:: The Columbus Dispatch : Chain saw sale at center of South Dakota deaf love-triangle murder trial ::

Chain saw sale at center of South Dakota deaf love-triangle murder trial

Thursday,  April 5, 2007
Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—A hardware cashier testified that a deaf woman accused of dismembering a rival bought a chain saw two days after the victim disappeared.

Daphne Wright, 43, the first female defendant in a South Dakota capital punishment case, is charged with kidnapping and killing her lover’s friend, Darlene VanderGiesen, on Feb. 1, 2006.

Denee Daniels, a cashier at Ace Hardware store, said yesterday that Wright paid cash for a $52.99 electric chain saw the morning of Feb. 3, 2006, and came back that afternoon to buy oil for the blade.

According to prosecutors, Wright became upset when her girlfriend, Sallie Collins, befriended VanderGiesen, 42. The three women were deaf and knew each other through the deaf community.

Detective Keith Gries also took the stand yesterday, saying he saw striations, or lines, on the concrete floor of Wright’s basement. Prosecutors have said those lines are similar to the type of damage a chain saw would leave.

Detective Steve Schaefer testified that when he searched Wright’s basement, he spotted what turned out to be fragments of bone and tissue matching VanderGiesen’s DNA on the wall of a room. He said the fragments were similar to flecks he had seen during autopsies.

“What I have seen on the saw blade after they have conducted the autopsy was very similar, I felt, to what I saw on the wall of this small room,” Schaefer said.

He also testified that as investigators peeled away fresh blue paint from the room’s floor, he smelled petroleum.

Prosecutors said part of VanderGiesen’s body was burned. Her remains were found in a Minnesota ditch and a Sioux Falls landfill.

Lt. William Fluit also testified that orange carpet found near VanderGiesen’s remains in the landfill matched some carpet in Wright’s basement.

An autopsy determined VanderGiesen was killed either by suffocation or a blow to the head. Wright was arrested Feb. 10 after a search of her basement yielded bone fragments, muscle and fat that matched DNA taken from VanderGiesen’s toothbrush. Continue

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