Thursday, September 27 2012, 03:42 PM CDT
Jury finds chef guilty of killing, boiling wife
By Linda Deutsch/AP Special Correspondent
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A chef who told police he boiled his wife's body for four days to hide evidence of her death was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder.
David Viens showed no reaction as the verdict was read, but the sister of his victim burst out sobbing.
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.
The trial relied heavily on recorded interviews with authorities in which the chef acknowledged the crime in detail.
"I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days," Viens could be heard saying on the recording.
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, 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.
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 awoke to find her dead, and he panicked, he said.
Viens was charged with first-degree murder, which means the killing was premeditated, but jurors had the option of convicting him of that or second-degree murder or manslaughter. The six men and six women on the panel deliberated for about five hours before reaching the verdict.
Viens' lawyer, Fred McCurry, declined comment on the way out of the courtroom except to say he planned to appeal.
Viens is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27. He could face 15 years to life in prison.