David Viens speaks out at his March 22 sentencing hearing. Islander Photo: Courtesy Daily Breeze (Los Angeles) photographer Brad Graverson
A Lomita chef who killed his wife and boiled her body in his restaurant’s kitchen was sentenced March 22 to spend 15 years to life in prison, moments after he declared “I didn’t cook my wife” and that nobody misses her more than him.
David Viens, 49, convicted of second-degree murder in September for killing his 39-year-old wife, Dawn, was sentenced after he gave a rambling 45-minute presentation before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to explain why his trial attorney poorly represented him and why he should get a another chance to testify in his own defense.
He did not take the stand during his trial based on his attorney’s advice. Viens referred to that decision as “retarded. “
“I loved my wife,” Viens said. “I didn’t cook my wife.”
Judge Rand Rubin rejected Viens’ attempt for a new trial and sentenced him to the state-mandated term for second-degree murder. Viens confessed to his daughter, his girlfriend and twice to detectives investigating the disappearance and murder of Dawn Viens, who was last seen Oct. 18, 2009. Her remains have never been found.
Viens claimed his wife died accidentally after he taped her mouth shut with duct tape because she was making too much noise as he was trying to sleep. His defense attorney, Fred McCurry, told jurors that Viens fell asleep and awakened to find his wife dead. Viens told his daughter he threw her body in the trash.
After Viens jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff on Feb. 23, 2011, when a Daily Breeze article called him a “person of interest” in his wife’s disappearance and death, Viens confessed to detectives in his hospital room that he wrapped duct tape over her mouth, awakened to find her dead and cooked her body in his kitchen at the Thyme Contemporary Cafe. He said he disposed of her remains in his grease trap and stashed her skull in his mother’s attic in Lomita. It was never found.
Viens, still in a wheelchair, said in court March 22 that he did not remember his confessions, including one that occurred after he underwent 12 hours of surgery to repair broken bones suffered in his jump. He said information about his condition should have been presented to the jury during his trial but was not. He vowed to appeal his conviction.
“I’m hallucinating,” he said. “I had no idea I had undergone two major surgeries.” I don’t remember meeting these guys except one time in my driveway. “
Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction against Viens, saying he killed his wife because she stole $300 from their restaurant. Dawn Viens, in fact, had been hiding money she received as tips while working in the Narbonne Avenue restaurant because she feared her husband was about to leave her.
A witness testified during his trial that Viens vowed to “kill the bitch” over the theft. She was never seen again. But McCurry, Viens attorney, argued that Viens killed his wife accidentally and did not intend the duct tape over her mouth to kill her. His argument succeeded in reducing the conviction to second-degree murder.
But that didn’t satisfy Viens, who said March 22 his attorney should have presented more evidence about his medical condition and allowed him to testify. During the trial, Viens stood from his wheelchair and objected when his attorney rested their case.
“His telling me not to testify was retarded,” Viens said. If he could have a new trial, Viens added, he would testify and take a lie detector test “to prove what really happened,” not stories that deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil “sold” the judge and the jury.
“I think she’s afraid to face me in trial,” Viens said. “I would represent myself.”
Viens said Brazil painted an unfair picture of him for the jury, portraying him as a man who cooked his wife for four days.
“It never happened,” he said.
Friends reported Dawn Viens missing in November 2009. Viens told them she had walked away when he demanded she go into drug rehab. A friend, Karen Patterson, said she received text messages from her phone indicating she was safe, but Dawn Viens’ nickname was misspelled. Viens’ daughter testified during the trial that she placed at least one of the texts.
For months, David Viens — who served prison time for drug offenses in Florida and Vermont before coming to California — refused to post a missing person flier or conduct an interview. But in April 2010, he told the Daily Breeze that “I loved my wife” and believed she would return home after ski season. By that time, Viens had already taken on a new girlfriend, who moved into his house and into Dawn Viens’ hostess job at the eatery.
In August 2010, homicide detectives took over the case, saying they found blood spatter in the house Viens once shared with his wife. When that information was reported in the Daily Breeze, Viens purchased the newspaper, confessed to his girlfriend, drove to Point Vicente and jumped.
In court March 22, Viens said he “fell” from the cliff.
During her victim impact statement to the court, Dayna Papin, Dawn Viens’ sister, said she had loved her sister’s husband like a father, but did not feel sympathy for him. She doubted her family can find closure.
“As I sat here the last hour listening, I learned I will not have any peace for a very long time,” Papin said. “I think he’s made it pretty clear to all of us he is going to continue to fight for his freedom. “
Viens, who looked at her as she talked, quickly responded: “Nobody loved Dawn Marie Viens more than I did, or misses her more. I lied to police out of fear. My life’s been a mess ever since. I’m sorry Dayna.”
He then slammed his hand on the table in front of him.
Re-published by The Islander and NewsManatee.com news partner with permission.
Editor’s note: David and Dawn Viens resided in Holmes Beach and operated the Beach City Market and Grill in Bradenton Beach 2002-05 before a drug raid sent David Viens to jail and Dawn Viens moved from the community.