SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A deaf woman accused of killing and
dismembering an acquaintance was nervous in the days after the victim
disappeared, the defendant’s former girlfriend testified Tuesday.
Sallie Collins took the stand in the capital punishment trial of
Daphne Wright, 43, who is charged with kidnapping and murder for the
Feb. 1, 2006, slaying of Darlene VanderGiesen, 42. The jury will be
asked to sentence her to death if she is convicted.
Collins said she was a platonic friend of VanderGiesen’s and dated
Wright about five years. All three women were deaf and from Sioux
VanderGiesen was at Collins’ apartment days before she disappeared
when Wright came over and got mad, Collins said.
“She saw Darlene and she got very mad and said, ‘Why are you
destroying our relationship?’ And she was very angry and then she sat
down and I said, ‘Daphne, you are wrong,”‘ Collins said.
VanderGiesen left and put her middle finger up to her face as a
gesture toward Wright, who refused to leave, so Collins said she went
to a neighbor’s house and called police. She left when officers
arrived, Collins said.
Earlier Tuesday, jurors watched a police interview of Wright in which
she acknowledged that she and VanderGiesen fought days before the
disappearance because Wright suspected VanderGiesen of trying to
break up her relationship with Collins.
An autopsy determined that VanderGiesen, who disappeared Feb. 1,
2006, was killed by either 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, prosecutors said.
Parts of VanderGiesen’s body were later found in the Sioux Falls
landfill and in a ditch near Hills, Minn. Her parents have since
buried her body at her hometown of Rock Valley, Iowa.
Wright put a piece of gum in her mouth as Collins walked in to the
courtroom and occasionally wiped tears from her eyes while Collins
Collins said Wright didn’t really react when she told her that
VanderGiesen had disappeared and then she wanted to leave right away
when the two went to VanderGiesen’s apartment to console her family.
They rented movies that night but Wright wasn’t herself, though she
said nothing was wrong, Collins said.
“Daphne was nervous. She was smoking. She was having a cigarette
every minute,” she said. “I asked her to calm down and take it easy.”
Wright, the first female defendant in a South Dakota capital
punishment case, changed her story several times during the Feb. 7,
2006, police interview and acknowledged being with VanderGiesen the
day she disappeared.
She initially told Detective Michael Olson she didn’t see
VanderGiesen on the day she disappeared, then acknowledged that they
did meet at the Pizza Hut where VanderGiesen’s pickup was later found.
“Why are you changing your story now?” Olson asked her.
“I was scared because you’re blaming me,” Wright said.
Repeatedly she denied having anything to do with VanderGiesen’s disappearance.
“I’m not guilty of anything,” she said.
Prosecutors have said blood matching VanderGiesen’s DNA was found in
the back of the Suzuki SUV Wright drove.
But when Olson asked Wright whether VanderGiesen had ever been in the
vehicle, she replied: “No, never.”
Wright’s former house mate, Jacki Chesmore, testified Tuesday that
Wright cleaned out carpet from the basement of the house they shared
two days after VanderGiesen disappeared.
Chesmore said she also found dirt from her basement on the floor of
her vehicle after Wright used it.
Prosecutors accuse Wright of killing VanderGiesen in the basement.
(( Source:Â Sioux City Journal ))