Chef cooked wife for four days
A chef who told police he boiled his wife's body for four days to hide evidence of her death has been convicted of second-degree murder.
David Viens showed no emotion as the verdict was read. The sister of his victim burst into sobs.
In a recorded interrogation presented by prosecutors during the trial in Los Angeles, Viens, 49, can be heard saying he cooked the body of his 39-year-old wife, Dawn in late 2009 until little was left but her skull.
"He treated her like a piece of meat and got rid of her," said Karen Patterson, the couple's best friend who spoke to reporters outside court.
She was the key witness in Viens' trial and the person who prodded police to investigate her friend's disappearance. At a news conference, she warned others to take heed of domestic violence among friends. She apologised for failing to act herself when Mrs Viens called her during an incident of abuse, but begged her not to call police. "Maybe you have to go beyond your friend's trust and try to save lives," she said.
Juror Tal Erickson said it was Viens' own words in two confessions that convinced them of his guilt. The chef spoke to authorities from a hospital bed in March 2011 after leaping off a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes. Authorities say he jumped after learning he was a suspect in her disappearance.
The trial relied heavily on recorded interviews with authorities in which the chef acknowledged the crime in detail. "I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days," Viens could be heard saying on the recording.
Viens, who attended his trial in a wheelchair, said in the interview that he stuffed his wife's body in a 55-gallon drum of boiling water and kept it submerged with weights. He said he mixed what remained after four days with other waste, dumping some of it in a grease pit at his restaurant in Lomita, and putting the rest with the rubbish.
He said he stashed his wife's skull in his mother's attic in Torrance. But a search of the house turned up nothing, nor did an excavation of the restaurant.
Viens' lawyer, Fred McCurry, declined to comment except to say he planned to appeal. Viens, who will be sentenced on November 27, could face 15 years to life in prison.