A Lomita chef accused of killing his wife whose body has never been found told detectives that he slowly cooked his her for four days in a 55-gallon drum, boiling her body in water and discarding her remains in his restaurant’s grease pit, according to a taped confession played in court.
David Viens, 49, said he hid his wife Dawn Viens’ skull and jawbone in his mother’s attic, but a detective said he could not find it.
Viens revealed the grisly details of how he disposed of his wife’s body when he summoned detectives to his hospital room at County-USC Medical Center on March 15, 2011, three weeks after he jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff in a suicide attempt as detectives closed in.
Jurors read a transcript as Viens’ recorded statement was played at his murder trial in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles. Viens, sitting in his wheelchair, appeared to stare straight ahead.
“I manipulated her so the face was – the face is down, and I took some – some things – like weights that we use, and I put them on the top of her body, and I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days,” Viens said.
“You cooked Dawn’s body for four days?” sheriff’s homicide Sgt. Richard Garcia asked.
“I cooked her four days,” he said. “I let her cool. I strained it out as I – I was in there, OK.”
Viens is charged with killing his wife, who was last seen Oct. 18, 2009.
Viens’ confession revealed details about the final hours of Dawn Viens’ life.
Viens said he had just worked 100 hours in his first week at his new restaurant, the Thyme Contemporary Cafe
on Narbonne Avenue. He went to bed tired on Oct. 17, 2009.
His wife, he said, had been using cocaine and drinking and he did not want anything to do with it. He went to bed.
When he awakened Oct. 18, 2009, he found her watching football, eating pizza and drinking beer.
Viens said he checked the restaurant’s cash receipts and found “a lot of money” was missing. He double-checked his math at his mother’s house and returned home. That night, he and Dawn ate at California Pizza Kitchen, and he went out drinking with a friend. Dawn called him, upset.
When he got home, he took an Ambien and moved a bureau in front of a door so his wife could not enter the room. But she was able to get in anyway, and raised hell with him, he said.
“So, I’m laying there and the next thing I know, she’s all over me and she’s got the light in my face, calling me all kinds of mean names and stuff,” he said. “And I keep telling her the same thing, `Just leave me alone. I just need to sleep.
I just need to sleep. Just let me sleep.”‘
Viens told detectives he got up, grabbed his wife by both hands and forced her onto the living room floor.
“I wrap her hands up real quick,” Viens said. “I wrap her feet up real quick, and I take a piece of clear duct tape – wrapping tape – and I put that over her mouth. And that was it. I said, `Good night.”‘
Viens said he awakened four hours later. Dawn was dead.
“I’m like `Dawn,”‘
Viens said. “I just freaked. I go, `Oh my God. And I go rushing out there and she’s gone.”
Viens said he asked himself how this could have happened.
“I obviously can’t bring her back to life,” Viens told detectives. “And – but what can I do? What can I do? What can I do? And that’s when I came up with the idea of cleaning the grease traps and commingling in the excess protein in those units. If you ever really looked at that, you would see where we mix up real good.”
Viens was not asked where the boiling took place, but it was implied it was at the restaurant where the grease pit was located. Restaurants use the equipment to collect used cooking grease and oil, which is later sucked away by a disposal company.
Viens said he poured seven or eight pounds of grease from the drum into his grease trap using a trash bag.
Viens told detectives he took his wife’s skull and jaw in one piece and hid it in the attic of his mother’s Torrance home.
“The whole skull and jaw came out in perfectly one piece,” he said. “That’s the only thing I didn’t want to get rid of in case I wanted to leave it somewhere.”
The rest of the remains were placed in trash bags and buried in debris in the trash bin behind his restaurant, Viens said.
“That’s the God’s honest truth,” he said.
In the earlier confession played for jurors, a seriously injured Viens told detectives on March 1, 2011, that he killed his wife by duct taping her mouth, hands and feet, and awakened to find her dead. In that statement, he said he put her body in a trash bag and threw her in a trash container behind his restaurant.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Garcia interviewed Viens while coroner’s officials and detectives were digging his Narbonne Avenue restaurant.
In that confession, Viens said Dawn Viens wanted cocaine that day, and the experience of “doing coke together” wasn’t enjoyable.
“For some reason I just got violent,” Viens said. “Seemed like it had to deal with her stealing money.”
Garcia told Viens that investigators suspected Dawn Viens was buried in the recently renovated restaurant, but Viens told him that wasn’t true.
During cross-examination Viens’ attorney, Fred McCurry, Garcia admitted that without the confessions, investigators had recovered no evidence to find Dawn Viens or actually know how she died.
“Outside of Mr. Viens statements, you have no idea how Mrs. Viens died?” McCurry asked.
“He was the only one there,” Garcia responded.
Said Garcia: “David Viens disposed of the remains in such a way that we can’t recover anything.”
The defense is expected to begin its case on Wednesday. It’s unclear if David Viens will testify.