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Graphic testimony evokes emotion in Wright trial

By Josh Verges

As jurors passed around pieces of a burned bra this morning, its
owner’s mother left the courtroom and sobbed.

Dee VanderGiesen stayed outside the room as jurors were handed
photographs of her daughter’s body taken by Sioux Falls police six
weeks after her death.

The last dismembered remains of Darlene VanderGiesen, her upper body
starting at the navel, were recovered March 28, 2006.

The remains were found inside bags and sheets 22 feet off a Minnesota
road about a 20-minute drive from Sioux Falls.

Jessica Lichty, Sioux Falls crime lab chemist, told jurors in Daphne
Wright’s capital murder trial that she recognized the human remains
as VanderGiesen, who was missing since Feb. 1 and whose lower pieces
were found at the city landfill on two occasions.

Lichty said she could see the woman’s face through a clear, plastic
bag, which carried a sticker that read, “Warning: Plastic bags can be
dangerous. To avoid danger of suffocation, keep this bag away from
babies and children.”

The next day, Lichty participated in an autopsy on the remains. She
described “black charring” on the face and neck and on the part of
the chest not covered by the bra.

Lichty cut away both the bag and a rope secured tightly around the
woman’s neck. She noticed blood and could smell VanderGiesen’s hair.

“It smelled like fuel, like gasoline,” Lichty said.

The upper body was still intact, Lichty said, except for
VanderGiesen’s right hand and forearm, which were exposed when a
highway worker found the remains.

The forensic chemist was on the witness stand for two and one-half
hours of testimony this morning, and will be back after lunch.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))