By Carson Walker
South Dakota’s first capital punishment trial with a female defendant
might never have happened were it not for the Internet.
Daphne Wright, 43, is charged with kidnapping and killing her
ex-lover’s friend, Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, on Feb. 1, 2006.
According to testimony, Wright was jealous of VanderGiesen’s
friendship with Sallie Collins. The three women were deaf and knew
each other through Sioux Falls’ deaf community.
VanderGiesen grew up about 45 miles southeast of Sioux Falls in Rock
Valley, Iowa, but Wright and Collins moved to the region within the
past few years.
Wright’s house mate, Jacki Chesmore, testified that she and Wright
met through an Internet chat room in 1998 or 1999.
Chesmore said she flew to Maryland, where Wright was living, and they
started what became a brief romantic relationship.
In October 2000, Wright moved to Sioux Falls and lived in a house
with Chesmore where prosecutors believe the slaying happened.
In August 2002, after the two had broken up, Wright moved in with
Collins, who was living in Madison, Wis. Two years later they both
moved to Sioux Falls and lived with Chesmore.
Collins testified that she moved out about 13 months later because
she and Chesmore didn’t get along and her relationship with Wright
“Our relationship was not working out. I wasn’t very happy at all and
I decided to move out and break up with her,” Collins testified.
Collins said she later met VanderGiesen while playing cards in the
apartment building they shared and they started a platonic friendship.
In a videotaped police interview, Wright gave the impression she and
Collins were still together in early 2006 and she felt VanderGiesen
was trying to break up her relationship with Collins.
Collins said that had happened long before because she “had lost interest.”
Despite that, Collins said she and Wright continued to stay in touch
through e-mail and would often spend weekends together.
Besides the police interview, prosecutors introduced threatening
e-mails from Wright to VanderGiesen and testimony about a fight the
three women had days before VanderGiesen disappeared. Collins said
she called the police because Wright wouldn’t leave and when she
walked out, Wright said: “You will be very sorry.”
Besides trying establish that Wright had a motive to kill
VanderGiesen, prosecutors have also introduced evidence they say
links her to the crime:
_ Two days after Wright disappeared, and as soon as Wright had enough
money in her checking account, she bought an electric chain saw and
black garbage bags similar to those found with VanderGiesen’s remains.
_ An extension cord, which would be required for the chain saw, was
in a bag containing Wright’s clothing found near part of her remains
at the Sioux Falls landfill.
_ Flecks of VanderGiesen’s bone and muscle were found on the walls of
Wright’s basement and there were scuff marks on the floor consistent
with chain saw marks.
_ Fresh blue paint in the basement matched paint on Wright’s jeans.
_ Rope found around VanderGiesen’s neck and next to her body matched
a spool of rope found in Wright’s garage.
An autopsy determined VanderGiesen was killed either by suffocation
or a blow to the head. Wright was arrested after a search of her
basement yielded bone fragments, muscle and fat that matched DNA
taken from VanderGiesen’s toothbrush.
If Wright is convicted of kidnapping or murder, jurors will be asked
to sentence her to death by lethal injection. Four men are currently
on South Dakota’s death row. Wright would be the first woman on
record to be sentenced to die in the state.
The prosecution’s case is moving faster than expected. Then defense
lawyers will have the chance to present evidence.
(( Source:Â AP Newswire ))