But what made that pairing so odd that summer-- and a little scandalous, as I recall -- was that Brittany was only 16 years old to Dan's 20 years. I believe they got engaged or were talking about getting engaged. I don't remember. But I do recall some parents thinking, "Isn't that statutory rape?" When I first heard about the heinous murders committed by Dan, my thoughts went immediately to Brittany, whose heart was broken, in the end, by this creep, who was rumored to have cheated on her. If you never got over Dan, Brittney, now would be a good time.

I read somewhere that Dan had told a close confidant, “I always knew I would kill someone someday. I just didn’t know who or when.”

It makes me wonder . . . was Dan harboring those psychopathic thoughts when he was sharing the stage with all those kids from Orange County Children’s Theater those many years? What was he thinking when he put his arms around my two daughters and posed for one picture after the next? As a parent, the idea that I let a psychopathic killer get that close to my children and win my trust gives me the creeps!

Even more disturbing . . . why was a man in his 20s still involved in children's theater??

Dan was ALWAYS smiling and joking around, and I remember walking up to him in the green room once, giving him a hug, and telling him what a nice guy he was and how much I admired his talent and positive energy. About three years later, I ran into Dan at the Verizon store on Beach Blvd. where he had recently become employed. I gave him a hug that I now wish I could take back, and with that animated smile he was so loved for, he told me that he was doing great and dabbling in a little local theater. That was the last time I ever saw cheery ol’ Dan Wozniak.

The last OCCT play my daughters were in was “Once Upon A Mattress,” directed by, who else, but Dan “the ax man” Wozniac. Dan did a brilliant job of directing, and the play got rave reviews. (Well, I don’t really remember if that was true. But I loved it, anyway.) A directorial star was born that opening night, and I had this feeling we’d be hearing a lot more from Dan in the future.

I was right. I just didn’t expect the news to be so grisly . . . and SO disappointing.

48 comments:

Jouda Mann said...

Lynn, I don't like to leave serious comments. I like to be irreverent and funny. When you post serious shit like this, I can't be myself.
That being said, I'm sure you know that you can't beat yourself up over it. Sociopaths tend to have everyone around them. It's even become a joke for standup commedians. Goes something like "When thel killer's neighbor's are interviewed, they always say the same thing: 'he seemed perfectly normal'. That's why, next time you see a perfectly normal guy, take him out"
Ultimately, no one knows what "sets off" a killer.
It's sad that people died, and this guys should get what he deserves.
And the next time I see a "perfectly normal" guy....

Elise said...

Lynn, this is so scary! Unbelievable.

Jouda Mann said...

On a related note, Famous true-crime author has a book called "The Stranger Beside Me", in which she details her friendship with Ted Bundy, before and after his killing spree. You might want to give it a read.

Jouda Mann said...

Well.. I kind of messed that one up, didn't I?
I mean to say the author's name: Ann Rule.

Lynn said...

Jouda,

Thank GAWD you aren't perfectly normal, huh? At least we know that you could never be a sociopath! Maybe my friend was right: There is no such thng as a nice guy.

Thanks for the summer reading tip!

Lynn said...

Thanks for reading, Elise! Sorry I can't make the get-together on Saturday. Congrats on the new house!

Anonymous said...

This story is still so heavy on my mind. Dan was a fellow Karaoke singiner and frequented my show in Los Alamitos where he was always the life of the party... always smiling and such a fun person. You couldn't help but smile or laugh when Dan was around.. He reminded me of the " enzite guy" from the commercials that always had a huge smile on his face. I had texed Dan 2 days before this sad event happened to invite him to my b-day party and he told me he was now living near me in Costa Mesa. I still cannot beleive what he did and am soooo saddened to think that a person I admired could be capable of such a heinous crime:(

Lynn said...

Anonymous,

I know exactly how you're feeling. My mind keeps coming back to Dan, too. Total disbelief. Do you think he was psychopathic all this time, or do you think he caught the Heath Ledger syndrome and simply got too absorbed in the fictitious character he was playing on stage? And is that even a solid legal defense? Maybe Dan just got tired of being Mr. Nice Guy all the time, and wanted to make sure that people knew he was much more complex than the sum of his happy parts.

Anonymous said...

What's really sad is that you people clearly dont have your own lives so you spend your time thinking about someone you shouldnt even be wasting your thoughts on. And then bringing up other peoples names that he dated and was friends with....are we children? You people need to get lives,grow up and worry about your own lives and YOUR safety and well being. Not gossip about others and then post it to the web.

Karma...what goes around comes around and clearly none of you people have any class.

Lynn said...

Anonymous,

This story about Dan isn't gossip. It's national news. I guess the moral of this story is: If you don't want people to talk about you, then don't kill two people in cold blood and then hit the stage a few hours later to perform in the lead role of a play on closing night.

Anonymous said...

Lynn,
Thanks for your information. We now live in WA but have a connection with this story. Its long and detailed, to keep it short, we were involved with another theater group in the same area. Very scary and very sad.

Anonymous said...

I believe that there are enough News Articles to read already...do we need to know another person's opinions?? Really? We all have our comments, we all have our thoughts and opinions on the matter. I too have many, too many for my own liking. I choose to keep them to myself. You mentioned another person in your article, why was she so important to mention and if this article is about someone killing someone, then why mention an innocent child? As a "Mad Mom", I would think you would be careful to keep other children's names quiet. Your last comment to someone was "did you know Dan personally, Did he fool you too?" Why do any of us need to know this information? Why do we all need to constantly play in the gossip sandbox? what does this have to do with what you claim your article intended: reporting a story?

Can't we all just move on?

Lynn said...
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Lynn said...

I write a PERSONAL blog. This is not a page from Newsweek or the New York Times, nor do I ever claim to be "reporting a story" when I publish a post. This is my little piece of real estate on the Internet where I write about stuff that either delights me or bothers the hell out of me. This story about Dan falls in the latter category. I'm not spreading gossip. I'm sharing some insight on my association with a man who directed my children in plays and is now a serial killer. I'm not trying to besmirch Dan's good name. He already did that to himself. And if this "gossip sandbox" bothers you so much, why are you standing in the middle of it? Why don't you take your shovel and pail and go home?

Anonymous said...

Did you even ask Brittney before you aired her dirty laundry on here?

There's blogging, and then there's invasion of privacy.

The latter is what the media does, and I would have thought a concerned parent such as yourself would be above this.

What if it was one of your daughters who dated Dan? Would you at least ASK her before you broad-casted it to the world? Food for thought, ma'am.

Anonymous said...

I AGREE COMPLETLY WITH THE PREVIOUS ANONYMOUS PERSONS RESPONCE! YOU ARE RUDE LYNN AND HAVE NO RESPECT! I TRULLY FEEL SORRY FOR YOU. CLEARLY YOUR LIFE MUST BE VERY BORING. HOW SAD.

Anonymous said...

You are a sad sad woman. End of story. Grow up and go mother your children.

Anonymous said...

I had read that Dan was to be in court on the 8th so I googled him to read the update. Your site came up so I visited and read your blog.

As a mother who also had children in The Music Man I understand why you wrote the piece. The news of Dan's crime confused me and left me numb. I agree with your assessment that he was a extremely nice guy. Unlike you I was not "angry that I was fooled." I also disagree with your comment "underneath all that fake niceness." During Music Man, his actions were truly nice. You are incorrect in debating your initial assessment. What I don't know (and I am not sure even the most schooled doctors know) is whether killers always have it in them all along but have fabulous will power allowing them to be 'nice' for many years or it something snapped him.
So you are not the only one who knew Dan who is trying to figure this out and I can see how blogging about it would be helpful.

I do agree with some of the posters that you should not have mentioned Brittney. Your facts are incorrect to start with: Brittney was not a longtime OCCT member prior to Music Man -- it was her first show with that group. She also did not star alongside Dan in a number of OCCT shows. The only show that they preformed together was Music Man which Brittney appeared as the Major's wife not Dan's love interest. They also did not date or get engaged during the show. It was at the cast party that Brittney and Dan discussed dating. Thus I find it hard to believe that anyone discussed 'statutory rape' during Music Man as they had not begun dating.
As per you discussing Brittney's age although you might be conveying correct comments, you definitely twisted the truth a great deal. Brittney was younger than Dan. She also was an extremely mature and well grounded young lady. She graduated high school in 3 years...I believe she was 16 or 17 at her graduation and when she left the following fall to further her education. I beleive that Dan was 19 in Music Man. OCCT casts kids up to age 19. They also occasionally sponsor a mentor program in which kids in their early 20s are cast in a role. The mentors are young adults who have exhibited strong character and a history of performing in numerous OCCT shows. This program is often used as an educational opportunity for young actors who are interested in becoming directors.

(continued in next comment)

Anonymous said...

(continued)

As a parent, your comment about Brittney being fortunate that she did not have her head severed was out of line. There was no reason to make this comment but cruelty. It reminds me of the high school bullies that you often lobby against. You are at their level. And yes, you can justify it by saying that it is true, which it is, however so would be the comment, "It is lucky for Lynn's daughters that they didn't make the cut and were not cast in any other shows that Dan was in as they might have severed heads now." I know Brittney and her parents and they are all fabulous people that I am very lucky to know.

I also feel it was wrong of you to mention OCCT. You simply could have said 'childrens theatre.' It is if you have a desire to drag down that organization-- possiby because your kids were not cast in a show that they auditioned for. OCCT is a great program that many children have enjoyed.

The crimes are a tragedy. The lives of two innocent people have been ended much too early. My prayers go out to their families. And I hope you (and myself) can some day understand all of this. I also hope you realize that your comments about Brittney and OCCT were mean and unnecessary. They weren't needed to help you try to understand the feeling of 'anger over being fooled.' Bullying in schools is a huge problem and it is a shame that you as a parent also partakes in bullying.

I recall a problem with you during the OCCT shows, not fulfilling your volunteer hours that each family supplied to that kids could satisfy their 'acting bug.' From your blog it seems to me that you spent ample time during the shows 'chatting' with other parents negative comments about the kids. You should have spent your time helping the kids instead of gossiping about them.

I think it is great you have a blog, but please stop including the unnecessary mean items. You need to exhibit responsibility and maturity in your writings.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole thing hit everyone by complete surprise. Dan seems like your typical sociopath that knows how to hide his true nature. I was also in this production of Music Man and let me say that Meredith Wilson was the first person to be butchered in that theater! That being said, Dan was probably one of the better people in that show (although, the person he shared the role with had an amazing voice). He was probably very bitter that he wasn't able to turn his talent into something more lucrative. The jump from community or dinner theater to professional theater is about a mile high. Most of us have to come to terms with the fact that it will probably never happen and even if it does, it'll most likely mean having to travel the country touring with shows or doing cruise ships. Sure sounds like fun when you're in your 20's but not the best career when you're in your 30's and want a family. On the bright side, the death row production of Gypsy is going to be fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Dan engaged to a girl named Rachel? Who's Brittany?
I believe her name is Rachel Buffett. Her name is all over the news and articles as Dan's fiancee who was supposed to marry Dan that weekend he was arrested.

Emily said...

I knew Dan as well. I believe posting in a personal blog about your feelings of being tricked (we all felt a little tricked I think) is totally appropriate. In the news articles more than several of his other ex-girlfriends were named not to mention his fiancee and her family. It is sad, but putting it in a blog without even last names is hardly "airing dirty laundry". And Lynn obviously does has a life, as she's choosing to write about... Anyway. I knew Dan as well back around Music Man days and MYART. There were absolutely no indicators to anyone that I ever saw to show that he was even ever unhappy, much less a murderer. But I think that's because he WASN'T a murderer then. I don't think his behavior was faked or that we were duped. Mental illness often makes a person into two people. Maybe it was fake and maybe it wasn't, but either way it's sad. I really liked Dan. I wanted to date him for a long time, but never did. When I heard about this is was just as if I'd heard about hid death. I screamed, I cried, I denied it. But it's true, and I mourn the loss of his happy face and my memory of him, just as much as I mourn the loss of those poor innocent people he killed. I almost wish I HAD dated him, so that maybe I could have gotten a look inside, to help or at least be warned of what was to come. But we can't keep looking back can we?

Lynn said...
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Lynn said...
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Lynn said...

Goodness! I haven't logged onto my blog in quite some time, as I actually DO have a life, Miss Anonymous (the mean one), after all. Not sure how to respond to all these comments, or if I even need to. They seem to have a life of their own. First off, in retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Brittany's name. And I am sorry, Brittany, if I caused you any pain from it. Not my intention AT ALL! I wasn't being "cruel" in doing so, as someone accused me of. And I barely gave enough detail for her to be identifiable at all. What's funny is that the poster named Anonymous (which one, right?) -- the one who is obviously a board member with OCCT -- gave more detail about Brittany than me in her attack on me. So just in case people didn't know who Brittany is from my post, they certainly do now, thanks to the generous detail provided by Miss Anonymous. While I read your post with some interest and respect for your opinion, you lost all credibility when you started slinging mud at me. I'm a bully?? What would you call your digs at me regarding my alleged lack of volunteer hours and the fact that I am bitter and angry because my children weren't cast in the last play they auditioned for with OCCT? Honestly, how the heck could you know this to be true? I don't even know you, and you don't know me. What a massive, ugly assumption on your part. My daughters were involved in OCCT for about three years, and they loved every minute of it. When they weren't selected for the last show they auditioned for, it was OK with all of us. We were ready to move on to new adventures. We weren't bitter or sad or angry. But rather, happy that we had that experience with OCCT. It's a GREAT organization, and it was a privilege to be part of it. I even wrote a story about it for OC Family Magazine. So please, don't "assume" you know anything about how my daughters and I felt about our experience with OCCT. The mistake you made was thinking that because I wrote what I did about Dan that I was making some kind of connection between OCCT and Dan being a murderer. Never said that, never even suggested that OCCT breeds murderers.

OK, I'm done. Thanks, Emily, for understanding why I wrote the post. I am sorry the news about Dan hit you so hard. Even if you had dated him, as awesome of a person as you sound, I don't think you could have changed him. He is who he is, so don't beat yourself up about it.

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Anonymous said...

Came across this blog. The picture you have posted of Dan is not from OOCT. He played the lead in Music Man at another theater. I did this show with him and Mr. Herr. It is shocking that someone could snap. None of us know what was really going on with him in his mind, only he knows. We don't know if there was a history within his family of mental illness. We can only speculate and condemn. I am shocked as anyone else that he could do that. I knew him as "Mr. Happy Go Lucky". I understand the horrendous nature of this crime but if you knew Dan, it is hard to wrap your head around this and try to figure out what went wrong. I am not defending him, its just too shocking to believe when you have known the 'other' Dan. Crazy scary! btw, your other articles are great :)

Ricky said...

I knew Dan and High school he and his friend Matt were the Abbott and Costello of Drama class. He was one of the few people I can still remember their name from High school and Someone I was looking forward catching up with in at our 10 year reunion. It's so weird thinking that the nice talented guy sitting behind me in class would do something like this. One of the last times i talk to him he said he wasn't going to try to be a professional actor (which at the time I thought was a mistake) but he was going to be a lawyer (talk about cruel irony).I wondered what happened that made him not go to law school? And maybe I don't have a life but I do think about him and his family and the family of his the two lives he killed. But my feelings for Dan are different then yours in the way that I feel sorry for my friend (and yes I still do consider him my friend) because of one huge bad choice he will never again now freedom and the simple joys of life. I really want to find out what prison he's at so I can write him a letter to just let him know he still has a friend

Sarah said...

You may be right about him for the most part but I just want to point out your use of the term "serial killer" when describing him is inaccurate...just because somebody kills more than one person it still doesnt technically make them a "serial" killer...a sociopath probably, a psychopath maybe yes I understand that he killed more than person but you would be surprised how many killers throughout history are actually serial killers...certain criteria has to be met like regarding a persons MO and other factors...

Leana said...

I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I used to go karaoke at this bar called Mr.B's and Dan would show up there a lot to sing. Never really knew him all that well but did have a few conversations with him and the nice hello's of someone you kind of know. I had since moved out of state when my best friend (who's girlfriend runs the karaoke there) called me and told me about all this. I remember thinking that I thought he was Mormon because he seemed like he would never do anything wrong....just this really sweet guy who always wore Hawaiian shirts and sang and seemed like he was always in a good mood. It is creepy how he tricked everyone. It sill makes me sick to think that I ever spoke to him. It still effects me that I check up on his name to see if he is going to jail forever or not or if someone has had an interview with him to see what kind of thoughts roam around in that psychopathic brain of his. I totally know how creeped out you feel.

Anonymous said...

I got to this blog because I googled Dan's name. He was on MSNBC's show "LOCK UP". It seems that this piece of shit is still on stage even in jail. So sorry for the families of the victims.

Paris said...

I fail to understand why a man involved in children's theatre productions is more disturbing to you than the acts of a "serial killer" (which this man, by the way, was not. He allegedly committed a double murder, not a series of murders.). There seems to be some gender bias at work here, as though any man involved in working with children must be a pedophile. Way to uphold those old gender roles and stereotypes!

Anonymous said...

Well now, He just may be a serial killer. The investigation is not over and profilers agree that these are not the actions of a first time killer, that he was seasoned and there are a lot of stories that don't check out in regards to his whereabouts at certain intervals in his life. The story is not over. I'm not saying these things are true and I'm not trying to spread rumors I'm only saying let's not chastize someone for using the words serial killer when it may be all too true. He may have been deficient all along. He may have had true friends who he may never have targeted. I don't know. Hopefully the whole truth will come out and it may answer some questions and create even more. This whole thing has been a shock to anyone who knew Dan and I don't see how writing about it here to vent your frustrations should be bringing a barrage of hate mail. You have the right and I agree that the attack on your initial blog was much more cruel than the blog ever was and all those names that you were being chastized for using were all brought up again in the attack. Doing the same thing they were accusing you of. It's a horrible, horrible thing and people who knew Dan are seeking out information, they found a little more here. Even your attackers were seeking out info on him that must have lead them to your blog. So my advice to them is...stop looking, I doubt you'll find anything positive on the guy. He's a killer.

Lynn said...

Thanks, Anonymous, WHOEVER you are! Nice to have someone see my point of view,for once. And you are so insightful about the naysayers who wrote on my blog: Obviously,they were doing a search on Dan themselves that led them to my blog. Smart cookie, you are!

dropdeadfred said...

Just saw the story on Msnbc...I'm just wondering if the trial is over and if the jury found him guilty or innocent.

Anonymous said...

I new the man that Daniel butchered, I served with him in Afghanistan and for him to do this to a man that watched my back was a friend and a brother to me. I found out what he did while I was stuck in Afghanistan and it is something you can't easily deal with. Not only did he take a brother from me but he took any chance of me showing my respect and being at his funeral. The hate I have for this man is unbelievable. Sorry for this being late to reply just trying to find as much about this case and it was one of the first articles to show up

Anonymous said...

I will tell you what created the monster that is Daniel Woziak.....EVERYBODY ON THIS POST. It was the rich, white, Orange County sub-culture that caused this sociopath to snap. He was broke and surrounded by well-to-do friends that had no idea about the real world problems Woziak was facing. This guy was in debt, being evicted, and had the burden of trying keep up a fake front to marry his fiancee....all the while portraying this upwardly mobile image so he didn't have to suffer the shame of not truly being like all his friends were. I lived in the O.C for 3 of my high school years in both Garden Grove and Fountain Valley.....I hated every second. Coming from a steel town in western Pennsylvania....I was disgusted by the fake, materialist, snobbish, spoiled, rich white cliche that exist there. Chances are that Woziak was so obsessed with constructing a fake image in front of his "friends" that idea of people realizing he was unsuccessful, broke, and so destitute that he couldn't even pay his rent....let alone finance a public wedding in front of all his friends....murder became a completely acceptable solution to his problems. Truth is, Dan probably was so frightened at the prospect of people finding out his failures....AND THE SHAME OF NOT FITTING IN...with the crowd of rich, entitled, and FAKE people that make up the white O.C sub-culture....murder was his only way out. Pat yourselves on the back guys.....this is what happens when what you look like in front of other people becomes more important than what you really are.

kathleen Comfort said...

Daniel Wozniak is my cousin. A Demille. A Comfort. A sad mental health issue our family knows all to well. Im saddened by this entire situation. But just stop. My grandmother recently passed away, and Daniel's mother attended the funeral. She is a wonderful woman. A mother to this monster....Think of her when you feel the need to internet bash. Its absurd. All of it. Everyone is hurt by this. Everyone.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, reading your blog made me sick to my stomach. Such a devastating crime which affected SO many people and you throw in light humor through it all. Don't name names, organizations or names of minors; protect the innocent, please.

Anonymous said...

wow, just watched him on lockup. as far as im concerned lynn has the right to blog anything she damn well pleases. for the person blaming the rich affluant in the area for him causing his crimes... that's just absurd. lynn I think all these "anonymous" people must just be family members in denial. murdering someone aweful in itself but to dismember them... that takes a truly disturbed person!

Anonymous said...

I think he tried to make himself look like the victim in lock up but reading all news articles proved to b different. Justice will render the verdict.

Anonymous said...

I knew Dan when he was in Jr High with my son - they were good friends. His mother seemed like a really nice person and I feel very sorry for all the people involved.

Jennifer said...

I'm blown away that so many people would attack you for your blog post, which was perfectly reasonable. Their comments were nothing but cruel gossip (so it's ironic that they would scold you for gossiping) and it's strange that they chastised you for sharing your thoughts and opinions. That's what a blog is for!

However, I have a brother who works with children, and I will say that I'm tired of and insulted by the insinuation that he is a pedophile simply because of this. It's definitely not more concerning that a man in his 20s was involved in children's theater than his being a murderer. While that statement is hurtful, the many attacks against you were inappropriate and not warranted in the slightest, and I'm sorry you had to read them.