Karen Patterson, left, reacts to the second-degree murder conviction for David Viens, right, Sept. 27, 2012.

Chef Who Killed, Then Cooked Wife Sentenced

David Viens confessed to boiling wife's body for four days, but now he says he's innocent.

Karen Patterson, left, reacts to the second-degree murder conviction for David Viens, right, Sept. 27, 2012.
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California chef David Viens was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison Friday for murdering his wife and then disposing of her corpse with culinary flair.

The shocking story began in 2009 when Dawn Viens went missing. Her husband, who owned a restaurant in Lomita, Calif., pretended that she had run off, and allegedly used her phone to text message friends. The restaurant, according to a profile on urbanspoon.com, was "Vegan Friendly" and served American-style food.

When police were closing in on him in 2011, the Los Angeles Times reports, Viens jumped off an 80-foot cliff in an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

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Recovering in a hospital, Viens confessed to police detectives that he killed his wife, but said her death happened unintentionally after he duct-taped her mouth and arms, then fell asleep.

Fearing that he would be suspected of murder, Viens said, he decided to dispose of the corpse.

"I cooked her four days, I let her cool, I strained it out," he said during the tape-recorded confession, noting that the grease trap caught some of the drippings.

"I took some—some things that we use, and I put them on top of her body, and I just slowly cooked it."

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Most of the remains, including "seven or eight pounds in grease," were thrown away, Viens said in his confession. His wife's skull, he said, was stored in his mother's attic. That body part was never found by police.

The Times reported that Karen Patterson, a friend of the victim who testified that David Viens had abused his wife before her death, told reporters during the trial, "He treated her—literally—like a piece of meat and got rid of her."

Despite his confession—and subsequent conviction for second-degree murder—Viens now claims that he didn't kill his wife. "I loved my wife. I didn't cook my wife," The Times quoted him as saying Friday. Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo that Viens is "a liar and a manipulator."

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