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Wife likely buried beneath husband's restaurant, detectives say

March 1, 2011 |  6:27 pm

Dig Authorities believe a woman missing for 16 months is buried inside her husband's Lomita restaurant.

Officials with pickaxes, shovels and cadaver dogs hacked away at the floor and walls of the Thyme Contemporary Cafe, hoping to solve a 16-month-old mystery over the sudden disappearance of the cafe owner’s wife.

“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 at the cafe in Lomita is the latest twist in the case, which included a police pursuit last week that ended when the cafe owner, David Viens, leaped 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.

“Mr. Veins dove off a 100-foot cliff to avoid talking to our detectives, and that is somewhat telling,” said Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff’s detective bureau.

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

Viens' wife, Dawn, 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.

--Richard Winton

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

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