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March 17, 2006

Women & Murder

From: KELOLAND TV - Sioux Falls,SD,USA - Mar 17, 2006

The murder of Darlene VanderGiesen has some of the most gruesome details of any murder case in Sioux Falls.

42-year-old Daphne Wright is charged with her killing and will have her next court appearance April 14th.

And the circumstances of the murder are rare.

The details in the murder of Darlene VanderGiesen are disturbing. The 42-year-old deaf woman was killed, then dismembered - parts of her body eventually found in the Sioux Falls landfill. A crime that wouldn't be considered commonplace in any part of the country.

The person Sioux Falls police believe committed the crime is another 42-year-old deaf woman, Daphne Wright.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 out of every 4 murder victims are women. But in those cases, the killer is 10 times more likely to be a man.

“We're lucky in Minnehaha County,” says state’s attorney Dave Nelson. “We have a very small homicide caseload. Having said that, I think it's fair to say that a very large proportion of those cases we do have are cases where a women lose their lives at the hands of their partners or their spouses.”

Police believe Wright killed VanderGiesen because she thought VanderGiesen was interfering with a relationship. And that is consistent with the Justice Department's statistics that most homicides come as a result of an argument. But this case becomes even rarer because of VanderGiesen's gender.

“Well, first and foremost, the number of female offenders and female victims is significantly small compared to other kinds of combinations,” says statistician Marianne Zawitz with the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has tracked the gender of murder victims and offenders over the last 30 years. Just more than 2% of murders in the United States involve two females.

“Now, when you look those numbers in a little more detail, in about 1/3 of them the victim is a child,” Zawitz says. “So talking about two adult women, it's down to about 1% of all homicides have a female offender and a female victim.”

“It is unusual for a case, for a woman to be charged with the death or the homicide of another woman,” Nelson says. “It's not to say it doesn't happen, but it's not nearly as common as the more typical homicides we've seen.”

In fact, in his 17 years as the county's state's attorney, Dave Nelson says he's never prosecuted a case where a woman is accused of murdering another adult woman. The State of South Dakota versus Daphne Wright will be his first one.

This case is even rarer, because both women involved are deaf. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department tracks whether murder victims or offenders are deaf.

But no one we interviewed knew of another instance where a deaf woman was accused of murdering another adult woman.

Lou Raguse
© 2006 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.