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Digging resumes at restaurant where police believe missing woman is buried

March 2, 2011 |  8:14 am

L.A. County sheriff's investigators search for evidence at a cafe in Lomita. Digging resumed Wednesday morning at a Lomita restaurant as authorities search for the remains of a woman missing for 16 months.

Detectives believe she is buried somewhere on the restaurant property, which is owned by her husband.

Tuesday afternoon, officials with pickaxes, shovels and cadaver dogs hacked away at the floor and walls of the Thyme Contemporary Cafe, hoping to solve the mystery of the sudden disappearance of Dawn Viens.

“At this point we believe she is buried beneath the restaurant,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore. “We are excavating parts of the restaurant. We expect to be there for some time.”

The excavation is the latest twist in the case, which included a police pursuit last week that ended when the cafe owner, David Viens, leapt off a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Viens survived the fall but suffered critical injuries. That didn’t stop sheriff’s detectives from booking him Monday on suspicion of murder. Viens, 47, was arrested at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, where he was recovering from his injuries.

Authorities said information gathered during the investigation led them to dig up the cafe,  but they would not provide more details.

Dawn Viens went missing Oct. 18, 2009. Viens later told police that his wife walked away from the restaurant and never returned. But authorities say he never reported her missing. Rather, her family and friends went to police three weeks later.

Sometime later, Viens remodeled the cafe, adding new floors and walls that investigators now believe may be concealing his wife’s body, officials said.

Sources told The TImes that Viens' girlfriend has been cooperating with authorities.


Wife likely buried beneath husband's restaurant, detectives say

Lomita man who jumped off cliff is booked on suspicion of murder in wife's disappearance

-- Richard Winton

Photo: L.A. County sheriff's investigators search for evidence at a cafe in Lomita. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times