The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 50 - September 26, 2012


Viens admits to gruesome acts

The prosecution in the second-degree murder trial of former Bradenton Beach restaurant owner David Viens dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

That’s when the jury heard a March 2011 recording of Viens telling sheriff’s investigators the reason they could not find the body of his missing wife, Dawn, was because he cooked it until there was little left but the skull.

“I just slowly cooked it and I ended up cooking her for four days,” Viens, 49, could be heard saying on the detective’s recording, according to a news report from the Daily Breeze newspaper in Las Angeles. The recording was made at the hospital as Viens lay in bed recovering after jumping off an 80-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes. He jumped after learning he was a suspect in her death.

In the recording, Viens also told authorities he stuffed Dawn Viens’ body in a 55-gallon barrel of boiling water and used weights to keep it submerged, face down. After four days of boiling, he mixed what was left in the drum with other waste, dumping some of it in his restaurant’s grease trap.

Viens said the only significant part of his wife’s body that was left was her skull and he hid it in his mother’s attic in Torrance, Cal., but when police searched the house earlier, they found nothing.

Viens told sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Garcia that he was enraged at his wife when he noticed money missing from the restaurant on Oct. 18, 2009, and when he got home that night, they argued and he forced her to the floor, wrapped her up and put a piece of duct tape over her mouth. He said when he awoke four hours later, she was dead.

Viens told the sergeant he panicked and put her body in a plastic bag after he realized she was dead. He took her to his restaurant Thyme Contemporary Café in Lomita, Calif., put her body in the drum and cooked her.

Viens’ original story to police in 2009 was that Dawn had left him. After he was arrested last year, he admitted killing his wife to police, but has claimed it was an accident.

On Friday, Sept. 21, Viens became upset with his attorney. According to a report in the Internet newspaper Huff Post, Viens stood up from his wheelchair to object when his attorney, Fred McCurry, said he had no more case to present. He had told McCurry he would not testify in his own defense and when he asked if he could represent himself, he was told no.

David and Dawn Veins owned a home in Holmes Beach and operated the Beach City Market in Bradenton Beach from 2002-2005. In January 2005, police raided the Viens home and arrested David Viens on suspicion of possession of more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana within 1,000 feet of Anna Maria Elementary School, possession of opium, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm. His wife was not charged in that case, saying at the time her husband was just the middle man in a nationwide drug smuggling operation.

On April 25, 2005, the Florida state’s attorney dropped all charges against Viens after he turned state’s evidence.


Investigation review completed

BRADENTON BEACH – A Specialized Multi-Agency Review Team (SMART) convened on Sept. 19 at the Avon Park College in Highlands County to review the Sheena Morris death investigation by the Bradenton Beach Police Department.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) convened the panel at the request of Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale after repeated requests by Morris’s mother, Kelley Osborn, to reopen the investigation.

Osborn has disagreed with the police department’s ruling that her daughter’s hanging death on New Year’s Day 2009 was a suicide and has said repeatedly she thinks her daughter was murdered.

Osborn’s requests turned into protests and recently, a series of stories in a Sarasota daily newspaper appeared to support her claims and cited testimony from a forensic “specialist.”

A Bradenton Beach Police Department news release dated Sept. 20 said members of the panel represented law enforcement professionals from various agencies throughout Florida.

“The SMART Panel did not reinvestigate the case,” the release said. “Rather, this independent panel objectively reviewed the investigation, relying on the specialized expertise of the members to provide suggestions or recommendations regarding this case.”

The release said the results would be released to the police department “in the coming weeks.”

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby attended the hearing, which convened around 9:30 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m.

“They looked at it as a homicide,” he said of the panel. “Their goal was to ask questions as to whether it could have been a murder instead of a suicide.”

Cosby said the department would take the panel’s recommendations seriously.

“When the recommendations come back, we’re going to ask FDLE to direct us with whatever they recommend.”

Cosby said while the panel was asking questions, they were looking at Osborn’s website about her daughter’s death,

“They were addressing the family’s concerns,” he said.

Speciale has said he stands behind the investigation conducted by Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz. Osborn had said she had more evidence in the case and Speciale responded that if she would bring the evidence to him, he would possibly reopen the case. She never has. The last time he asked for the new evidence, she countered by asking whose job it was to have the evidence.

District 12 Medical Examiner Russell Vega changed his cause of death ruling in the case from suicide to undetermined after talking with Osborn. She had hired a former medical examiner, Dr. Michael Berkland, and presented his findings to Vega. Weeks later, Berkland was arrested on charges of keeping human remains in a storage unit in Pensacola. It also was revealed that Berkland worked at the District 1 Medical Examiner’s office from 1997 to 2003, when he was fired for not completing autopsy reports. His state license to serve as a medical examiner has been withdrawn.

Conference to celebrate authentic Florida
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Those attending the conference will enjoy a cocktail cruise
on the Island Pearl on Wednesday evening.

Coastal Manatee County is one of four areas in the state that is considered authentic Florida and a conference coming in October will explore what makes it unique and how others can keep their areas authentic.

The first Sustainable & Authentic Florida Conference (SAFL) will take place Oct. 17 through 19 at the Island Players Theater. Participants can sign up for individual days or the entire conference.

"It’s an inquiry bringing together good minds to look at how investment in authentic places creates stable economies,” said Carolyne McKeon, associate conference director.

“It will take place in coastal Manatee County because residents here largely resist grow-at-all-cost policy in favor of themselves determining how their places develop.”

“It’s great that we’re being recognized as an area that values its character and history and that promoting those things attracts the right kind of visitors to our area,” added Ed Chiles, who is one of the conference sponsors.

Schedule and speakers

The schedule includes:

Wednesday, Oct. 17: a fish fry in Cortez, a speaker and Q and A session, a tour of Cortez, a cocktail cruise and dinner at Mar Vista on Longboat Key.

Thursday, Oct, 18: breakfast at The Studio in Anna Maria, speakers and Q and A at the Island Players Theater, a tour of Pine Avenue, lunch at the Green Village, speakers and Q and A and dinner at the Sandbar.

Friday, Oct. 19: breakfast at the Studio in Anna Maria, speakers and Q and A and concluding discussions and an evaluation.

Speakers include Peggy Bulger, Ph.D., retired director Library of Congress American Folklife Center; Duane De Freese, Ph.D., educator/scientist on coastal adaptation to climate change; Clay Henderson, J.D., iconic environmental leader; Bob McNulty, president Partners for Livable Communities, Washington, D.C.; Gary Mormino, Ph.D., co-director Florida Studies Program USF and social historian; Bruce Stephenson, Ph.D., director Rollins College Masters Program in Urban Studies; and Florida photojournalist-interpreter John Moran.

Fees and sponsors

For the full three-day conference, the fee is $225. The Wednesday only fee is $100, the Thursday only fee is $125 and the Friday only fee is $75. Seating for the conference is limited. Participants may also sponsor scholarships for students to attend.

To register or for more information and a complete conference schedule, call McKeon at 941-228-4715 or go to

The conference is presented by the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust in association with the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Florida Journeys Communications.

Sponsors include the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sandbar restaurant, Anna Maria Island Resorts, Anna Maria Guest House on Pine Avenue, U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, University of Miami School of Architecture, and Rusty Chinnis Images.

Privateers Grog Off
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Joe Hendricks | submitted
Above, Nicole Skaggs serves grog to Sue and Jim Peterfeso.


The Drift Inn parking lot was awash with swashbuckling pirates and punch drinking revelers Saturday afternoon during the second annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Grog Off.

The Grog Off was part of the non-profit Privateers’ continuing fundraising efforts to support kids and community.

“A grog is whatever you’ve got, said Jason Burns, a partner with Bogey’s Sports Pub in Bradenton. “That’s the pirate term, whether it’s rum, vodka, beer, anything…whatever you have.”

The Bogey’s entry, “Berry Me on the Beach,” earned third place and consisted of Absolut Vodka, multiple fruit juices, raspberry lemonade, iced tea and fresh fruit.

Nicole Skaggs , owner of Big Fish Real Estate and a Privateer in training, created the Mojito-inspired grog deemed to be the best grog by more than 60 grog-tasting voters, defeating The Bridgetender Inn’s coconut flavored grog by a single vote.

Grog tasters paid $10 to taste all 12 entries before casting their ballots for the best grog. Grogs were identified by number only, so tasters did not know whose grog they were sampling.

When asked how it felt to win the Grog Off, Skaggs said, “I’m glad it stayed on the Island.”

Skaggs, who worked the event as a Privateers volunteer, would not reveal her winning recipe, but said, “What I will tell you is the secret of it is true Barbados rum, fresh mint and fresh lime.”

As for her winning strategy, Skaggs said, “I had a feeling everyone was going to go kind of punchy and sweet, so I went a little crisp. I wanted to go a different direction and that might have made it stand out.”

The Drift In won last year’s inaugural Grog Off. Using a new recipe this year, Drift In Manager Doreen Flynn said her entry was a guavaberry punch made from rare guavaberry rum, cranberry juice, champagne and some nutmeg to “give it a little kick.”

In regard to hosting the event, Flynn said, “I love the Privateers and I would do anything to help them raise money.”

The silver mug and plaque that serves as the Grog Off traveling trophy will now reside at Big Fish Real Estate until next year’s Grog Off.

Land and Cruise Travel owner Lori Guerin was among those that voted for Skaggs Mojito Grog.

“This is so good…like a mojito but more refreshing,” she said.

Attending his first grog tasting, Bradenton Beach resident Jim Peterfeso described Skaggs’ creation as “Hemingway in Cuba Grog,” in reference to the author’s love of Cuba and strong drink.

His favorite grog was entry #6, which he nicknamed “The Georgia Peach Grog,” for its peachy flavor.

His wife, Sue, said her favorite grog was entry #5, which she deemed “The Garden Grog,” because the fruit cocktail flavored grog’s ingredients included basil, cilantro and chives.

“This is awesome in its creativity,” she said as she drank her Dixie Cup-sized sample.

She also liked The Bridgetender Inn grog and said it reminded her of a cocoanut Dreamsicle.

Grog entries were also submitted by Hurricane Hank’s, Clancy’s Irish Pub, Peggy’s Corral, the Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association, The Clam Factory, Mexicali’s Border Café, Pirate Girl Events and Niki’s Island Treasures.

“If you’re a business on the Island and you support the Privateers that’s nothing but good stuff,” Skaggs said.

Dressed in full pirate attire, Privateer Roger “Hoodat” Murphree said, “We’re raising money for our annual scholarship fund; all the kids of Manatee County are welcome to apply and we’ll help them through college based on a number of criteria. Grades, of course, are important, but we also look at financial need and community service participation.”

Sunday morning, Privateers Vice-President MaryAnn “Maz” Zyla, said the grog tasting fees raised more the $600, with additional revenue generated by a 50-50 raffle, Scurvy Dog hot dog sales and a grog chugging contest won by John “Captain Barbosa” Swager.

On Sunday, the Privateers hosted the Touch a Truck event in Bradenton, offering low-income youths and others the chance to climb into a monster truck.

Next up for the Privateers is the Sixth Annual “Shiprek” Poker Run taking place Oct. 7 and starting at Peggy’s Corral in Palmetto.

Bayfest includes cool wheels

file photo
This surf woodie was popular with the crowds
at last year's Bayfest, and there will be more
like it at this year's car show on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Besides the hot rods, expect carefully restored
antiques and souped up versions of the cars some
of us drove in our earlier years.

ANNA MARIA – It’s time to shake off the summer doldrums and celebrate.

It’s time for another Bayfest.

Bayfest returns to Pine Avenue on Oct. 19 and 20 and the lineup is impressive.

The festivities begin on Friday, Oct. 19, with food and music at the field at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, across the street from the Anna Maria City Pier.

No matter whether you call it the Friday Afternoon Club or Thank God It’s Friday, it promises to be a great way to make the transition from the end of the workweek to the start of a great weekend.

There will be music from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. featuring MC Scott Prichard from 5-6 p.m., KoKo Ray from 6-8 p.m. and the Billy Rice Band from 8:30-10 p.m.

Miller Electric provides the electrical hookups and serves as music sponsor along with Bright House Networks and Anna Maria Island Resorts.

Don’t overdue it Friday night because you’ll have to come back Saturday, when the music resumes at 10 a.m. and the street will be filled with more than 100 vendors, according to Mary Ann Brockman, executive director of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, which organizes this event.

One of the big draws to this event, however, is the car show along Pine Avenue that runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Organizer Bill Mergens said they expect around 100 cars again this year ranging from fully restored antiques to modified street rods. There will be a lot of models that many of the men and women attending once owned. Whether it’s a new Camaro or a two-seater Thunderbird, there will be a lot to appreciate.

Ladies, bring your husband and if he doesn’t like to shop, let him drool over these colorful beauties. Just take the credit card and leave there, but don’t forget to bring him a snack or some beer from time to time.

Mergens said this year, local car owners will have to register with him by calling 941-920-2277.

Bayfest again is sponsored by The Sun newspaper, as it has been every year since the festival began in 2000.

FISH plans for grant

CORTEZ – The Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (FISH) is looking to the future and thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP), the future looks rosy, but members need a plan to make sure the grant is theirs.

FISH members met last Thursday night, Sept. 20, to discuss the grant, which would be applied to the Cortez Preserve, a large tract of mostly undeveloped land east of the historic fishing village that was purchased by the residents through FISH proceeds from the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival held in February.

This grant would help FISH return this land to its original condition while offering space for the remaining commercial fishers to store equipment and serving as a buffer from development.

The group’s first task Thursday night was to decide where it wants the conservation district, which will benefit from the grant. According to FISH Treasurer Karen Bell, the outline should start at the Trap Yard Canal east to the edge of the property and up to the Wilkerson house and everything east.

Bell said having the land classified as conservation under the county land use code would not preclude allowing parking, especially around the Cortez Schoolhouse and north to the water, where crab traps could be stored.

Dianne Rosensweig, from the engineering firm Sheda, which is overseeing the development for the grant, said they should plan on keeping wetlands as they are.

“It’s a lot easier to maintain them like that,” she said. “Weeds can’t grow there.”

The group discussed a border between the land and Cortez Road to try to keep out trespassers. The land has been popular with people dumping items and to the homeless for camping.

Rosensweig suggested planting trees along the border and building a berm inside and taking out the trees.

FISH President Kim McVey suggested a fence outside of the berm and taking down the fence, but Cathy Slusser, from the Manatee County Clerk of the Court’s Office, which manages the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, felt there should be something to make sure dirt bikers and other can’t get in.

“You need to prove to them (SBEP) that you can control access,” she said. “Maybe keep the fence there, but I would say you should move fairly quickly to keep people out.”

Former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said they could dig a big drop-off from the sidewalk along Cortez Road and she asked Slusser if she felt a berm would keep people out.

“Being a person with two sons who have dirt bikes, I would say a berm would be an invitation in,” she said.

FISH Secretary Joe Kane said he would like to see a fence, but Slusser said if they want to use plantings to control access, they should contact Keep Manatee Beautiful to see if there are free plants available or financial help with what they purchase.

Slusser suggested the group make a management plan for all the property, not just the conservation district. She recommended property FISH would be managing.

“I’m running into resistance from fishermen who want to use all the property,” McVey said. “They say that’s why they bought it.”

The management plan has to be approved by the Oct. 4 board meeting. They agreed to hold another meeting this Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. at the church across the street from the old firehouse.

Historic preservation committee crafts ordinance

ANNA MARIA – Historical preservation committee members last week began revising the Boynton Beach Historical Preservation Ordinance to fit the city’s needs.

They began with the definition section, making minor changes. Their goal is writing a historic preservation ordinance that will provide incentives and relief from Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for people who want to save ground level homes.

They also discussed the city’s flood elevation requirements. Member George Bardford said member Dan Gagne, a builder, said the city has a height requirement of 13 feet, but the actual requirement 9 feet.

“If that could be changed, it would allow prospective owners of one-story buildings to make changes without elevating,” Barford pointed out.

Building Official Bob Welch said that discussion is outside of the scope of the ordinance the committee is crafting, but added, “If we allow that, we could allow some buildings to be raised up one foot above base flood elevation as an alternative to raising them 13 feet.”

Barford said if people could do that now, it would assist owners of ground level homes.

Welch also advised committee members to consider what they want to allow people to do to buildings that are declared historic.

The committee’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 2:30 p.m.

Manatee Food Bank needs are still great

Cash and food donations continue to come in for the Food Bank of Manatee’s Grand Challenge, but food is being distributed to local agencies almost as quickly as it’s donated. At least 50 agencies come regularly each week, and another 50 receive food as needed.

Organizations, clubs, businesses and schools around Manatee County have raised nearly 26,000 pounds of food and nearly $15,000 to help restock the Food Bank of Manatee’s shelves over the past month. But Food Bank Director Cindy Sloan said more is needed to meet needs until the traditional donation period begins in November.

Sloan said she’s amazed at the community response that began in August when word began to spread about the Food Bank’s shortage at the end of the summer. County Commissioner Carol Whitmore and School Board member Julie Aranibar launched the Grand Challenge urging local groups to raise 1,000 pounds or $1,000 or a combination of the two for the Food Bank.

Food Bank officials use the cash donations to buy food, sometimes as low as 9 cents per pound, so more than 100,000 pounds of food has already been distributed for the hungry this month as a result of the Grand Challenge. But more is needed because there’s such great need in the community.

“I really want to thank people for all they’re doing, but we were at a point so low that we’re only now coming out,” Sloan said. “Our agencies are loving it because they can actually fill their trucks to deliver food that can be distributed. But if donations don’t continue to come in, we’ll be in the same boat in another month.”

Sloan said October is typically a slow month for donations, a trend that continues until right before Thanksgiving and into the holiday season.

Nearly 100 businesses and organizations have requested food bins to collect canned goods and non-perishable items for the cause. All of the collection barrels have been distributed, but there are boxes available for businesses that want to host a local food drive.

Keeton’s Office Supply is delivering food to the Food Bank from any local businesses to which they deliver business orders.

Anyone interested can obtain a food collection barrel by calling (941) 747-FOOD. Food Drive Kits can also be found at the Food Bank’s website.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper