Former Anna Maria Island chef sentenced in wife's death

STAFF AND WIRE REPORTSMarch 23, 2013 

LOS ANGELES -- A former Anna Maria Island chef who told police he cooked his wife's body in boiling water was sentenced Friday in Los Angeles to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder.

But in a new twist, David Viens, who, with his wife, Dawn, ran two Anna Maria Island eateries in the mid-2000s, told a judge the boiling story, which could have been a script for a horror movie, was a lie.

Viens gave a rambling, 45-minute speech during his sentencing hearing, saying that when police questioned him two years after his wife's disappearance, he was hallucinating and therefore, made up the story about cooking his wife.

"I loved my wife. I didn't cook my wife," Viens said. "I'd like the opportunity to testify."

Viens, 49, was convicted in September of killing of 39-year-old Dawn Viens in 2009. Her body was never found.

Reaction on Anna Maria Island was shock and sadness Friday.

"David had a little deli on Pine Avenue and I believe he once made desserts for one of our functions," Carolyne Norwood, a member of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, said of Viens, who ran the Island Kitchen and Market at 414 Pine Ave and, later, Beach City Market at5 1701 Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach. "He seemed very nice, a nice boy. I was shocked when I heard all this."

As for possibly spending the rest of his life in jail,

Norwood said, "It's all horrible."

Police all but demolished the restaurant that Viens and his wife operated looking for evidence of a cooked body but found nothing.

David Viens said the story he gave authorities came after he had been in surgery for injuries he suffered when he jumped off a cliff. Most of the bones in his body were broken and he has been in a wheel chair since then.

"I'm hallucinating the whole time I'm there," he said of the interview. "I'd been on an operating table 12 hours."

Authorities said Viens leaped off the cliff after learning he was a suspect in the case.

Norwood said Viens was well-spoken and well-mannered, making the recent accusations difficult for Islanders to believe.

In the recorded interrogation presented at trial, Viens said he had argued with his wife of 17 years, taped her hands and feet, duct taped her mouth and went to bed. When he awoke, he said, she was dead.

He told police he then cooked her body for four days to get rid of evidence.

Superior Court Judge Rand Rubin noted that within two weeks after his wife's disappearance Viens had a new girlfriend living with him and went on with his life.

Acting as his own lawyer, Viens argued that he had inadequate representation by his attorney and asked for a new trial.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil argued against the motion and said Viens received a fair trial. He responded, "I think she's afraid to face me in trial."

Rubin said that the lawyer hired by Viens knew the case and his representation did not fall below the standard required by law.

He said the 122-page motion submitted by Viens was rambling and "almost nonsensical."

Dawn Viens' younger sister spoke briefly saying her loss was double because she was close to Viens.

"I loved him. He was like a father to me," said Dayna Papin. "He changed my life....But I feel no sympathy for him. I will not have any peace for a very long time."

Viens called out to her across the courtroom.

"Nobody loved Dawn Marie Viens more than I did or misses her more," he said. "I never meant for what happened to happen. I lied to police out of fear and my life's been a mess ever since."

-- Herald reporter Richard Dymond contributed to this story.

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