Jurors on Tuesday heard a tape-recording of an interview in which the former owner of a Lomita restaurant told sheriff's detectives that he bound his wife with duct tape, panicked after he awoke to find her dead and then boiled her body for four days in an effort to get rid of her remains.
In the tape-recorded March 15, 2011, interview about three weeks after he jumped 80 feet down a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff, David Viens testified that he cooked his wife Dawn's body in a vat that was "heavy for me to carry" and that her "whole body fit in there."
Viens, 49, is charged with murder in the October 2009 disappearance of his 39-year-old spouse, whose body has not been found. He appears in court in a wheelchair, with Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil telling jurors in her opening statement last week that his injuries were sustained as a result of a cliffside jump from Inspiration Point.
"I manipulated her face 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 told sheriff's detectives while hospitalized in a jail ward for injuries sustained in his cliffside jump.
"You cooked on Dawn's body for four days?" sheriff's Sgt. Richard Garcia asked Viens, who owned Thyme Contemporary Cafe with his wife.
"Before it was done," Viens responded. "I cooked her four days ... I let her cool. I strained it out as I, as I was in there."
Just after complaining of "excruciating pain" and being told by a nurse that she had his pain medications, Viens told investigators he believed there was one bag of body parts remaining.
"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," Viens said.
He told investigators that he had "buried everything else in like the garbage bags very carefully ... in my dumpster mixed in ... strategically placed in with debris and other crap," and that "you can put me on a polygraph test any day of the week and I'll pass that."
Investigators searched the attic at the Torrance home of Viens' mother, but did not find any remains, Garcia told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the case against Viens.
Viens told investigators during the interview that he had taken a sleeping pill and moved a large bureau in front of the bedroom door, but that his wife was "all over me ... calling me all kinds of mean names and stuff" the next thing he knew.
He said in the tape-recorded interview that he grabbed her by the hands, took her into the living room, wrapped up her hands and feet and took "a piece of clear duct tape, wrapping tape, and I put that over her mouth."
He said he woke up about four hours later and discovered that his wife had died.
In a tape-recorded interview with Garcia two weeks earlier, Viens said, "For some reason, I just got violent."
"(It) seemed like it had to do with her stealing money," he told the detective during the March 1, 2011, interview.
"So you found her with money and you snapped?" Garcia asked Viens.
"Yes," the defendant responded.
Viens told the sheriff's investigator that his wife had not said anything while he was taping her up and that he had probably taped her up two other times previously because he "didn't want her driving around wasted, whacked out on coke and drinking."
He said he put her in the closet after discovering that she was dead and then took her body in a garbage bag to a trash bin outside his business.
"... You didn't bury her in the—in the business at all? What if we—what if I told you we—we were told that you might have buried her there?" the detective asked.
"That's not true," Viens responded.
Garcia testified that a cadaver dog trained to search for bodies had "hit on" a shed outside the restaurant, along with several other areas.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Fred McCurry, the sheriff's sergeant said there was no physical evidence to establish how Dawn Viens died.
"Did you recover any physical evidence that establishes Dawn Viens' body was disposed of by cooking?" Viens' attorney asked the investigator.
"No," he responded.
When asked by the prosecutor what the main reason was that there was no physical evidence, the sheriff's sergeant said it was "because David Viens disposed of the remains in such a way that we can't recover (anything)."
Two bloodstains found at the couple's Lomita apartment—one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom—were too degraded to test, Garcia testified.
The sheriff's sergeant testified that Viens still had some discomfort during their March 15, 2011, meeting, but "spoke more easily" than he did during his first interview two weeks earlier.
"I think he was still bedridden," Garcia said of the defendant, who agreed to speak with investigators twice after his cliffside jump.
The defense is set to begin its portion of the case Wednesday.