A mother who could not stop wondering about her daughter’s murder figured out that authorities had the wrong suspect — after he spent decades in prison for the crime.
Carol Dodge’s daughter Angie was raped and killed in her Idaho Falls, Idaho, apartment in June of 1996. She was 18 years old.
The crime went unsolved until a year later when a friend of the victim was arrested in an unrelated rape case that also involved a knife. While interviewing other friends of the suspect, police focused on one who seemed suspicious to them: 2o-year-old Christopher Tapp.
He confessed to the rape and murder of Dodge’s daughter, even though DNA found at the scene didn’t match his. The courts saw the confession as something that trumped evidence.
If he said he did it, he must have done it.
In the years that followed Tapp’s admission and during his time in prison, Dodge felt uneasy that the DNA at the scene did not match the suspect’s. She continually watched the 30 hours of recordings that included Tapp’s confession, looking for clues into why he said what he did.
She noticed police coerced him into saying things he may not have meant to say. They pressed him so hard that he eventually offered up another name: Mike.
Dodge wondered if that name was made up to get the police to stop pushing him and move on. There was no Mike.
In 2014, Dodge contacted a false-confession expert, who then got in touch with the Idaho Innocence Project. That led to Tapp’s attorneys using additional DNA testing to file post-conviction motions.
The prosecutor agreed to a deal, and the rape conviction for Tapp was vacated.
But not the murder conviction. However, Tapp was let out of jail for time served.
Dodge continued to look for the person behind the DNA that was found where her daughter was raped and murdered. She knew the real criminal was out there somewhere.
Eventually, she reached out to a genealogist at a firm called Parabon. The genealogist used a degraded sample of Tapp’s DNA to build out relatives and a family tree, eventually identifying Brian Leigh Dripps. Dripps lived across the street from Dodge’s daughter at the time she was killed.
Investigators took that information, confirmed the DNA was a match and arrested Dripps.
KIVI ABC 6 shared a video about this surprising twist in the case:
Dripps confessed to police and stated he acted alone, and that he did not know Tapp. Efforts are underway now to clear Tapp of the wrongful murder conviction, and Dripps heads to court in August.
“This has literally shattered my family as if we were a piece of glass,” Dodge told the New York Times. “There is no way to pick up the pieces.”
Tapp has not been without his share of drama in the days since his initial release for time served. In 2017, he was involved in a domestic incident in which he was sent back to jail.
KIVI reported he was arrested after an altercation with his wife that allegedly turned physical, police said. He was booked into the Bonneville County Jail for misdemeanor domestic battery.
For that crime, Tapp pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was suspended.
The Idaho Innocence Project said it will continue to aid prisoners it believes were wrongfully convicted and genealogical DNA tests will help prove their cases.
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