Did California chef David Viens kill, then cook wife?

A missing wife, a wild confession and a top chef's jump from a California cliff

Produced by Paul LaRosa and Sue McHugh
[This story originally aired on May 3, 2013.]


[CBS News] LOMITA, Calif. -- "The minute that I saw him jump over ... that's when reality really, really set in, that this woman really is gone. And when I saw him jump, I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, he's dead too...'" said Kathy Galvan.

In a flash, Galvan's life was forever changed. David Viens, the man she had just seen jump off a stunning seaside cliff near Los Angeles, was an accomplished chef and a successful, if unconventional, businessman. He was the last person you'd expect to jump off a cliff.

"When I knew him, he was very dominant, I guess is the best word ... very charismatic," David Papin told "48 Hours" correspondent Richard Schlesinger. "He was very charismatic ... He walked into a room and you knew he was there."

Papin was just a kid when his older sister, Dawn, began dating Viens, who worked in the same restaurant where Dawn waited tables.

"He was very passionate about his food. We would have Sunday dinners, him and I and Dawn ... I mean, it was a spectacle. ... To have him in the kitchen -- I never ate so good in my life," said Papin.

It was the early 1990s in Vermont; Viens was in the midst of a divorce and had three kids. When he met Dawn, he never looked back ... but he never turned his back on his children.

"Every time we would visit him ... we would always do fun things. And -- we always really looked forward to being with him," Viens' youngest daughter, Jackie, said. "I just always really loved him. I think everybody that ever met him thought he was a great person to be around. And I always really liked Dawn. ... She didn't have any kids. So, she treated me like her daughter."

David and Dawn married in 1997. They moved around the country until 2008, when they settled down in Lomita, Calif.

"Lomita is a small, sleepy suburb of Los Angeles. It has a nickname that people don't like which is 'Slow-mita,'" explained Larry Altman, a reporter for the local paper, The Daily Breeze, and a CBS News Consultant. He says there's usually not much news in Lomita.

"It's one of the lowest crime rates of the 15 or 16 cities that I cover," he said.

But Altman was about to discover sleepy little Lomita had its secrets.

Local businessman Joe Cacace was learning about Lomita's secrets. His motorcycle repair shop was across the parking lot from Viens' new restaurant, where Dawn was the hostess who charmed the locals.

"Great personality, I just thought she was a lot of fun, and uh ... I loved her, she was really cool," Cacace said.

Over time, Dawn began to confide in Cacace, complaining that her husband was too controlling. Viens began to confide in Cacace that Dawn drank -- a lot. It was something Jackie saw firsthand.

"I remember waking up and she'd be in the kitchen just chugging a beer at 9 o'clock in the morning and then hide the can under the sink so that he wouldn't know she'd already been drinking," Jackie told Schlesinger.

"You think she was an unhappy person?"

"I think she was just confused with her life and as to how she got to where she was," Jackie replied. "You know, I think she wanted things to be different ... she basically just let my dad take care of her her whole life."

There is evidence Dawn was trying to become more independent. Not long before she vanished, she asked Joe Cacace if he'd hold on to some money for her.

"There was, like, almost $700," Cacace explained. "And she said... 'If I bring more, can you put it in there?' I said, 'Yeah, it's your spot. You can put anything you want.'"

She took him up on the offer. On Oct, 18, 2009, Dawn called Cacace and asked to stash more money.

"She had saved up $1,000. She wanted to bring it over on Monday and drop it off, put it with the other money, and I said, 'No problem,'" said Cacace.

Monday came and went, but Dawn never showed up -- either at work or at Joe's. Cacace kept watch out of the rear window of his shop. He saw Dawn's car, but never saw her. After days went by, Cacace asked David Viens where she was. Viens said Dawn had left him after he insisted she go to rehab for her drinking problem.

"I'm just stunned. I'm thinking to myself, 'Did you forget who I am? I'm over your restaurant every night, your wife's over here every day,'" Cacace said. "'This isn't flying. You're - you're lying to me...'"

Cacace started seeing other things through his rear window. First he saw Galvan, who was then a waitress at the café, holding hands with David Viens. She had clearly become more than just his employee.

"... we were around each other quite a bit, and I think that's how that happened, just being around a lot. I started to like him," Galvan told Schlesinger.

"While we're on the subject, pardon me, but you know, you're young enough to be his daughter. You're the new girlfriend. His wife disappears. That looks like -- a lot like motive to some people," Schlesinger noted. "Lots of guys have killed their wives -- because they wanted to move on with a younger woman."

"I don't think it was a motive. We weren't seeing each other prior to her disappearance and not even right after," she said.

Not long after Viens and Galvan began going out, Cacace saw Galvan and Viens' daughter, Jackie, throwing out some clothes in a dumpster in back of Viens' restaurant.

"They pulled up in the back ... they opened the back hatch and they got a big box and they pulled it to the back ... and they start pulling clothes out," Cacace said. "I knew it was Dawn's stuff."

Galvan told "48 Hours" there was an innocent explanation.

"I was the jealous girlfriend. I thought he was gonna take her back so I threw out her stuff," she said.

Joe Cacace was becoming convinced that Viens had killed Dawn -- and he wasn't the only one. Some friends alerted Dawn's sister, who filed a missing persons report. That caught the eye of Larry Altman. His first story about Dawn's disappearance ran on Christmas Eve in 2009, two months after Dawn vanished. The story got an immediate response.

"I received a phone call from one of Dawn's friends who had seen that story," Altman said. "She said, 'Hey I read your story. There's more to this than you know.'"

Altman went to see Viens, who told him the same story he had told almost everyone: that he and Dawn fought and she stormed out carrying nothing but her Louis Vuitton bag.

"You can't go anywhere in southern California without driving. So, who walks away and leaves their car? That just didn't make any sense," Altman reasoned. "But I asked him if he loved her and wanted her to come back. And he said 'Yeah, I loved her and I hope she's safe.' ... He used, the word 'loved.' 'I loved my wife with a past tense.'"

Altman knew he was on to something big. It all got more interesting when he dug into Viens' past. It turns out David Viens was more than just a great chef. He was also a pretty good salesman -- of marijuana. A lot of marijuana.

. . .

Before life for David and Dawn Viens took a dark turn in 2009, they lived on Anna Maria Island off Florida's Gulf Coast.

"We would wake up early, early in the morning ... and we would walk an hour, hour-and-a-half up and down the beach, power walk, just to get our day off right," Dawn's brother, David Papin explained.

Viens made Papin the manager of Beach City Market and Grille, a restaurant he owned at the time. That meant Viens could concentrate on his other, more lucrative, business. He was in wholesale, selling hundreds of pounds of marijuana to smaller dealers.

"Did you know about his pot smuggling?" Richard Schlesinger asked Papin.

"I knew about his business, sure," he replied, "but that business was separate from the business ... him and I had together."

In 2005, Viens was arrested for selling marijuana. And it was not his first arrest. Manatee County Detective Randy Barnett and DEA Agent Derek Pollock worked on the Florida case.

"He was convicted in Vermont for distribution of cocaine in 1993," said Pollock.

Police sat Viens down and asked for his help to break up the drug ring.

"He was an agent's dream to work with," Pollock said. "He returned calls ... He was there for every deal that we needed for him to be there for. And he was on time."

Viens was sentenced to just one year in prison, and in 2008, he and Dawn headed to Lomita where they lived quietly until the fall of 2009, when Dawn disappeared. That's when Viens called his daughter, Jackie, to come help at his latest restaurant.

"You know ... I was excited to go back and to see him and her again and just kind of start over our relationship," said Jackie Viens.

"And so when you got there, what happened?" Schlesinger asked.

"She wasn't there, and I asked him where she was and he said that she'd taken off for a few days; that they got into a fight and that she'd taken off," Jackie replied.

It looked like Dawn had been replaced -- in the restaurant and in the bedroom -- by Kathy Galvan, who was then just 22 years old. Jackie was 19.

"Did you get the relationship?" Schlesinger asked Jackie.

"Not really, no," she replied with a somewhat uncomfortable laugh.

But her father was carrying on with his life and cooking in the restaurant as though Dawn never even existed.

"I just remember feeling funny in the house just thinking like, 'Why?' you know, 'What really happened that night? And what's really going on?'" she said.

Jackie finally confronted her father.

"I said, 'Pops, where is she? What really happened to her? Why isn't she back yet?'" she recalled.

It's no exaggeration to say, the answer stunned Jackie.

"It felt like he punched me in the stomach," she said.

Her father confessed. He admitted that he had killed Dawn.

"... and he just looked at me and he said, 'Jackie, it was an accident,'" Jackie told Schlesinger. "You know, I just was just like, 'What, what do you mean it was an accident?' and then he started to tell me what had happened..."

Viens asked his daughter not to call police ... and she didn't.

"I'm his kid. I don't want to see my dad in prison for the rest of his life and I felt obligated to hide that secret for him," said Jackie.

But Viens wanted more from his daughter. He wanted her to help cover up Dawn's death.

"He asked me to send some messages from her phone saying that she was OK," Jackie told Schlesinger.

"What kind of a father asks their daughter to do that?"

"I think he was just really scared," she said.

Jackie did what she was asked. She and her father both sent text messages from Dawn's cell phone to Dawn's friends -- texts like:

Hi Lala it's me. I'm fine just need a little time to sort things out talk to you soon love pixy.

Two of the messages were signed with Dawn's nickname "Pixie."

"Pixie was spelled wrong," reporter Larry Altman explained. "It should have been spelled P-I-X-I-E and it was spelled P-I-X-Y. So that made no sense. Who misspells their own name? So I collect all this information and then I wrote another story."

Fast forward to February 2011. Sixteen months after Dawn disappeared, there was no trace of her whatsoever. The missing persons case had been reassigned to the homicide squad.

L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Rich Garcia was pretty sure Viens had killed Dawn, but he needed evidence. So he got a wiretap for Viens' phone and then turned up the heat on him.

"During the stimulation part of this case, we wanted to stimulate David..." Garcia explained.

"I'm sorry -- during what part of the case?" Schlesinger asked.

"Stimulation," Garcia repeated.

"So how do you stimulate David Viens?"

"I think the first thing we did was we called in a local newspaper, which showed an interest in the story right from the beginning," Garcia explained. "So we called in the reporter."

"They were trying to stir things up with David. And I recognized that," said Altman.

"What did they tell you?" Schlesinger asked.

"... First, that they had found blood in the house where Dawn and David had lived. It was in the bedroom and in another room," he replied.

"Well, that must have stimulated your interest," Schlesinger noted.

"Yes, yes, that finally elevated this case," said Altman.

 

 

The blood was so old that it was worthless as evidence, but police never told Altman that.

"I mean, let's be clear. You -- technically, you didn't lie to him," Schlesinger said to Garcia.

"Never did," he said.

"You did find blood in that house."

"Sure did."

"The fact that it was of zero evidentiary value -- ?" Schlesinger continued.

"Oh well," said Garcia with a smile.

Altman did just what the police hoped he would do. He went to David Viens' restaurant, but he was intercepted by Kathy Galvan.

"He came in with this big, ugly smirk on his face and he was just like, 'So did you know that there's blood spatter all over the apartment?'" said Galvan.

"And she yells at me, 'Stop saying this in front of the customers! Get out of here!' and she literally pushes me out of the place. And off I go," said Altman.

The reporter went to write the story that police were closing in on Viens, and, in fact, they were.

Garcia had already sent two investigators to meet with Viens' daughter, Jackie. By now, they strongly suspected that she was involved in sending one of the text messages that misspelled Pixie.

Asked if she told them the truth, Jackie told Schlesinger, "I did, yeah, I told them what happened..."

And then she called her father to tell him what she had done.

"I said, 'Pops, they're looking for you. I mean they just came and talked to me and I told them what happened. So, beware, they're gonna be comin' for you.'"

It was an unanticipated extra stimulation. And that next morning, Feb. 23, 2011, David Viens saw Altman's story on page 1.

"He goes, 'So the paper came out," Galvan recalled. "And I was like, 'Oh yeah? What kind of crap did they put in this time?'"

Viens was about to crack. He confessed everything to Galvan.

"And he goes, 'I'm sorry. It was an accident. She's not coming back' and it's like my balls dropped, you know? I said, 'What do you mean she's not coming back?' And he said, 'I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to hurt anybody. I -- I think I'm just gonna kill myself,'" she said.

And with that, Viens raced to his car with Galvan running after him.

"I know he wouldn't hurt me so I got in the car," she explained. "I made sure my seat belt was on and I kinda turned to him ... and he just ... vrooommmm."

Kathy Galvan was in for the ride of her life ... and it ended at the edge of the cliff.

"Had that happened before with people you've been pursuing?" Schlesinger asked Garcia.

"I've had them commit suicide. I've never had them jump off a cliff," he replied.

But the wild ride of David Viens was not over. The 80-foot dive off the rocky cliff did not kill him. He survived.

. . . 

"He felt that he really had no way out," Kathy Galvan said of David Viens' dive from the edge of a cliff. "He took off and went ... 'Arggghh.'"

Viens thought he was putting an end to all the questions about his wife Dawn's disappearance that day back in February 2011.

"I received a phone call that he jumped over the cliff," said Sgt. Rich Garcia.

"What was your first thought?" Richard Schlesinger asked.

"Wow," he replied.

But the day held more surprises, because, somehow, David Veins survived that 80-foot jump. His swan dive was not his swan song.

"The way I understand it is ... he landed on his feet so his legs were totally shattered, hips were broken," said reporter Larry Altman.

 

The cliffs in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., from which David Viens jumped.
The cliffs in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., from which David Viens jumped.
CBS News/48 Hours
 

Altman, who wrote the story that drove Viens over the edge, raced to the cliffs soon after Viens jumped.

"And so he survives, but I mean ... had he hit his head, he'd be dead," said Altman.

Rescue workers pulled Viens off the cliff, put him in a helicopter and took him to a hospital. Viens' attempted suicide confirmed what Dawn's friends and family thought from the outset.

"He killed her. Plain and simple," Dawn's brother, David Papin said. "No one on this planet is gonna take their life for something they didn't do ..."

From his hospital bed, just days after his leap, David Viens confessed to police:

Police recording:

Sgt. Garcia: What happened that night? ... What happened with Dawn?

David Viens: For some reason I just got violent.

Sgt. Garcia: Why? Did Dawn do something to get you mad?

David Viens: Something happened. Yeah ...

On March 2, 2011, 17 months after Dawn Viens vanished, her husband, David, was charged with her murder.

Viens talked to "48 Hours" from the Los Angeles County Jail where he was recuperating.

"We were together 17 years ... after our first kiss I was just hooked. I was in love," he told Schlesinger by phone.

But that's not entirely true says Papin.

"They loved each other in the same breath they hated each other," he explained. "Anytime there's drugs and alcohol involved in any relationship, it's going to be toxic for sure."

Those closest to her knew it -- Dawn had begun using drugs, hard drugs.

"I couldn't even go home without her asking me to find something for her," said Jackie Viens.

"Something meaning?" Schlesinger asked.

"Like cocaine or meth," Jackie replied.

And it was drugs, says David Viens, that played a key role in their house the night Dawn was killed.

"I came home at about 12:30," he told Schlesinger by phone. "Dawn still wasn't home. I assumed she'd gone out to get cocaine and I really needed to sleep. I'd worked 90 hours that week."

Viens says he suspected Dawn would be high when she got home, so he says he blockaded the bedroom door.

"And I fell asleep sometime later ... and she was pounding on the door screaming," he continued. "I just yelled -- to her, 'Just sleep in the other room. Sleep in the other room.'"

Viens told "48 Hours" the same story he told Kathy Galvan.

"She came in like a hurricane and ... she starts messing with him and she broke through the door," said Galvan.

"... and now she was over me. She had the light on the night stand in my face and she was slapping my face," Viens told Schlesinger. "I kept just saying, 'Please leave me alone.' ... And this went on it seems like for - forever."

Viens says he finally got out of bed and followed Dawn into the living room. He says he saw Dawn and some cocaine.

"I took the cocaine off the table ... and threw it in the sink. And she started yelling," he said. "She kind of swayed her body. ... She hit the entertainment center. And she was a mess."

"So what did you do?" Schlesinger asked.

"There was some clear masking tape on the desk," he replied. "I took the tape and ... I taped around her arms ... her arms down to her side so she couldn't hit me, she couldn't ... throw anything."

"This was packing tape or--?

"This is just clear packing tape. Yeah," said Viens.

"Wow," Schlesinger remarked.

"I specifically remember asking, 'Have you done that kinda stuff before?' and he looked at me and he just goes [shrugs] and I was like, 'Oh my God, you've tied her up before?'" Galvan said. "... and he was like, 'Well, she just gets outta control! She just - she - but she usually calms down and then we go out to eat.' And I said, 'So this is normal for you then, that you tie her up, wait till she relaxes and then you take her out to dinner?' I'm like, 'What?'"

Viens says it always worked before, but this time he didn't just tape up her arms and legs.

"I tried to tell her to be quiet. It was almost 3:00 o'clock in the morning," he told Schlesinger, "but she's screaming that I wasted her drugs. I put a piece of tape on her mouth."

Viens left Dawn there until he woke up later in the morning.

"I roll over and I'm feeling for her in bed ... 'Cause I'm gonna cuddle with her," he continued. "And then all of a sudden I realize she's not there ... And I sit up like, 'Oh, my God. She's gonna be mad.'

"And I go out there to wake her up and I find her. And her body was cold and hard. She was dead. And ... 'Oh, my God.' I couldn't believe it. 'Oh, my God,'" he continued. "I was just -- numb."

"So what did you do?" Schlesinger asked.

"I walked around. [I] said, 'You need to think about this, this doesn't look good. You're going to be in trouble,'" Viens replied.

"Let's be clear. Did you mean to kill her that night?" Schlesinger asked.

"Absolutely not," said Viens.

"Did you have homicide in your heart, Mr. Viens?"

"No. I just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to calm down the situation so we could deal with it in the morning."

 

 

Later that day, Viens says he triple bagged Dawn's body, put it in his car and drove to the restaurant. That's when he spotted a garbage truck.

"I picked the ... bags up and I put it in the dumpster," Viens explained. "And I went back in there, washed my hands and just thought to myself, 'You're going to hell, David.'"

But first he went back to work, cooking and serving customers. With Dawn now gone, he soon realized he needed help. That's when he promoted Kathy Galvan -- first to hostess, then to mistress.

"Kathy stepped into my life. In one breath I'm laying in bed with this young woman," he said. "Part of me is thinking to myself, 'You're so sick. You were just laying in this bed with your wife two weeks ago.' ... But honestly in my mind my life was over anyways."

And, but for a lucky -- or unlucky -- landing at the base of a cliff, it would have been.

Asked if he remembers walking to the edge of the cliff, Viens told Schlesinger, "No, I really don't. ... I don't remember any of it."

Nineteen months after that leap, David Viens - now wheelchair bound - must appear in court to face murder charges and explain a wild story he told Sgt. Garcia about what he did to Dawn's body before putting her in the dumpster.

"In my time of doing this for a living, I've never heard anything like this," said Garcia.

Neither had "48 Hours".

. . .

Even though David Viens had confessed to accidently killing his wife, Sgt. Rich Garcia still had to verify his story. That was hard, because the detective was missing one essential ingredient: Dawn's body.

"Did you ask him that day where the body was?" Richard Schlesinger asked Garcia.

"Yes," he replied.

"What did he say?"

"He led us to believe that ... it would probably be at the restaurant."

CBS2 Los Angeles report: Developing news now in the search for Dawn Viens. Investigators have been using jackhammers the past two days, looking for her body.

"We tore the floors outta that place. We broke concrete," said Garcia.

"Did you find any trace of anything in that restaurant?" Schlesinger asked.

"Nothing, nothing," said Garcia.

Three weeks after David Viens' leap, Garcia got a break. Viens sent word from his hospital bed that he wanted to talk about how he had disposed of Dawn's body:

"I grab her right by the hands, both hands, and ... I bring her out to the living room ... force her onto the floor and I wrap her hands up real quick..." a heavily medicated sounding Viens was recorded telling police.

Asked if Viens was in pain, Garcia said, "I think yes ... he suffered a number of ... broken bones. ... If you listen to the tape, you can tell he's in pain."

The detective does not believe the drugs affected Viens' mind.

"I felt that he was completely lucid," said Garcia.

The story Viens told Garcia was, if not unbelievable, certainly surreal and more than a little grisly. Viens, the professional chef, tells Garcia that he disposed of Dawn's body by doing what a cook does best.

"He obtains a large -- pot. And ... he utilizes the pot to boil her," Garcia explained. "Places her in the pot, puts some water in it ... He put her face down, because he didn't wanna see her face..."

Police recording:

Sgt. Garcia: Her whole body fit in there?

David Viens: Whole body fit in there.

Sgt. Garcia: And then what did you do with that?

David Viens: ... I ended up cooking her for four days.

Sgt. Garcia: You cooked Dawn's body for four days?

David Viens: Before it was done.

"... and over a four-day period, he boiled her ... He'd do it all night," Garcia explained. "And then the larger portions, he would break them down, double bag it, no more than eight to 10 pounds per bag, because he didn't want it to be found ... And he put it in the trash bin."

"Did you ask him, like, how big a pot he used?" Schlesinger wondered.

"Yeah ... 50 gallons or something to that effect," the detective replied.

"When he was telling you this story, did you believe him?"

"Yes," said Garcia.

"May I ask why? Because it's -- a ridiculous sounding story," said Schlesinger.

"You don't make that story up," Garcia explained. "People do what they know how to do. He's a cook. He knows how to cook ... At a time of panic, you're gonna always draw back to the one thing you know."

Garcia may have bought Viens' story, but others find it hard to swallow, including Viens himself.

"You told the police in your confession that you boiled her over four days in the restaurant. Did you do that?" Schlesinger asked.

"No," Viens replied.

"Why did you say that you did?"

"Because I was hallucinating, Richard. I fell off an 80-foot cliff and was severely hurt ..." he replied.

"Do you think he boiled her, cooked her, after killing her?" Schlesinger asked Kathy Galvan.

"Absolutely not," she replied.

Galvan was working with him side by side.

"I have no idea where we would have been able to put a 55-gallon boiling body with people coming in and out of that restaurant all the time. All of us had access to the fridge. All of us had access to the stove. We had multiple cooks cooking with him," she continued.

"48 Hours" went to the restaurant, which is now a pizzeria, with Viens' mother, Sandy, to see how difficult it would have been. "48 Hours" bought a 55-gallon drum - the same type police say Viens used to boil his wife.

Sandy Viens says the stove is the same one Viens used to cook all sorts of things.

"I know you're his mother, but suspend that for just a minute if you can. I mean, is it possible?" Schlesinger asked.

"I don't see how. I don't see how. I think anyone and his brother would notice this. I believe you can see it from one of the tables in the kitchen," Sandy Viens said of the stove's location.

But a mother's opinion isn't as powerful in a court of law as the voice of her son. And when David Viens' murder trial began in September 2012, the prosecutor made sure the jury heard all about the cooking of Dawn's body:

Police recording:

Sgt. Garcia: And what size of a vat?

David Viens: It was big.

Sgt. Garcia: So a 50 gallon or --

David Viens: Bigger.

Sgt. Garcia: -- 55 gallon?

David Viens: It was heavy for me to carry.

This is roughly what the prosecution believes David Viens did: He took the pot filled with water and a body off the stove and put in on a cart. Then he wheeled the cart through the kitchen, through a narrow doorway into the dining room, and up a hall to the outside, where he would store the pot in a shed during business hours. And all the while, nobody saw anything and nobody smelled anything.

"You know what? In the whole time I covered this, nobody ever called here to say, 'I smelled something strange,'" reporter Larry Altman remarked. "People would say to me, 'Did he serve her?' And I would say, 'Well, no one's ever said anything about that to me.' And I would think maybe someone would have noticed."

But people did notice and remember that Viens had complained to Kathy Galvan and others that money had gone missing from the restaurant. The prosecution says that gave Viens a clear motive for killing Dawn -- and he is guilty of first-degree murder.

The defense says Dawn's death was an accident -- manslaughter.

It's a lot for the jury to chew on.

. . .

David Viens' murder trial took two weeks and boiled down to this question: Was the killing of Dawn Viens an accident or premeditated murder?

David Viens never took the stand, but defense lawyer Fred McCurry explained to jurors why Viens thought it was a good idea to wrap his wife in packing tape.

"This is how he had done it before on two prior occasions in order to constrain her when she had been out of control," McCurry told the court.

"And that is absolutely ridiculous," prosecutor Deborah Brazil told jurors. "So it's ridiculous for the defense to expect you to believe that two prior incidents of domestic violence where the defendant bound his wife and she didn't die on those two occasions---somehow makes this an accidental death."

It took the jury five hours to make a decision.

"We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant David Viens guilty of the crime of murder," read the court clerk.

It still could have been worse for Viens. Jurors did not convict him of first-degree murder because they didn't think he meant to kill Dawn. The verdict was second-degree murder.

But Viens was not done. He fired his lawyer to represent himself for the sentencing.

Six months after his conviction and nearly three-and-a-half years after Dawn's murder, the sentencing hearing began. And for the first time, acting as his own attorney, Viens addressed his wife's death in open court.

"The State's position was that I killed my wife intentionally because she stole between $200 and $300," he said. "It's ridiculous to think after 17 years that I would harm my wife -- at all -- but let alone for $300. Ridiculous. ... I loved my wife. I didn't cook my wife. I'd like the opportunity to testify."

For that to happen, Viens would have to have a new trial.

 

 

The judge denies that. Before Viens is finally sentenced, Dawn's sister, Dayna Papin, tells the judge what Dawn's killing has done to her. The statement is emotional in ways that are surprising.

"I have to live every day with feelings that I have for this man that killed my sister, because I love him very much. He was like a father to me," Dayna addressed the court. "But my life changed ... that day I got that phone call that she was missing and I knew that he had done something."

Viens immediately responds to Dayna:

"Nobody loved Dawn Marie Viens more than me or misses her more than I do. I never meant for what happened to happen. Never thought it would happen. I lied to the police out of fear. And my life's been a mess ever since. And I'm sorry, Dayna, to you and your brothers. You guys are like my little brothers and sisters," Viens said, slapping his hand down on the desk.

But the judge is not swayed by anything Viens says.

"I've considered the crime involved great violence," the judge said. "As to the crime alleged in count one, violation of Penal Code section 187A, second-degree murder, defendant's sentenced to 15 years to life in the state prison."

Fifteen years to life. Except for an appeal, this case is closed legally. But it remains an open wound emotionally for so many people. Like Jackie, David Viens' daughter, who, in the end, provided crucial evidence against her father by telling police he had confessed.

"So what are you feeling now?" Schlesinger asked Jackie.

"I don't know. The whole situation's just tough," she replied.

"There's something about this sort of weight that he had given to you that you still feel?"

"I just feel kind of responsible, you know?" an emotional Jackie replied.

"How can you do that to yourself?"

"I don't know," she said. "I just wish I never said anything, you know ... I know she loved him. And I know that he really loved her too. ... I just wish so many things could be different."

Dawn Viens' body has never been found.

David Viens is eligible for parole in 2023.

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