A restaurant owner accused of murdering his wife, and later jumping off an oceanfront cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes in what authorities say was a failed suicide attempt, sat in a pink wheelchair Monday as jury selection for his trial began in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
David Robert Viens, 49, pleaded not guilty last March to a charge that he murdered his wife Dawn between Oct. 18-20, 2009. He is jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Dawn Viens was reported missing by friends and family members three weeks after she was last seen at Thyme Contemporary Cafe, the restaurant her husband owned at 24427 Narbonne Ave.
He was under surveillance by sheriff's deputies about 9:15 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2011, when he leapt from a cliff near the 31500 block of Palos Verdes Drive West after publication of a newspaper article describing him as a person of interest in the case.
Viens was arrested five days later, while still under treatment at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Viens' daughter testified during a preliminary hearing that he told them the death was an accident—caused when he tied up and gagged his wife because he was tired of listening to her talk. According to that account, the victim choked on her own vomit and died, but her body has never been found.
Authorities dug at the restaurant in March 2011 after cadaver dogs indicated a body might be buried there, but no human remains were recovered.
If convicted, Viens faces up to life in prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Jury selection is expected to continue Tuesday.