Sadly, February 10, 2019, Linda Sawyer passed away due to complications after a routine surgery*. She left behind her adult twin daughters and her legacy.
Linda began following the case of the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi in 2015 when she visited Southern California. Someone told her that she “had to” look at this case. The case was brutal. A community theater actor killed two innocent people to finance his wedding to a fellow community theater actor and then beheaded one of his victims. The hairs on the back of Linda’s neck stood up. There was something more to this case than what was being reported in the media and Linda had to find out what it was. Linda’s casual interest in the case became a full-on investigation faster than she could say, “Cancel my flight home, I’m staying in Orange County to find the truth in this case.”
Investigative Reporter, Linda Sawyer
Ms. Sawyer was perfect for the task of finding the truth. She had decades of experience working with news media and investigative reporting. Linda was a producer, investigative journalist, and writer for Revel Entertainment. She worked with several networks that include PBS, CBS, ABC, VH1, HBO, and MTV. She has also produced Emmy-winning network specials.
Linda’s credits included producer for an ABC documentary, “Hillside Strangler,” Tribune’s “Now It Can Be Told” episode for Aileen Wuornos, the first woman serial killer who was executed, and several other documentaries and specials. Linda has been featured as a book author on Discovery ID’s “Unusual Suspects” and as a court reporter for Ice-T’s “Ice Cold Murder” on the Oxygen network.
I learned about Linda Sawyer in September 2015. I became social media friends with Steve Herr, the father of murdered victim, Sam, after I confronted Glendele Way-Agle about comments she made on her fan blog for Daniel Wozniak about Sam Herr. I was following the case and I started writing about it because I write and I needed content for my websites so that I could design my own content management system with Drupal.
Steve reached out to me for some Facebook assistance in contacting Glendele and I helped him. He offered to talk to me on the phone and answer any questions I had. I told Steve that I didn’t know how far I would go in my writing about this case. He asked me if I heard of Linda Sawyer. I had not. He said that she was an investigative reporter studying the case and had interviewed over 200 people at that time. I became Facebook friends with Linda after my talk with Steve. We all shared the opinion that Rachel Buffet, the wife-to-be of Daniel Wozniak, had a big role in planning and carrying out the murders but there was not enough evidence for police to charge her with murder.
I went to work on Opinion Jockey, one of my websites that I use for random content and web development. I have had that website up and down several times since 2009, often breaking it with various automated content and advertising experiments. What I was writing about the Sam and Julie murders would be perfect content on OJ. I rewrote my notes into articles and posted them on my website. (Disqus comments often link to moved and removed pages.)
Later, I posted bios for the people who were writing books about the murders. Keith Elliot Greenberg was the first author to write a book, Glendele Way-Agle had her blog and said she was writing a book from Daniel Wozniak’s demented perspective, and Linda Sawyer was writing a book that promised to be the most thorough and authoritave account of the murders and the people connected to the case. The case had unanswered questions and the criminal proceedings for the case raised more questions. Everyone who had anything to say about Linda’s work hoped it would reveal the truth.
Linda Sawyer becomes a Sleuth
Linda reached out to me in June 2018 on Messenger and offered information for her bio that I had started on my website. She sent me her resume and I used that. She shared her book jacket ideas with me and I offered suggestions for her. She also mentioned her new podcast, Sleuth, set to “drop” in September.
I shared with Linda that I do not like it when people get away with murder and I thought Rachel Buffet was getting away with murder. Typical for me, I shared a personal story that connects me to the subject of conversation.
I shared my personal story with Linda that I thought my mother got away with murder in 1989 when her recently ex-boyfriend suddenly died of a heart attack after my mother fixed him dinner. My mother had a habit of getting homicidal with people close to her. She had used arson, vehicular assault, staged assaults, and food poisoning on close family and boyfriends. It was not until I started following the murders of Sam and Julie that several facts fell into place to paint a picture of murder.
My mother often talked about how she liked old television shows and that people would get away with murder in those shows by overdosing their victims with high blood pressure medication so the murder would look like a heart attack. Her ex-boyfriend had recently started high blood pressure medication, my mother fixed his dinner, and he died of a heart attack. Nauseated does not begin describe how that set of coincidences makes me feel.
Linda shared with me in August 2018 that she was in the book about the Swiss nanny, Olivia Riner by Joyce Egginton and that her experience might be a follow up to her next season of Sleuth that had been slated for 10 seasons. She texted to me, “I UNWITTINGLY HELPED THE NANNY GET AWAY WITH MURDER.”
Olivia Riner was a Swiss nanny in the United States who was charged with murdering a baby by setting it on fire. Riner posted in her diary about alternating emotions toward the baby of affection and anger. Linda was a crime TV reporter who was tapped as a resource by Riner’s defense attorney, Laura Brevetti. In Eggington’s book Linda said, “The defense team preyed on my need to have Riner found not guilty.” The defense in the case used Linda’s investigative work and tore the prosecution’s case to shreds by identifying possible third parties who could be responsible, accusing the police of covering up, and tearing holes in the prosecution’s evidence.
As the jury deliberated, Linda asked Brevetti, who was a former federal prosecutor, if she would be able win a prosecution in the case against Riner. Brevetti mapped out the case against Riner point-by-point giving the most compelling and indefensible arguments for Riner’s guilt. Linda was sickened when Riner was found not guilty. The baby’s parents later told the press how they “were shattered that the crowds cheering for Riner’s acquittal could be so cruel at that instant to forget they lost their baby girl in this horrific tragedy.”
Linda went to Switzerland to stay with the Riners. According to Eggington’s book, Kurt Riner was Olivia’s husband and a fire fighter; Linda wondered if Olivia had developed a strange fascination for fire. Linda found a book in the Riner’s home that featured a story of a 20-year-old nanny who sets fire to her employer’s home, seeing herself the heroic rescuer of the children inside. Linda asked Olivia if she read the book and “Olivia seemed disturbed by her question but gave a nod that seemed intended to question the motive of her new American guest whom she thought was her friend. She smiled and said, ‘My American nightmare is over.’”
I felt that Linda and I had an almost kindred sense of wanting justice when people get away with murder, so I valued our social media friendship. We had texted each other in Messenger, sharing various things but many discussions featured Glendele who she called, “Blue Hair” making a reference to something Glen said about herself on her blog. Linda said “Blue Hair’s head would spin” when Dan mentioned Linda. Glen wanted to be first with what she has presented as a “revealing” book and the rumor is that Glen was jealous that Linda’s podcast was first.
An upsetting mood shift
Linda’s mood seemed to change before the podcast’s first episode in September. She was nervous and seemed new to social media. The first episode of Sleuth aired and Linda reached out to me about a negative comment she received on her podcast. She wanted me to respond to the comment. She also discussed another person close to the case who is a Facebook friend of mine. Our discussions about the comment led to an unexpected unraveling of our social media friendship.
I told Linda I wanted to discuss the case on social media and she quickly blocked me from her social media accounts. I saw that the friend that Linda discussed with me also blocked me and I assumed there was a connection. I reached out to my friend and explained what was going on, then we resumed our friendship. Linda’s second podcast episode was an interview with Steve Herr and it went well. The third episode was with Dan’s defense attorney Scott Sanders and it raised controversy.
Families of the victims allege that Scott Sanders violated legal ethics by causing many delays in the case against Daniel Wozniak, however, the Orange County District Attorney’s office had a few delays of its own. Family members also allege other ethical violations by Sanders during the several years criminal prosecution against Dan.
One ethics issue is that Sanders insisted on raising Sam’s acquittal in a gang murder where Sam was also injured by the gang. Prosecutor, Matt Murphy, described Sam as the good person that he was. This is evidence of a person’s good character. Sanders wanted to introduce the acquittal to rebut that Sam had a good character. The prosecutor objected and the judge blocked Sanders from using that case.
Sanders has a reputation for complaining that he could not use Sam’s innocence to rebut Sam’s good character. He claims that when the prosecution presents a victim’s good character in a trial, then the defense can present character evidence to rebut the good character. This is not the law with respect to a victim’s character. Families of the victims have often shared the hurt the feel by what they say are unethical actions of Sanders.
Linda allowed Sanders to share his misstatement of the law on that point and several others without any rebuttal or correction by a competent attorney. During a press conference, Linda was severely chastised by the prosecutor and family members of the victims for letting Sanders have several hours of interview time on her podcast to share his hurtful opinions. Linda defended herself on her podcast and reiterated that she wanted to find the truth about the murders and to get charges filed against more people.
It seemed that many people began disassociating from Linda for personal reasons that were not always shared. With her recent death, it could be possible that she had medical issues impacting her life in ways people did not know. Linda still has the respect of everyone who knew her, even those who shared feelings of being slighted by her. Everyone who got to know her during the past few years is in shock over losing Linda Sawyer. She began a mission to find the truth and to bring justice in the murders of Sam and Julie and now she is gone.
In search of truth and justice
Linda’s podcast revealed many new people to case followers and many new stories about what happened in the lives of people connected to the case before, during, and after the murders. Some of the stories involved the sexual promiscuity of Rachel Buffet, others involved insight and comments about Dan’s brother, Tim, and Rachel’s brother, Noah, then there were plenty of discussions about the lives and attitudes of friends, families, and fellow actors. Sleuth had more than 2 million downloads with its highest rated episode exceeding 400,000 downloads.
Linda armed herself with what she thought was good evidence for a case against Tim and Rachel. She paired up with Steve Herr and they went to the Costa Mesa Police Department and to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to present their case. January 13, 2019, Linda said of her experience with an almost sense of forboding given her sudden death less than a month later, “I hope I accomplished what I set out to do... Yet,the frustration lingers as Costa Mesa Police refuse to meet with me. Makes you wonder why they don’t want to hear about new evidence in the case. Any suggestions welcome. ...”
I shared my suggestions with Linda on my website a week later because she blocked me on social media, so I had no way to contact her. I have since unpublished my letter to her because it is personal and she is gone. At the crux of my suggestions were my observations that her podcast revealed information about what people did after the murders and not of what people were doing to plan the murders. There is speculation of what people could have done to plan and facilitate the murders but there are no facts to support the speculation. I suggested that she find some evidence of what was done and said to prepare for and commit the murders. She never responded and three weeks later she died.
R. Scott Moxley shared on his blog that Linda had a premonition just before her surgery that she would die, so she gave him her work. Moxley is a good writer and perhaps he will pick up where Linda left off. Linda also worked with literary agents and other co-collaborators. In the interest of justice, let us all hope there is some relevant and factual evidence to bring all killers in this case to justice. If there is not, then let us keep looking for the truth and to bring all those responsible to justice.
* People often ask online about the surgery Linda had. Her daughters posted the procedures and they were routine and common (not cancer) for many people of all ages from newborn to old age but surgery is personal, so I will not discuss this.