Friends, family relieved by verdict

By Jonathan Ellis

A wave of emotion swept through a Minnehaha County courtroom Thursday after a jury found Daphne Wright guilty in the gruesome kidnapping and murder of Darlene VanderGiesen last year.

VanderGiesen’s family and friends hugged and wept as they filed out of the courtroom to an adjoining room.

Jurors were ushered out of the courtroom after the verdict. When they were told to return to receive instructions for the sentencing phase, which begins next week, there was a long pause because some were too shaken.

Wright’s mother, meanwhile, didn’t stand when jurors left after the verdict. It’s customary for those in the courtroom to stand as the jurors file out. She didn’t comment.

Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson looked back and nodded at VanderGiesen’s family after the verdict was announced, an acknowledgement of the outcome.

The end of Wright’s grueling murder trial brought
happiness to three of
VanderGiesen’s friends, who were interviewed by the Argus Leader through an interpreter.

The murder, they said, shocked the tight-knit deaf community in Sioux Falls.

Though pleased with the outcome, friends said
VanderGiesen’s death left an unfillable void.

“I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Monique Lyon-Boothe said. “We want her back so bad.”

Laura Linton, who played on a softball team with
VanderGiesen, described her as a sweet woman who liked to joke around. She was popular in the community. Wright, on the other hand, was isolated and not well known among deaf people.

“When I heard about this,
I was so confused, and I couldn’t believe what was going on,” Linton said.

Dianna Beverly said it was still difficult for many to accept that VanderGiesen was gone.

“We feel like she’s still going to be around,” Beverly said.

The penalty phase in Wright’s trial begins Tuesday. She faces the death penalty.

When asked how they wanted it to end, the three women said it was up to the jury. Beverly and Lyon-Boothe said they think the death penalty is appropriate, given the brutality of the murder. Linton said she didn’t know.

“Whether we do life or death, I’m not sure,” Linton said. “I definitely think it needs to be a severe punishment.”

VanderGiesen’s sister and brother-in-law, Sandra and Jeffrey Sidford, expressed relief at the guilty verdict. Both, however, say that Wright’s fate should be up to the jury.

“I’m satisfied today,”
Jeffrey Sidford said. “What the answer is, I cannot say.”

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))

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