South Dakota Woman Sentenced to Life in Prison For Dismembering Ex-Lover's Friend

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A woman who killed an acquaintance and dismembered her body with a chainsaw has been sentenced to life in prison without parole, after a jury decided to spare her life.

Daphne Wright, 43, smiled after the verdict was read Wednesday. Wright was convicted last week of kidnapping and murdering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, in February 2006.

VanderGiesen's mother, Dee, told Wright that God had helped the family forgive her.

"We pray for you every day asking that God may touch your heart, that you may come to know his love and that yodu repent of your sins and seek God's forgiveness," she said.

Dee VanderGiesen told Wright's mother, Carolyn Tucker: "We both have lost our daughters. One to death and the other to prison time for as long as she lives. May God's grace be shown to you at this time of pain in your life."

Prosecutors said that Wright was jealous of the friendship VanderGiesen had with Wright's former lover and that it turned to rage that drove Wright to kidnap VanderGiesen, kill her, burn the body and cut it apart with a chain saw.

VanderGiesen's remains were found in a Sioux Falls landfill and a Minnesota ditch.

In closing arguments earlier in the day, prosecutor Dave Nelson said Wright, who like VanderGiesen is deaf, deserved to die by lethal injection because the mutilation was the act of a depraved mind. But he said he respected the jury's verdict.

"I think they reached this decision independently of any of the diversions of race, of deafness or anything else. I think they decided this case on the evidence," he said.

Wright's public defender, Jeff Larson, argued that she burned and cut the body as an afterthought and that the slaying was an isolated act motivated by jealousy.

Nelson told jurors their verdict would be just if they treated both women equally. VanderGiesen was white and heterosexual; Wright is a black lesbian.

After about eight hours of deliberation, jurors found that Wright had the depravity of mind, but they decided that she should not be executed for it.

The jury forewoman read the verdict, not the judge. It means Wright will spend the rest of her life at the women's prison in Pierre or the penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

It was South Dakota's first capital punishment case with a female defendant.