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Chef accused of cooking wife; defense wants second-degree murder

September 27, 2012 |  7:46 am

The jury that will decide the fate of David Viens, the chef who told authorities he cooked his dead wife's body to dispose of it, will meet again Thursday morning after failing to reach a verdict over two days of deliberations.

The panel has spent a total of about 4½ hours weighing whether Viens is guilty of first-degree murder. Jurors, who could convict him of second-degree murder or manslaughter instead, asked Wednesday for the definition of second-degree murder. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rand S. Rubin referred them to the jury instructions.

Viens, 49, is accused of killing his wife, Dawn, who vanished in October 2009. Her body has never been found. In 2011, after Viens learned that investigators suspected that he killed her, he leapt off an 80-foot seaside cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes.

While hospitalized, he gave two interviews to investigators that were played for the jury. In the second, he described a grisly body disposal process that the defense said was too fantastic to believe: packing her body into a large drum, boiling it in water over four days and dumping much of what remained into the grease trap of his Lomita restaurant, Thyme Contemporary Cafe.

During the trial, defense attorney Fred McCurry didn't challenge the premise that Dawn Viens was dead, nor did he suggest that she was slain by someone other than her husband. But he argued the evidence didn't support a first-degree murder conviction, which requires proof of premeditation.

McCurry described her death as an accident, which mirrors the account David Viens allegedly gave his daughter and ex-girlfriend. Viens told investigators he duct-taped his wife's mouth, bound her hands and feet and fell asleep, according to a tape of the interview. When he woke up, he said, she was dead.

Instead of boiling her body, his attorney said, Viens threw it in the trash bin at his restaurant.


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-- Ashley Powers at L.A. County Superior Court