:: NJ.com | S.D. dismemberment case goes to jury ::

S.D. dismemberment case goes to jury

April 12, 2007
The Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Jurors began deliberating Wednesday in the capital murder case of a deaf woman accused of killing and dismembering her former lover’s friend.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in South Dakota’s first capital punishment case with a female defendant completed closing arguments before the jury began deliberations.

Prosecutors have accused Daphne Wright, 43, of abducting, killing and dismembering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, another deaf woman from Sioux Falls in February 2006.

“This is not a game. This is real life. And Darlene VanderGiesen is really dead,” said State Attorney Dave Nelson. “This defendant really killed her. And that’s what all of the evidence in this case proves.”
Wright is charged with first-degree felony murder, first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping. If convicted, prosecutors can ask the jury to sentence her to death by lethal injection.

Nelson said Wright was jealous of VanderGiesen because of her platonic friendship with Wright’s former lover, who had broken up with Wright. The jealousy turned into a rage that drove Wright to kidnap VanderGiesen, kill her, cut apart the body with a chain saw and burn it, he said.

But Traci Smith, one of Wright’s public defense lawyers, said prosecutors provided no evidence from the day VanderGiesen disappeared to prove kidnapping or murder, and instead focused on the dismemberment.

“Take yourself outside the emotions of the chain saw. This is a sad case. Darlene VanderGiesen died and no verdict you bring is going to bring Darlene back,” she said. “The state wants you to be distracted from the important aspects of this case: What happened on February 1st, 2006?”

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