Some things you just couldn’t make up.
On a brisk February morning in 2011, David Viens, a restaurant owner and chef, leapt off a 100-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
Somehow… he survived.
David’s dive wouldn’t happen until 2011, but to see why he would decide to jump, we must travel back to October 2009. This is when David’s wife, of fifteen years, went missing.
According to David, his wife, Dawn Marie Viens, 39, walked out on him and her responsibilities on October, 18, 2009. And although David refused to admit it, Dawn was tired of being slapped around by her abusive husband.
The couple lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Lomita, and mostly, were an ordinary, but often arguing, married couple.
Things weren’t always so ‘gravy’ in the Viens home, though. Dawn had once confessed to a close friend, Karen Peterson, that she was being physically and verbally abused at home. Peterson would later testify on the sudden appearance of bruises on Dawn’s body and the “red marks on her neck.” On one alarming occasion, David became so enraged after Dawn locked herself in the couple’s bathroom and called Peterson, crying. Through the phone, David’s voice roared as he was “pounding on the door and yelling.”
Neighbors who also lived in the same Lomita apartment building picked up on the abuse, often hearing the muffled screams of Dawn being choked, and the studio apartment lamps shattering on the walls.
Things weren’t always this bad.
A Difficult Thyme
At the beginning of 2009, Dawn and David (an established chef) opened a new restaurant. Calling their new venture the Thyme Contemporary Cafe, they focused on a menu fusion of “California comfort foods, traditional New England flair, and Caribbean style dishes that will be sure to appeal to all that appreciate fine food.”
Although the food was exceptional (according to Yelp reviewers), the customer experience was lacking. According to David’s daughter Jaquelyn, Dawn Viens had been consuming “18 beers a day”, yelling at staff in front of customers, and miscalculating bills. Dawn also developed a prescription abuse problem and often combined her drinking with Lorazepam, Hydrocodone, Morphine, and Benadryl.
When the restaurant and his marriage began breaking down, David started talking openly of his resentment for Dawn. One acquaintance of David’s told investigators that after looking at the unbalanced receipts, David said with contempt, “That bitch is stealing from me, and nobody steals from me. I will kill that bitch.”
Dawn Viens went missing on October 18, 2009. Not only did David not report her absence to the police or Dawn’s parents, he also promptly replaced her. Those who inquired of Dawn’s whereabouts were given the same empty response. She has “left to live in the mountains,” David would say.
Within 3 weeks of Dawn’s disappearance, Kathy Galvan, a part-time server, moved into David’s apartment, essentially taking over the missing wife’s role.
Galvan found it odd that Dawn would simply walk out on David, leaving her cellphone, wallet, purse, and belongings behind. David’s daughter, Jacqueline, stowed her stepmother’s items in the nearest storage unit.
Okay, now you know the backstory, we can pick up where we initially started: the rock cliff.
Let’s face it. Attempting your own suicide by launching your body from a 100-foot-cliff after your wife mysteriously vanishes does not make you look innocent.
David Viens would eventually recount what occurred on the evening of October 18th. In his own words, Dawn was drunk and on heavy medication. “She gets in. She is just raising hell outside the door.” David tells Dawn to leave and sleep off her stupor, but she refuses. “You’re not staying here, because I can tell I’m going to jail any minute for all this domestic violence”, David replies.
Roaring out of bed, David grabbed his wife “by her right hand, both hands, [sic] and bring her out into the living room. I wrap her feet up real quick, and I take a piece of clear duct tape, wrapping tape, and I put that over her mouth. And that was it. I said, Good night.”
Out With The Grease Traps
David’s daughter, Jacqueline Viens, testified that her father once joked about how to get rid of a human body: “by cooking it, of course. He is a chef.”
Sure, her father may be a little dark, but he wasn’t serious, or was he?
“After I realized Dawn was dead,” I came up with the idea of cleaning the grease traps… and comingling the excess proteins in those units.”
David placed his wife’s body in a “large vat of boiling water and slowly cooked it for four days.” David then mixed Dawn’s remains with grease and “other debris” and placed them out with the garbage.
“You cooked on [her] body for four days?” asked Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Garcia.
“I cooked her four days,” he said. “I let her cool. I strained it out.”