A Lomita chef who confessed to killing his wife and boiling her body for four days to dispose of her remains announced Wednesday that he will not take the witness stand to testify at his murder trial.
Asked by Judge Rand Rubin if he did not plan to testify, David Viens, 49, spoke quietly with his attorney before announcing, “Yes, that’s correct.”
Viens, who operated the Thyme Contemporary Cafe on Narbonne Avenue, is charged with killing his 39-year-old wife, Dawn Viens, who was last seen Oct. 18, 2009.
In a startling recording played for the Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Tuesday, Viens confessed to covering his wife’s mouth with duct tape to keep her quiet, panicking when he found her dead four hours later, and then cooking her body in a 55-gallon drum in his restaurant kitchen and discarding her remains in his grease trap.
Some remains, he said, were placed in garbage bags and buried in debris in a trash bin behind the business.
Viens’ attorney, Fred McCurry, announced in his opening statement to jurors that he will present an expert witness who will discuss the side
effects of taking the sleeping medication Ambien. The witness will testify Thursday.
Viens told detectives he took Ambien to sleep on Oct. 18, 2009, the night he bound his wife with duct tape and went to bed.
According to the website WebMD.com, side effects of Ambien include memory loss and “mental/mood/behavior changes,” including depression abnormal and suicidal thought, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, aggressive behavior and anxiety.
“Rarely, after taking this drug, people have gotten out of bed and driven vehicles while not fully awake (`sleep driving’),” the website says.
Others on Ambien have prepared and eaten food, made phone calls or had sex while not fully awake, often not remembering such events, the website says.
Viens’ aunt, Barbara Dwyer, briefly took the witness stand outside the presence of the jury Wednesday and invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked if she gave Ambien to Viens that day. Providing a prescription drug to someone is a felony.
The jury will not hear her testimony.
In his opening statement, McCurry told jurors they should not expect any dramatic or theatrical revelations, and not expect him to present evidence that an intruder killed Dawn Viens.
“You should not expect some kind of bombshell,” he said.
McCurry did not specifically say how he will address the two recorded confessions played for jurors on Tuesday. In the first on March 1, 2011 – a week after Viens jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff in an attempt to kill himself – Viens said he bound his wife with duct tape, awakened to find her dead, put her body in a garbage bag and discarded her in a trash bin.
Viens summoned detectives to his hospital room two weeks later and confessed to cooking the body.
One witness, Charles Negrete, a chef who interviewed for a job with Viens on Oct. 18, 2009, testified Wednesday that he did not hear Viens state, “I’ll kill that bitch.”
A previous witness, Todd Stagnitto, testified for the prosecution that he was at the restaurant with Viens and Negrete that day and heard Viens make the threat.
Negrete said he and Viens went to T.G.I. Fridays and Texas Loosey’s that night to drink.