LOMITA (AP) — Investigators ended their search at a California restaurant on Wednesday for the body of a missing woman whose husband jumped off a cliff days earlier upon learning he was a suspect in her disappearance.
Crews had spent two days pulling up the concrete floors and sifting dirt at the Thyme Contemporary CafDe, a popular restaurant in south Los Angeles County, after a cadaver-sniffing dog indicated there could be a body there. Assistant chief coroner Ed Winter said following the search that there was no evidence of any human remains at the restaurant.
Authorities were looking for the remains of Dawn Viens, 39, who disappeared soon after opening the restaurant with her husband David Viens in the fall of 2009.
David Viens, 47, who was in the hospital after throwing himself off a cliff, reportedly told investigators that he was responsible for his wife’s death but did not say what had happened to her body, sheriff’s Lt. Dave Coleman said.
“He made statements to the investigators implicating himself as being solely responsible for Dawn’s death,” Coleman said.
The husband jumped off a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff last week,after reading a newspaper report saying he was a suspect in his wife’s disappearance and likely homicide.
He spotted detectives watching him and led them on a chase that ended when he pulled into a parking area near the edge of the cliff.
David Viens was with his live-in girlfriend, and both got out of the car and into an argument before he hopped a chain-link fence and plunged 80 feet onto rocks.
He smashed his ankles, a femur and his hips in the fall but was recovering in the hospital.
“What bit of serendipity allowed him to survive this, we don’t know,” Coleman said.
Coleman said David Viens would face unspecified charges once he had recovered.
A steady stream of curious bystanders watched as crews pulled the restaurant a part Wednesday. Among the observers were Dawn Viens’ sister, Dayna Papin, and two friends who wore buttons of her smiling face.
The couple had what friends and family described as a “tumultuous” relationship. They owned four different restaurants over the last 15 years, this last one in the heart of downtown Lomita, said Papin, 34.
The restaurant won rave reviews, with fans praising its blackened salmon and rack of lamb special.
Friend Karen Patterson said she grew suspicious of David Viens soon after her friend disappeared, noting he didn’t report her missing.
Patterson, 56, said she told friends not to eat at the restaurant and that she had a hunch he might have buried her there since he rented an apartment and didn’t have any other place of his own.
“I couldn’t see him just getting rid of her like that,” Patterson said. “I think it was a horrible accident.”
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