:: West Central Tribune · Testimony starts Monday in Sioux Falls dismemberment trial ::

Testimony starts Monday in Sioux Falls dismemberment trial

West Central Tribune
Published Saturday, March 31, 2007

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – After four weeks of jury selection, testimony is scheduled to start Monday in South Dakota’s first capital punishment case with a female defendant.
Prosecutors accuse Daphne Wright, 43, of kidnapping, killing and dismembering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, another deaf woman from Sioux Falls.

Jurors will be asked to sentence Wright to death by lethal injection if she is convicted.

VanderGiesen disappeared Feb. 1, 2006. Wright was arrested 10 days later after a search of the basement of her Sioux Falls house yielded bone fragments and tissue that matched DNA samples from VanderGiesen’s toothbrush, according to court papers and testimony.

Parts of VanderGiesen’s dismembered body were later found in the Sioux Falls landfill and in a ditch near Beaver Creek, Minn. Her parents have since buried her body at her hometown of Rock Valley, Iowa.

In a videotaped police interview, Wright said she and VanderGiesen had fought weeks earlier because Wright, a lesbian, suspected VanderGiesen of trying to break up Wright’s relationship with another woman.

An autopsy determined that VanderGiesen was killed by either suffocation or a blow to the head.

Besides death penalty, deafness and sexual preference issues, jurors also were asked their views on race because Wright is black, and whether they could view gruesome photographs.

The trial is expected to last about a month.

If Wright is sentenced to death, she likely would be the first woman to be executed in South Dakota. No other women currently are defendants in death penalty cases in the state.

Four men are on death row in South Dakota, which has not had an execution in 60 years. Continue

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