By Josh Verges and Chuck Baldwin
Photo by Lloyd Cunningham
The jury considering Daphne Wright’s fate found her guilty of
first-degree murder, felony murder and kidnapping of Darlene
As the verdict was announced, Wright wiped her eyes, apparently crying.
Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson turned around to give
the victim’s parents a grim nod. Her mother, Dee VanderGiesen, smiled
One by one, VanderGiesen family members and friends filed past Nelson
and his assistants, hugging them, shaking their hands.
Today’s verdict came after about eight hours of deliberations.
Wright now faces the possibility of death by injection. If sentenced
to death, she would be the first woman on South Dakota’s death row.
Testimony in the sentencing phase could begin as early as Monday.
The jurors – 11 women and one man – began their deliberations at 5
p.m. Wednesday, then retired for the night around 9:30 p.m. They
resumed their deliberations around 9 a.m. this morning.
Wright, 43, was indicted on kidnapping and premeditated murder
charges for the Feb. 1, 2006, death of 42-year-old Darlene
In four hours of closing arguments Wednesday, the state asked jurors
to use common sense, and the defense asked them to focus on what is
not known about the woman’s death.
Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Dave Nelson pieced together a
wealth of physical and circumstantial evidence to tell his theory of
Upset about Darlene VanderGiesen’s purported attempts to “destroy”
her lesbian relationship, Wright set up a meeting with the victim the
evening of Feb. 1 at the Pizza Hut at 26th Street and Sycamore Avenue.
Wright somehow got VanderGiesen into her vehicle and later that day
killed her with blows to the head and by suffocating her with a
plastic bag secured tightly at her neck, Nelson said.
The defendant waited two days for a check to arrive, bought a chain
saw and then, Nelson said, hacked the victim’s body into four pieces
in the defendant’s basement at 1806 S. Phillips Ave.
Wright’s defense lawyers focused on a lack of direct evidence of
either kidnapping or premeditated murder.
Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith told jurors that the
dismemberment evidence prosecutors relied on so heavily is irrelevant
because it occurred after VanderGiesen’s death.
“The evidence that was presented all has to do with what happened two
days later – at least two days later,” Smith said. “Once a person is
deceased, the crime is done.”
Nelson responded in his closing rebuttal that the state’s evidence
strongly supports their theory of kidnapping and premeditated murder.
“It’s the circumstances surrounding all of the events that lead us to
the inescapable conclusion,” he said, calling the evidence
(( Source: Argus Leader ))