By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
(USA TODAY) - A Los Angeles-area chef who admitted killing his wife and cooking her body for four days was convicted of second-degree murder.
David Viens, 49, of Lomita had been charged with first-degree premeditated murder of his 39-year-old wife, Dawn, but the jury settled on the lesser charge after about 5½ hours of deliberations over three days, the Associated Press says. Sentencing is set for Nov. 27. He could face 15 years to life in prison.
Dawn Viens vanished in October 2009, and her body has never been found. In February 2011, Viens told his new girlfriend and his daughter that Dawn Viens' death was an accident, then jumped off an 80-foot-high Pacific Ocean cliff at Rancho Palos Verdes after learning he was being investigated.
Hospitalized with multiple broken bones, Viens told detectives in March 2011 that he suspected his wife had stolen money from his restaurant, Thyme Contemporary Cafe, and they had an argument. He said he bound his wife's mouth, hands and feet with duct tape, something he said he had done previously because he "didn't want her driving around wasted, whacked out on coke and drinking," CBS Los Angeles recounts. He said he then went to bed, waking up four hours later to find her dead.
He described in chilling detail how he disposed of her body: "I just slowly cooked it, and I ended up cooking her for four days," according to a recording of the interrogation played in court. Thinking no one would believe the death an accident, he said he packed her body into a 55-gallon drum and slowly cooked it. He poured the rendered remains down his restaurant's grease trap, threw other parts into the trash and hid her skull in his mother's attic. Police never found the skull or other remains.
As an alibi, he told Dawn Viens' family and friends that she had left him. Weeks later, he began dating a waitress at the restaurant.
Viens, who attended the two-week trial in a wheelchair, showed no emotion when the verdict was read. Dawn Viens' sister burst into tears.