Photo of Darelen VanderGiesen
By Lou Raguse
Darlene VanderGiesen’s parents called their daughter the spark plug of the family, Daddy’s girl, and say without her, their lives will never be the same.
Gene And Dee VanderGiesen gave victim impact statements at the witness stand in the most emotional testimony since Daphne Wright’s murder trial began. Last week the jury found Wright guilty of kidnapping and killing Darlene VanderGiesen. The victim’s parents were the only two witnesses the state called in the penalty phase of the trial.
The VanderGiesens have been in the courtroom throughout the trial, accompanied by dozens of friends and family members.
State’s Attorney Dave Nelson asked Gene VanderGiesen to describe his relationship with his daughter.
â€œShe was kind of a daddyâ€™s girl,” he said. “She was always right in my back pocket ever since she was knee high.â€
Gene VanderGiesen described learning investigators found Darlene’s body cut into pieces.
“I had no idea she was basically chopped in half with a chainsaw,” he said. “I just canâ€™t explain the feeling that a parent has when you go through something like this and the horrific dismemberment of a body. Itâ€™s just more than words can explain.”
The VanderGiesens buried Darlene after investigators recovered the lower half in the Sioux Falls landfill. After the upper half of her body was later found, they exhumed the casket and re-buried her.
â€œWe actually went through a funeral two times,â€ Gene VanderGiesen said.
Darlene’s mother Dee VanderGiesen told the jury she felt as if her heart was ripped out of her body when she learned her daughter was missing.
“Itâ€™s just that weâ€™re not a whole family anymore,” she said. “There is a piece of us that is missing.”
Dee VanderGiesen described telling her own father that Darlene had died, and showing a DVD of Darlene’s funeral to her mother with Alzheimer’s.
“At that point (in her disease) my mother didnâ€™t show much emotion,” Dee VanderGiesen said. But while watching the funeral, she started crying. “She said, ‘Oh this is so terrible. This is so terrible.”
Nelson asked Gene VanderGiesen where his daughter is now.
The victim’s father responded: â€œDarleneâ€™s body is in the Rock Valley cemetery, and sheâ€™s with the Lord in heaven.â€
Dee VanderGiesen added: “In my motherâ€™s heart I would love to have her, but I know I wonâ€™t see her again until heaven. So thereâ€™s no pill. Thereâ€™s no words that can fill that gap. Half our family is gone.”
(( Source: KELOLAND TV ))