VanderGiesen’s parents testify in Wright’s death penalty hearing


Dee and Gene VanderGiesen, parents of murder victim Darlene VanderGiesen, leave the courtroom on Thursday after Daphne Wright’s conviction. The VanderGiesens testified today in the penalty phase of Wright’s trial.  (Photo by Lara Neel / Argus Leader)

By Josh Verges

As Gene and Dee VanderGiesen told jurors about their fractured family, their daughter’s killer dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson called only those two witnesses this morning before resting his case for death against Daphne Wright.

Darlene VanderGiesen’s parents described her as the “sparkplug” in the family, a practical joker who loved life.

Gene VanderGiesen said the last time he saw his first daughter was a birthday celebration in Sioux Falls.

“She came across the parking lot, put her big arms around me and gave me a great big hug and said ‘I love you,’ ” he said, holding up three fingers in sign language. “That was the last time I saw her alive.”

Defense attorney Jeff Larson will begin offering mitigating evidence after a break. He said in his opening statement today that he accepts the guilty verdict but there is no reason to end another life.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))

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