US chef guilty of cooking dead wife

2012-09-28 13:01
David Viens gestures to family as he is rolled out of court in Los Angeles after being convicted of second degree murder in the death of his wife Dawn Viens in 2009. (Brad Graverson/ AP)

David Viens gestures to family as he is rolled out of court in Los Angeles after being convicted of second degree murder in the death of his wife Dawn Viens in 2009. (Brad Graverson/ AP)

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Los Angeles - A US chef was convicted of second degree murder on Thursday after he admitted to slow-cooking his wife's body for four days to get rid of the evidence, while claiming she had died accidentally.

During a grisly six-day trial David Viens, aged 49, told police he had bound his 39-year-old wife Dawn with duct tape to stop her from escaping, and then went to sleep. He awoke four hours later to find her dead, and panicked.

He put her body in a large drum and boiled it. "I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days," he said in an interview with detectives played during the trial.

"I cooked her [for] four days. I let her cool, I strained it out" and then threw the remains in the trash, he said. Her body was never found after she disappeared in October 2009.

He is due to be sentenced on 27 November, and faces anything from 15 years to life in prison.

The former restaurant owner from Lomita, south of Los Angeles, had bound her similarly probably twice before, because he "didn't want her driving around wasted, whacked out on coke and drinking", he said.

Death might have been 'violent'

Prosecutor Deborah Brazil had called for Viens to be convicted of first degree murder, arguing that his wife's death "was no accident".

Dawn "likely met her death in a much more violent fashion" - such as being choked - than her husband admitted, Brazil said.

"That is why the defendant needed the four days to completely destroy and dispose of Dawn Viens's body."

Viens also told detectives he believed one bag of body parts remained, and that he believed the skull was in his mother's attic. Detectives searched the attic but found nothing.

The six-man, six-woman jury panel deliberated for five and a half hours before returning their verdict of second degree murder following the trial.

Viens appeared in court in a wheelchair as a result of injuries sustained during a 25m jump off a cliff in February 2011, shortly after he told his girlfriend that his wife's death was an accident.

Little doubt of guilt

He also told his daughter that his wife had died accidentally.

The victim's sister, Dayna Papin, said after the verdict that Viens "has to pay for what he did".

But she added: "There's no happy ending. I don't think there [are] any winners or losers. Two families have suffered tremendously and we will continue to. I don't think it's over. I think he's going to continue to fight."

One of the jurors, Tal Erickson, said the jury had hesitated between finding Viens guilty on second or first degree murder, but that there was little doubt he was guilty of his wife's death.

"My opinion was if he was innocent, he wouldn't jump off a cliff," Erickson said.

A friend of the couple, Karen Patterson, said: "My good friend murdered my good friend.

"Dawn loved him dearly and he killed his wife of 17 years who'd been through everything with him, that trusted him and loved him and he treated her, literally, like a piece of meat and got rid of her," she added.

"Shame on him."

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