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Crime & Justice

Chef who confessed to boiling wife's body for 4 days found guilty of murder

Dawn Viens of Lomita.
Dawn Viens of Lomita.
Susan Valot/KPCC
Dawn Viens of Lomita.
A mugshot of David Viens.
L.A. County Sheriff's Department
Dawn Viens of Lomita.
Crews dig up the concrete flooring of Thyme Contemporary Cafe in Lomita, looking for Dawn Viens.
Susan Valot/KPCC

A chef who said he boiled his wife’s body for four days to hide evidence of her death was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday by a Los Angeles jury. The chef, David Viens, had pleaded not guilty.

In a recorded interrogation presented by prosecutors during the trial, Viens, 49, can be heard saying he cooked the body of his 39-year-old wife, Dawn, in late 2009 — until little was left but her skull.

The chef spoke to authorities from a hospital bed in March 2011 after leaping off an 80-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes. Authorities say he jumped after learning he was a suspect in her disappearance

“I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days,” Viens could be heard saying on the recording.

Viens' wife's remains were never found.

Viens, who attended his trial in a wheelchair, said in the interview that he stuffed his wife’s body in a 55-gallon drum of boiling water and kept it submerged with weights.

He said he mixed what remained after four days with other waste, dumping some of it in a grease pit at his restaurant in Lomita, Thyme Contemporary Café, and putting the rest in the trash.

He said he stashed his wife’s skull in his mother’s attic in Torrance. But a search of the house turned up nothing, nor did an excavation of the restaurant.

The trial relied heavily on recorded interviews with authorities in which the chef acknowledged the crime in detail. On the recording played in court, Viens was asked what happened on Oct. 18, 2009, the night his wife disappeared.

He said he had noticed money missing from his restaurant and suspected his wife. They got into an argument, he said, and he forced her onto the floor where he wrapped her up and put a piece of duct tape over her mouth before going to bed. He also bound his wife's feet and hands, according to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office.

He awoke to find her dead four hours later and panicked, he said.

A jury of six women and six men deliberated about five hours before finding Viens guilty.

Viens returns to court Nov. 27 for sentencing, where he faces 15 years to life in state prison.

This story has been updated.