The husband of a missing Lomita woman now believed to be dead jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff Wednesday as detectives worked to build a homicide case against him, sheriff's deputies said.
David Viens, 47, of Lomita was flown by helicopter to a hospital following his 80-foot plunge near the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Viens, who then rolled about another 100 feet to the shore, was listed in extremely critical condition, deputies said.
Viens was the subject of a Daily Breeze article Wednesday that reported he was a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance 16 months ago.
The Breeze reported that investigators found blood spatter on the walls inside his former home on Oak Avenue, and believe his wife, Dawn Viens, was the victim of a homicide. Her body has not been found.
In the hours before he jumped, David Viens' status in the case was upgraded to murder suspect, sheriff's Lt. Dave Coleman said.
"We developed information very recently that caused us to believe David was, in fact, a suspect in Dawn's murder," Coleman said.
Investigators were working on the case Tuesday in Los Angeles and in South Carolina. David Viens has a daughter in South Carolina.
After identifying David Viens as a suspect, deputies began looking for him Wednesday, although Coleman said they did not plan to arrest him. Deputies found Viens in his 2003 Toyota 4Runner about 5 miles east of the center on Palos Verdes Drive South, Coleman said.
"We didn't know if he was going to commit suicide," Coleman said.
As deputies approached him, Viens sped away at high speed toward the Interpretive Center. He pulled into the parking area and stopped near a fence at the cliff's edge.
Viens got out of the sport utility vehicle along with his passenger, girlfriend Kathy Galvan, Coleman said.
The two struggled, and the deputies ordered the pair to separate. Galvan complied. Viens then broke away, jumped a chain-link fence and plunged to the shore below, Coleman said.
Viens was still alive when rescuers reached him. He was flown to County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he underwent surgery for internal injuries and broken bones.
He is in an induced coma, deputies said.
"Although he is in the hospital, he will be arrested for murder," Coleman said. "Suicide shows some consciousness of guilt."
Dawn Viens has been missing since Oct. 18, 2009. On Wednesday, her sister said she hopes now investigators will find out what happened to her.
"It's a very, very clear indication about being guilty of something. He's a troubled man," said Dayna Papin, Dawn Viens' sister. "Maybe now he will tell us what happened. We need to know where she is. She needs to be put to rest properly."
Investigators at the cliff Wednesday said they did not immediately know if David Viens left any notes.
Galvan, who was taken in for questioning, told investigators she had read the Daily Breeze article and it had been the subject of conversation with her boyfriend, Coleman said.
Detectives said they later gathered more evidence tying David Viens to the crime.
"Information obtained shortly after the suspect jumped over the cliff confirmed the fact he is implicated in the death of Dawn," sheriff's Sgt. Richard Garcia said.
David Viens, a chef at his restaurant, Thyme Contemporary Cafe on Narbonne Avenue in Lomita, was in the kitchen Tuesday when a Daily Breeze reporter attempted to question him. Galvan ordered the reporter to leave.
David Viens, who has a criminal record that includes drug trafficking, told friends after his wife went missing that she took a Louis Vuitton bag and walked away when he demanded she go to drug rehabilitation.
She did not take her car or $640 she had stashed with a friend.
Detectives said David Viens never contacted them to help try to find his wife of 15 years.
Papin said news that blood was found in her sister's home was "very, very upsetting" because family members had held out hope she was alive somewhere.
Dawn Viens, however, never tried to call any family members or friends, and there has been no activity in her bank accounts.
"In my heart, all along I've known she was gone, but to have proof that something happened ... ," she said. "It makes me sick to my stomach to know that something really awful happened to her."
Papin said she was "blown away" by the fact Viens jumped from a cliff. She said she hopes he survives.
"I just want to know where she is," Papin said. "I want him to tell us where she is."
Lomita motorcycle shop owner Joe Cacace, a friend of Dawn Viens, said the cliff jump was telling.
"He tried taking the easy way out," Cacace said. "He tried taking justice into his own hands and he failed."