LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles-area chef who told police he bound and gagged his wife, then panicked when she died and cooked her corpse for four days in a vat of boiling water, was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder.

David Viens, 49, was convicted in the death of his wife by a jury of six men and six women in Los Angeles Superior Court after about five hours of deliberations. He faces 15 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced in November.

Dawn Marie Viens, 39, vanished in October 2009. Her remains have never been found. The couple owned a restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Lomita.

David Viens was questioned by Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives about his wife's death in March 2011, while recovering from injuries he suffered from leaping off an 80-foot cliff in an apparent suicide attempt.

In two recorded interviews, Viens told detectives that during a quarrel with his spouse he bound and gagged her with duct tape and went to sleep.

Viens was vague about the reasons for the fight, saying in the interviews that it "seemed like it had to do with her stealing money," according to recordings. He said he awoke hours later to find her dead, panicked and decided to dispose of her body by boiling it.

The chef described in grim detail how he placed her corpse face down into a large vat that held her entire body and kept it submerged with weights.

"And I just slowly cooked it, and I ended up cooking her for four days," he told detectives in one of the two recordings played in court last week.

He said he then let the remains cool, "strained it out" and disposed of what was left in garbage bags mixed in with other debris and waste in a dumpster.

During closing arguments in the case, a prosecutor argued that Dawn Viens most likely died in a more "violent" fashion, possibly by being choked.

But a defense attorney said there was no evidence to prove that her death was not an accident and suggested Viens' statements during the interviews were unreliable because he was under the influence of pain killers at the time.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)