A Lomita restaurateur who told sheriff's detectives he had bound his wife with duct tape, panicked when he awoke to find her dead, "cooked" her body for four days to get rid of her remains and eventually jumped off a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison.
"I loved my wife. I didn't cook my wife," David Robert Viens said in court Friday from a wheelchair, explaining that he had undergone "two major surgeries" in the hours before he was recorded speaking to Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives in March 2011. He said he didn't even remember talking to them while hospitalized at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.
The 49-year-old man was convicted Sept. 27 of second-degree murder for the October 2009 slaying of his wife, Dawn, whose remains have never been found.
He attended his court proceedings in a wheelchair as a result of injuries suffered when he jumped 80 feet down Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes on Feb. 23, 2011, after a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy tried to stop his vehicle and Viens' girlfriend tried to stop him from plunging from the oceanfront cliff in by grabbing his clothes.
During his 45-minute statement to the judge, Viens said he was "hallucinating" when he spoke to sheriff's detectives and does not know how he could have called them to his bedside when he was handcuffed to the hospital bed.
Jurors heard tape-recorded interviews in which Viens told sheriff's detectives in March 2011 that "for some reason I just got violent" and that he bound his wife's mouth, hands and feet with duct tape. He said he had taped her up "probably twice" on other occasions because he "didn't want her driving around wasted, whacked out on coke and drinking."
Viens, who ran the now-shuttered Thyme Contemporary Cafe that had been leased by his mother, told investigators he woke up four hours later and panicked once he discovered she was dead.
"I cooked her four days. I let her cool, I strained it out as I, as I was in there, O.K.," he told sheriff's detectives in a March 15, 2011, interview, adding that he dumped the remains in the trash.
In an interview two weeks before that, he told sheriff's detectives that "for some reason I just got violent."
He said that it "seemed like it had to do with her stealing money" from the restaurant and that he snapped and duct-taped her before he fell asleep, then woke up and panicked to find her dead.
Just before being sentenced, Viens disputed that he had killed his wife over a few hundred dollars, saying it was "ridiculous to think I would harm my wife for that."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rand S. Rubin denied Viens' request for a new trial, saying there was "substantial direct and circumstantial evidence that supports the jury's findings."
Viens -- who was allowed to take over his own defense after the trial -- alleged that he had gotten ineffective assistance from his trial attorney, Fred McCurry, and said he didn't realize he could have fired the lawyer, who had been privately retained.
Viens had lost a last-minute bid Sept. 20 to represent himself during the last day of testimony in his trial, with Viens telling the judge then that there was a difference in trial tactics. The judge noted during the Sept. 20 hearing that Viens was making the request "almost at the very end" of trial and that the defendant would not be immediately ready to proceed on his own with the trial if his attorney left the case.
Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil countered that the trial had been conducted in a "just and lawful manner" and that the jury had rendered a "fair and just verdict."
In court papers, the prosecutor wrote that "the defendant's act of disposing of his wife's body is evidence of his consciousness of guilt because he destroyed evidence that would have established how his wife died."
"... The defendant successfully and completely disposed of his wife's remains in a despicable and loathsome fashion," Brazil wrote in a sentencing memorandum, noting that he jumped off a cliff almost two years after his wife's death after he learned that he was the prime suspect in the investigation of his wife's death.
She noted in the court papers that Viens has "several prior convictions and parole violations stemming from drug trafficking."
Viens told the judge that he believed the prosecutor was "afraid to face me in trial" and told the judge that if his new trial motion was granted that he would testify and take a polygraph test to prove "what really happened."
Jurors deliberated for about five hours before finding Viens guilty of killing his wife.
Viens—who maintained that no one loved his wife more than he did—told the judge that he plans to appeal his conviction.
The victim's sister, Dayna Papin, described Viens as having been "like a father to me" and said she knew while sitting through his remarks that she "will not have peace for a very long time" no matter how long his sentence was because it is clear that he is going to continue to fight the case.