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S.D. murder trial focuses on chain saw

wright15.jpg

By Carson Walker
Associated Press Writer

A hardware cashier testified that a deaf woman accused of
dismembering a rival bought a chain saw two days after the victim
disappeared.

Daphne Wright, 43, the first female defendant in a South Dakota
capital punishment case, is charged with kidnapping and killing her
lover’s friend, Darlene VanderGiesen, on Feb. 1, 2006.

Denee Daniels, a cashier at Ace Hardware store, said Wednesday that
Wright paid cash for a $52.99 electric chain saw the morning of Feb.
3, 2006, and came back that afternoon to buy oil for the blade.

According to prosecutors, Wright became upset when her girlfriend,
Sallie Collins, befriended VanderGiesen, 42. The three women were
deaf and knew each other through the deaf community.

Detective Keith Gries also took the stand Wednesday, saying he saw
striations, or lines, on the concrete floor of Wright’s basement.
Prosecutors have said those lines are similar to the type of damage a
chain saw would leave.

Detective Steve Schaefer testified that when he searched Wright’s
basement, he spotted what turned out to be fragments of bone and
tissue matching VanderGiesen’s DNA on the wall of a room. He said the
fragments were similar to flecks he had seen during autopsies.

“What I have seen on the saw blade after they have conducted the
autopsy was very similar, I felt, to what I saw on the wall of this
small room,” Schaefer said.

He also testified that as investigators peeled away fresh blue paint
from the room’s floor, he smelled petroleum.

Prosecutors said part of VanderGiesen’s body was burned. Her remains
were found in a Minnesota ditch and a Sioux Falls landfill.

Lt. William Fluit also testified that orange carpet found near
VanderGiesen’s remains in the landfill matched some carpet in
Wright’s basement.

An autopsy determined VanderGiesen was killed either by suffocation
or a blow to the head. Wright was arrested Feb. 10 after a search of
her basement yielded bone fragments, muscle and fat that matched DNA
taken from VanderGiesen’s toothbrush.

(( Source:  The Olympian ))