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Lomita Man Charged With His Wife’s Murder

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David and Dawn Viens (courtesy: Lomita Police Dept.)

David and Dawn Viens (courtesy: Lomita Police Dept.)

LOMITA (CBS/AP) — A Lomita man who survived a suicide attempt off an oceanfront cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes has been charged with murdering his wife.

It was not immediately clear when David Viens, 47, will be arraigned because he remains hospitalized as a result of his injuries.

Investigators Wednesday ended their search for the body of his wife, 39-year-old Dawn Viens, at the couple’s restaurant.

Crews had spent two days pulling up the concrete floors and sifting dirt at the Thyme Contemporary CafDe 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.

Viens, 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.

Viens 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 searched the restaurant 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.”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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