By Lou Raguse
Her lawyers say there’s no direct evidence Daphne Wright committed a
crime. But the prosecutor spent an hour telling the jury how he’ll
prove she’s guilty. Opening statements have started this morning in
the murder trial for 43-year-old Wright.
Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson laid out a preview of
the evidence against murder suspect Daphne Wright, which includes
threatening emails, receipts, and DNA.
In his opening statement, Nelson told the jury that two days after
killing 42-year-old Darlene VanderGiesen, Wright bought a chainsaw at
Ace Hardware on 41st Street in Sioux Falls and dismembered
VanderGiesen’s body. Investigators found a receipt for the chainsaw
in Wright’s house, and an Ace employee remembers selling the chainsaw
Nelson believes Wright, after kidnapping VanderGiesen in Feb. 2006,
caused a fracture to the woman’s skull. When investigators recovered
the upper part of VanderGiesen’s body in a Minnesota ditch a month
later, there was a plastic bag pulled over her head and a cord
cinching off the flow of oxygen. The coroner determined that either
suffocation or the skull fracture would have been enough to kill
VanderGiesen. Nelson says Wright further mutilated VanderGiesen’s
body by burning it.
Nelson told the jury the motive for the crime was jealousy. Wright
believed VanderGiesen was trying to destroy Wright’s romantic
relationship with Sallie Collins by forming a friendship with the
woman. Wright admitted in a police interview to sending VanderGiesen
threatening emails using a fake name, telling VanderGiesen to stay
away from Collins.
When investigators found part of VanderGiesen’s body in the Sioux
Falls landfill, Nelson says they also found clothing belonging to
Wright, and that VanderGiesen’s legs were wrapped in blankets
belonging to Wright.
He says they also found a drop of VanderGiesen’s blood on the
tailgate of Wright’s vehicle. And DNA evidence also places
VanderGiesen in Wright’s basement.
Wright’s lawyers say childish words have been spun into death
threats, that no one witnessed Wright do anything wrong, and that
there was no evidence on Wright’s body that she had a struggle with
If convicted, the jury will be asked to sentence Wright to death by
lethal injection. If that happens, Wright will be the first woman
executed in South Dakota.
This afternoon the jury of 13 women and two men will hear testimony
from the state’s first witness.
(( Source: KELOLAND TV ))