Category Archives: Wright Case

Wright gets life in prison

By Carson Walker

SIOUX FALLS — Jurors have spared a deaf woman’s life and instead sentenced her to life in prison without parole for killing an acquaintance and cutting up her body with a chain saw.

The same jurors convicted Daphne Wright, 43, last week of kidnapping and murdering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, another deaf woman from Sioux Falls, in February 2006.

Wright smiled after the verdict was read.

VanderGiesen’s mother, Dee VanderGiesen of Rock Valley, Iowa, read a statement to Wright and her mother, Carolyn Tucker of Upper Marlboro, Md., before Judge Brad Zell imposed the life sentence.

“We pray for you every day asking that God may touch your heart, that you may come to know his love and that you repent of your sins and seek God’s forgiveness,” VanderGiesen told Wright, indicating that God had helped the family forgive Wright.

To Tucker, VanderGiesen said: “As one mother to the other, I express my sorrow to your family. We both have lost our daughters. One to death and the other to prison time for as long as she lives. May God’s grace be shown to you at this time of pain in your life.”

The jury got the case about 11 a.m. Wednesday, took an hour off for dinner and indicated they had a sentence at about 8 p.m.

It was South Dakota’s first capital punishment case with a female defendant.

After about eight hours of deliberation, jurors found that Wright had the depravity of mind required by law to make the murder worthy of capital punishment. But all 12 decided that she should not be executed by lethal injection for it.

The jury forewoman read the verdict. It means Wright will spend the rest of her life at the women’s prison in Pierre or the penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

Prosecutors said Wright was jealous of the friendship VanderGiesen had with Wright’s former lover and that it turned to rage that drove Wright to kidnap VanderGiesen, kill her, burn the body and cut it apart with a chain saw.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson told jurors the mutilation shows Wright had the depravity of mind required by law to make the murder worthy of capital punishment.

He urged jurors to look at the pictures of VanderGiesen’s dismembered body next to the law that allows the death penalty.

“In some cases, the taking of a human life may require the killer to, in turn, after due process of law, give up their own life. And it’s up to you to decide if this is one of those cases,” Nelson told jurors.

Public defender Jeff Larson argued that Wright burned and cut the body as an afterthought and that it does not show a depraved mind.

Other than a false fire-alarm conviction, Wright had no criminal history, and VanderGiesen’s murder was an isolated act done out of jealousy, he said.

“Do you really think the body was dismembered for some perverse pleasure, or because she couldn’t figure out how to get a 200-pound body out of the basement? If it’s the latter, by definition, it’s not the act of a depraved mind,” Larson said.

(( Source:  Rapid City Journal / AP Newswire ))