Details of Disappearance
Dawn was last seen in Lomita, California on October 18, 2009. She left her restaurant, the Thyme Contemporary Cafe in the 24400 block of Narbonne Avenue, at 5:00 p.m. She has never been heard from again. Dawn and her husband of fifteen years, David Robert Viens, have operated several restaurants, mostly in Florida. The Thyme Contemporary Cafe, which had been open for less than a year prior to Dawn's disappearance, is at the site of the former Basil and Rosemary, which the Vienses had also owned and where David worked as a chef. They lived in the 25400 block of Oak Avenue. A photo of David is posted below this case summary.
David stated he and Dawn got into an argument because he wanted her to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and she left him, taking a Louis Vuitton bag with her. He stated she had gone missing on occasions before, but never for this long. He speculated that she had gone to the mountains and would return once the skiing season was over. David never reported his wife missing; her sister did instead. He reportedly threw most of Dawn's clothing and personal belongings in the trash after her disappearance. He also began seeing another woman, a waitress at the restaurant, and within two weeks of Dawn's disappearance his girlfriend had moved in with him and taken over Dawn's former duties as hostess.
Dawn had a cache of several hundred dollars in tip money which she kept with a friend so her husband wouldn't find out about it, and she didn't take the money with her when she disappeared. She also left her Jeep behind, and she hasn't used her cellular phone. David had a criminal record in Vermont and Florida for drug-related offenses and Dawn was concerned he would get in trouble with the law again. Her loved ones said said David discouraged Dawn from making friends, and once he choked her after an argument.
In February 2011, authorities announced they believed Dawn had been killed, and they named David as a person of interest in her presumed death. By then, David had moved out of the home he'd shared with Dawn, which gave investigators the opportunity to search it. They found blood spattered on the bedroom walls and in another room of the house. After these facts were reported in the local newspaper, David jumped off an 80-foot cliff while trying to evade the police. They were not seeking to arrest him at that time, but they did want to question him.
David survived the fall, albeit with severe injuries. While in the hospital under police interrogation, he confessed to accidentally causing Dawn's death. According to David's statement, he duct-taped her wrists, ankles and mouth because she was making too much noise, then woke up later to find she had choked to death on her own vomit. He panicked because he thought no one would believe it was an accident. David had made a similar confession to his daughter, and it was after he learned his daughter had talked to the police that he attempted suicide.
David told police he'd boiled Dawn's body for four days and disposed of her remains in the grease pit and the trash bin at the Thyme Contemporary Cafe, except for the skull, which he hid in his mother's attic. (He later retracted that part of his confession, claiming he'd been under sedation after surgery at the time he made the statements and they weren't true. He said he'd actually put Dawn's body in the trash bin behind his restaurant. Investigators thoroughly searched the restaurant and David's mother's house for Dawn's remains, but couldn't find anything.) While still under treatment in the hospital, David was charged with first-degree murder.
David was convicted of a reduced charge of second-degree murder in 2012 and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison. Foul play is suspected in Dawn's case due to the circumstances involved. Her body has never been recovered.
Above: David Viens