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Replica of saw shown to jury

State: Wright used one to dismember victim

By Josh Verges

Jurors saw a photograph of Darlene VanderGiesen’s dismembered legs
Wednesday and a note from accused killer Daphne Wright that suggests
she was framed.

Prosecutors say Wright, 43, threw each piece of evidence in the
garbage – the legs in a commercial Dumpster on Feb. 3, 2006, and the
note in a hotel trash can later that week while police searched her
Sioux Falls home.

Police never recovered the light-duty chainsaw they say Wright used
to hack up the body, but jurors saw a replica Wednesday.

In the note, written on seven small Days Inn notepad pages, Wright
explains several incriminating details:

# She was nervous not because she was to blame for VanderGiesen’s
disappearance but because a man had been stalking and raping her for

# She painted her basement not to cover up evidence of dismemberment
but because she wanted to sleep there;

# It was the unidentified rapist who kidnapped VanderGiesen outside
an east-side Pizza Hut because he thought Wright told her about his

“Maybe man frame me? He said wanted me to get out of SF,” the
defendant’s letter stated, according to the testimony of police
Detective Timothy Bakke.

Police found the note Feb. 10 in the trash can of a Days Inn hotel
room after Wright checked out. It was not addressed to anyone but was
found along with a crumpled paper that apparently contained the
e-mail address of Sandra Sidford, VanderGiesen’s sister.

Wright’s defense team had no questions for the detective on
cross-examination. They have said police failed to follow up on other
leads but have given no indication that they will use the note in
Wright’s defense.

Prosecutors say Wright killed VanderGiesen, 43, because she was
jealous of her friendship with Wright’s lover, Sallie Collins. They
are seeking the death penalty. If they succeed, she would be the
first woman on South Dakota’s death row.

But Wright’s lawyers told jurors the state’s evidence won’t prove she
kidnapped or killed the woman.

Much of the testimony Wednesday, the third day of the trial, focused
on Wright’s purchases Feb. 3, two days after VanderGiesen
disappeared. Police officers, store employees and receipts found at
Wright’s home helped establish a timeline for the day.

Barb Kluthe, a U.S. Bank employee, testified to the defendant’s bank
transactions. Wright’s checking account had $21 on Feb. 1, and an
overdraft of $13 the next day, she said.

But thanks to a Feb. 3 Supplemental Security Income check, Wright had
$600 in the account and another $200 in her pocket after making an
ATM withdrawal at 9 a.m. that day.

Witnesses said Wright paid cash for a $53 chainsaw at 10 a.m., then
bought trash bags 20 minutes later and chainsaw oil at 1:15 p.m.

Prosecutors say Wright then hacked up VanderGiesen’s body at the
knees and torso and discarded the pieces. The legs were recovered
Feb. 11 from a landfill west of Sioux Falls, along with Wright’s
shirt and carpeting from her basement; the rest of the body was found
six weeks later in southwestern Minnesota.

Police recovered a bottle of chainsaw lubricant from the trash at
Wright’s 1806 S. Phillips Ave. home but not the chainsaw.

Police Detective Keith Gries told jurors Wednesday about apparent
chainsaw marks on Wright’s basement floor and blue paint spread
sloppily on parts of the basement floor and walls.

Detective Steve Schaefer testified that when officers peeled the
paint away, he smelled gasoline. Prosecutors have said that in
addition to dismembering VanderGiesen’s body, Wright used gasoline as
she tried to burn it.

Schaefer said some of the paint covered what looked like flecks of
bone and tissue, similar to what he had seen on autopsy saws.

Lawyers indicated that at some point in the trial, the state will
show jurors a forensic experiment where Minnehaha County Coroner Brad
Randall uses the same type of chainsaw to cut through a pig carcass.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))