Home > Article from newspaper > Daphne Wright Is Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder, Kidnapping

Daphne Wright Is Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder, Kidnapping

April 12, 2007

Daphne Wright is led into the courthouse on Friday. (Lloyd Cunningham / Argus Leader)

Daphne Wright is found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping

She cries as verdict is read; jurors need time to compose themselves

Published: April 12, 2007

The jury considering Daphne Wright’s fate found her guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder and kidnapping of Darlene VanderGiesen.

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 slightly.

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 VanderGiesen.

After the verdict was read, jurors were led out of the coutroom so lawyers and the judge could discuss what’s next.

But it took several minutes for the jury to return to the courtroom when summoned.

“The reason for the delay is some of the jurors are trying to compose themselves and so we’re giving them a few minutes to do that,” Judge Brad Zell said in court.

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.

Nelson pieced together a wealth of physical and circumstantial evidence to tell his theory of the events.

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 “overwhelming.”

For more on this story, stay with argusleader.com and see Friday’s Argus Leader.


  1. V.E.W.
    April 12, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    My heart goes to the victim’s family and friends. Daphne Wright is a sick killer. It doesn’t matter if she is deaf, lesbian, woman or black. She has no soul for what she did to Darlene VanderGiesen. Daphne made me sick.

  2. ghettoangelgurlz
    April 12, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    no matter what .. don’t be hate and hate . god will judge than other ppl anyway . god is determine to daphne . deaf ppl need to grown up . i feel her family . they need to accept . who care . don’t bring a drama plm … aii

  3. Andy
    April 12, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Ghettoangelgurlz, hey you! What did you say? Deaf ppl need to grow up? That’s audism! You are a dumb tramp.

  4. Christine
    April 12, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    I am happy it is over. I don’t have respect for Daphne. She needs to stay behind the bars or worst. I feel sorry for the victim and her family.

    To GhettoAngelGurlz – after Daplin killed an innocent person and you tell us to grow up? You don’t make a sense. By the way I am hearing… don’t dare to tell the deaf people to grow up. You need to grow up since you made this comment insulting deaf people, get lost.

  5. Doug
    April 12, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    absoluty guilty !! let put her in death penalty , I dont have any faith for her what she did to her. I dont accept what she feels sorry. lesbain are no good in her life what she done.

  6. Sarah
    April 12, 2007 at 10:39 pm


  7. Anonymous
    April 12, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    ghetto, is daphene your mistress? as I can see how angry you are.

    she is a murderer and always be a murderer.

  8. deaf person
    April 14, 2007 at 10:54 am

    ghettoangelgurlz, you say deaf people need to grown up that was insult oh boy i cant believe what you say you need to learn about deaf culture

  9. Tim
    April 16, 2007 at 11:31 am


  10. April 16, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    u (bleep!) how could u kill someone like that thats very sick and cruel to kill another human being and i hope that the prison guard can bit the (bleep!) out of u (bleep! bleep!)and (bleep! bleep! bleep!) and i m praying someone will kill ya and hope u ll go to hell u have ruined our deaf community and u dont ever tell us to grow up what abt u (bleep! bleep! bleep! bleep!) how could u do this to us darlene is a such a nice lady and a refine person and and 1 day that vandergeisen’s family is watching u die in lethal injection or electric chair yay yay clap clap im proud of it and hope u rot in hell damn u (bleep! bleep!)..im pissed off i dont kill anyone even though if i get mad at someone over stupid relationship u understand me (bleep! bleep! bleep! bleep!)

  11. April 16, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    why damn you are (bleep) and why you like to hurt another human being and you are (bleep! bleep! ) rest of your life in prison all of us will make fun of uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (bleep! bleep! bleep! bleep! bleep! )eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i cant wait for u to explose ur stinky body odor hahahahahahahahaha

  12. CODA
    April 19, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    GHETTOANGELGURLZ your a bigot!
    Grow up…telling Deaf people that they need to grow up!!!
    This is the only way you can slander an entire culture around the world is to hide behind a comment and a different name!

  13. wildtaz
    May 8, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    umm, i am more understand what all these deaf ppl complain over daphne.To me, daphne is learn lesson herself. she’s feel like guilty and killer.
    I heard of Daphne Wright alots.Lots of my friend told me about her that they know Daphne very well.I shocked.Daphne murder to Darlene.It’s saddly myself.Daphne is not friendly.Daphne was different 2 personal.I know darlene’s parent feel angry at daphne.her parent lost precious daughter.I cant blame on them.I pray for darlene’s parent.maybe daphne plm mental brain.Daphne need pray to GOD forgive to her sin then she must talk to darlene’s parent what she did to her daughter murder.And Daphne need says “I am so sorry” and “Forgive me” for what she did it. Also Big “IF” Daphne is still think bother herself of darlene murder then she have to down floor pray talk to darlene in the heaven.Darlene will forgive her pretty good.Daphne need go to church in the jail and study the bible what she made mistake killer.Need an interprter she will more understand the bible.She is learn lesson Stay in prison for life or death penalty.GOD will take care of daphne.God can read daphne brain, we cant read her brain.She will punish herself. she need GOD’S help. Amen!!I am full lesbian and christian of church.I know,I have only one child with me.If someone killer to my daughter. i will hot temper and accept.I know it’s hard accept.

  14. YiNgYaNg SoNg
    December 17, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Darlene did NOT deserve this — justice needs to be done… YiNg YaNg is from our God of DISCIPLINE.

  15. June 26, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Do any of you bloggers know how to write English properly?. Not one of the comments above make any sense.

  16. Le'ree
    August 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Ghettoangelgurlz you sound real ignorant which is sad but, when you decide to grow up yourself and be a real adult with some form of maturity then start commenting on criminal cases.

  17. September 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    ghettoangelgurlz :
    no matter what .. don’t be hate and hate . god will judge than other ppl anyway . god is determine to daphne . deaf ppl need to grown up . i feel her family . they need to accept . who care . don’t bring a drama plm … aii

    You are a Idiot!!!!! Grow up and stop being a Ghetto Fabulous trick that does not know anything she is talking about because Daphne committed a serious crime. You are here making things worse are you really that ignorant. When was the last time you used your brain cells? Let me guess you have an IQ of -250 and you couldn’t even get accepted for an Associates degree program from Devry or Kaplan. Sucks being stupid doesn’t it?

  18. September 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    clare :
    Do any of you bloggers know how to write English properly?. Not one of the comments above make any sense.

    Some of these people are uneducated or they did not take the time to address sentence structure.

  19. Frank Brennan
    November 10, 2012 at 4:53 am

    They should have executed her

  20. June 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Daphne knew exactly what she was doing–deaf or not and murder is still what it is–MURDER. She deserves her sentence!

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