Category Archives: Wright Case

Deaf black lesbian could be first woman on South Dakota death row

A deaf, black lesbian accused of using a chainsaw to dismember a rival could become the first woman sent to South Dakota’s death row.

The trial of Daphne Wright, 43, has shocked and captivated this largely rural state, which has not executed a prisoner in more than 60 years.

Wright is accused of kidnapping and murdering a heterosexual deaf woman, Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, whom she thought was spending too much time with her girlfriend, who is also deaf.

Emotional testimony and gruesome exhibits filled the first week of her trial, and worse is to come: prosecutors are expected to show jurors a video of a pig being dismembered with the same type of chainsaw Wright bought two days after VanderGiesen disappeared.

VanderGiesen’s mother sobbed and stepped out of the courtroom as jurors passed around her daughter’s charred brassiere on Thursday.

But she managed to sit stoically as a maintenance worker described finding her daughter’s head and navel wrapped in bags and bed sheets that other witnesses linked to Wright.

Flecks of VanderGiesen’s bone and tissue were found hidden under a coat of fresh paint in Wright’s basement, where the smell of gasoline lingered days after VanderGiesen’s charred remains were left in a nearby Dumpster and in a steep ravine 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, police testified.

Prosecutors said a vengeful Wright persuaded VanderGiesen to meet her and to enter her car on February 1, 2006. Wright then killed her with either a blow to the head or by suffocation, according to prosecutors.

After two days spent scrounging up money to buy a chainsaw, Wright chopped up the body at the knees and navel and disposed of the pieces, prosecutor Dave Nelson said in opening statements last week.

“The reason for this murder? Jealousy,” he told jurors.

Police were led to Wright after VanderGiesen’s sister showed them several insulting e-mails Wright had sent to her rival a week before she disappeared.

Wright acknowledged to police that she thought VanderGiesen was trying to destroy her relationship with girlfriend Sallie Collins, but said they reconciled after a confrontation.

She denied harming the woman, though her story changed several times while talking to police.

Public defender Traci Smith told jurors the state has no evidence that Wright kidnapped or murdered VanderGiesen, and said police had failed to follow leads pointing to other suspects.

She said the e-mails were not evidence of a motive for the horrific slaying.

The messages, which Wright admitted signing with a pseudonym, described VanderGiesen as ugly, stupid, fat and a troublemaker, and asked her to stay away from the apartments where Collins lived.

“These childish words have been spun into the death threat,” Smith said in opening statements.

VanderGiesen was reported missing February 3, 2006 after she failed to show up at work for two days and police learned her truck had not moved from a Pizza Hut parking lot.

Her parents drove that day from Iowa to her Sioux Falls apartment. There they were joined and comforted the following day by several of their daughter’s friends, including Collins and Wright.

On the first day of testimony, Dee VanderGiesen told jurors about her brief encounter with her daughter’s alleged killer.

“She came to me and told me who she was. She gave me a hug, and she said she was sorry that Darlene was missing, that they were friends and she would be praying that we would find Darlene soon,” she said.

Nearly six weeks would pass before the last pieces of her daughter’s body would be found.

Circuit Judge Brad Zell denied attempts by the defense to exclude that testimony, as well as photographs of VanderGiesen’s remains and all testimony regarding dismemberment.

The defense has questioned the fairness of the trial because no one in the pool of 150 perspective jurors was African-American. Just 1.5 percent of Minnehaha County residents are black.

(( Source:  Turkish Press ))