Sandwich shop chef on trial for boiling dead wife
A sandwich shop chef from Torrance, California, has pleaded not guilty of murdering his wife, slow cooking her for days until her flesh fell off her bones, then stashing her skull in his mother's attic—all over her drinking problem and some missing money from the cash register.
In the two-week old trial now on-going at the LA Superior Court, David Viens has however admitted that he may have "accidentally" killed his wife when he tied her up and duct taped her mouth following an argument, and then he took some sleeping pills after that only to wake up and find her dead.
David—a 49-year-old chef who co-owned the Thyme Contemporary Café in Lomita, south of Los Angeles, with his deceased wife Dawn, 39—told investigators that in a state of panic, he slow cooked her body for four days by boiling her in a 55-gallon (208-litre) drum of water, then hid her bones at his mum's house.
In a prior questioning taped by detectives, David told them, "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. I let her cool. I strained it out."
Dawn disappeared three years ago in October and David had then told the cops that she simply walked off because she "needed time away". But officers grew suspicious of David after Dawn's sister, Dayna Papin, reported her missing.
As they began to investigate, David attempted suicide in March 2011 by jumping feet-first off an 80-foot (24-metre) cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Following his survival, the LA County district attorney's office charged him with Dawn's murder and he admitted from his hospital bed that he had "accidentally" killed her, a confession that was recorded by the police.
"You cooked on Dawn's body for four days?" one sergeant is heard asking David, to which he replied, "Before it was done." He also told detectives in the recordings that he believed he might have had one bag of body parts left over, saying, "I'm confused now... And because of these dreams and stuff I've had... I think the skull is there... In my mother's attic."
However, police say no evidence was found in the attic, and in 2011, no evidence was found either when they dug up the café.
David said that he and Dawn had argued over the missing money from the shop they opened together in 2009, and in a fit of rage, he dragged her into the living room, bound her hands and feet and mouth with duct tape, took some Ambien to help him sleep, and woke up hours later to find her lifeless body.
"For some reason, I just got violent. Seemed like it had to deal with her stealing money," he told detectives. Their fight that day, he added, also had to do with her excessive drinking. "She was… uh, yeah… wasted at work," David said. "You know, she had issues with everybody. She ended up, you know, becoming a mean drunk."
In the interview, which was played for judge Rand S. Rubin on Tuesday, David said that after his wife was cooked, he dumped her into garbage bags and chucked them in the trash bins behind the café. "I came up with the idea of cleaning the grease traps and commingling in the… the excess… the excess protein," he said on the tape.
According to one witness' testimony, longshoreman Todd Stagnitto told investigators that on the night Dawn went missing, he had seen David at the café checking the day's receipts and counting up the tally. David appeared agitated and told Stagnitto that there was money short for that day.
The court was also told that after Dawn disappeared, David told their customers a series of lies like "She's gone to rehab" and "She went to the mountains" and "She left for the East Coast to visit friends" to cover up.
LA County Sheriff's Sgt Richard Garcia told the judge that the police have no reason to believe that Dawn is still alive. "There were no signs of life. There was no contacting any friends. There was no credit card or cell phone use. She left behind her clothing and vehicle."
Meanwhile, David's attorney, Fred McCurry, told the jurors that there were side effects of taking the sleeping medication Ambien which, according to one medical website, includes memory loss and "mental/mood/behaviour changes" like depression, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, aggressive behaviour and anxiety.
David is now wheelchair-bound and says he will not be taking the witness stand to testify in his own defence.
Published: 20th September 2012