Welcome back to Crime Sunday where we talk everything True Crime every single Sunday. Today’s story focuses on the murder of a young innocent woman with her whole life ahead of her and two years after her murder, the family finally saw a glimpse of justice…. or so they thought. In a turn of events, the victim’s mother would find herself fighting for the freedom of the man convicted of her daughter’s murder. This is the Angie Dodge story… as always the link to this week’s story on my YouTube Channel is at the bottom of today’s post.
On December 17th, 1977 Angie Dodge entered the world. She was the youngest of four children and the only daughter of Jack and Carol Dodge so she quickly stole the hearts of her entire family but especially her parents. Those closest to Angie said she was full of life, bubbly, and just an overall joy to be around. One of Angie’s favorite activities was going camping with her family as she was an enthusiast for the outdoors but she also loved getting dressed up and cruising town in her car with all of her friends. As a teenager, she excelled academically and tutored young students in math and English. This was something she really enjoyed doing as she loved children. She graduated from Idaho Falls High School in 1995 with honors and continued her education at Idaho State University.
Angie’s parents were hesitant about Angie moving out on her so quickly after turning 18 but like most young adults, Angie was eager to start a life of her own and after some convincing, Angie got her very own apartment. Just days after she moved out, on the evening of June 12th, 1996 Angie stopped by her parent’s house to visit them before heading back to her new apartment to settle in for the evening. She stayed for about an hour talking to her them about the ups and downs of growing up and being on her own. Her life had only just begun and she was anticipating her future endeavors. As she pulled out of her parent’s driveway, she blew a kiss to her mom and mouthed ‘I love you.” Her Mom said in that moment, she felt as if Angie was moving in slow motion all the while not knowing it would be her last memory with her daughter. The next day on June 13th when Angie didn’t show up for her scheduled shift at the beauty supply shop she worked at, her co-workers became concerned because that was completely out of character for Angie. She was very reliable and wouldn’t just no call no show unless something was wrong and unfortunately something was terribly wrong.
When one of Angie’s co-workers drove to Angie’s apartment to check on her, a gruesome crime scene was discovered. Angie was found half naked on her bedroom floor in a pool of her own blood. Her sweatpants she typically slept in were only halfway on her body and her shirt had been torn off of her. Her favorite teddy bear was found laying next to her which was used to muffle her screams. She had been stabbed at least 16 times and the stab wound to her throat was so severe it left her almost decapitated. Angie’s attacker had forced himself on her and had taken her young life. Her walls, bed, and carpet were covered in blood spatter. The murder weapon was not found but crime scene investigators discovered what seemed to be seman on Angie’s pants and sent it to the Idaho State Crime Lab to be tested.
Idaho Falls is not known for violent crimes such as what happened that fateful night in Angie’s apartment so the community was shaken up, especially her family who had no idea who could have done this to their beautiful daughter. Law Enforcement felt the pressure to get her killer off the streets as soon as possible and since DNA evidence was discovered on Angie’s clothes, the expectation for her murder to be solved quickly was high. Back at the crime scene, there was no sign of forced entry so this led detectives to believe that whoever did this, was someone Angie trusted. They began their investigation by interrogating everyone close to Angie and started with her downstairs elder neighbor who told police that she didn’t hear anything unusual that night. After many interviews with Angie’s family and friends, police were left scrambling to solve this case. The media and Carol were critical of the Idaho Falls Police Department. Carol could tell that the police weren’t experienced enough to handle a case like this because again, nothing like this had happened in the area before. She started showing up to the police station through the back door to catch police officers off guard to make sure they were actually working on her daughter’s case. The police became annoyed with Carol and would refer to her as the “crazy grieving mother” and they didn’t do a great job of keeping her updated with the latest progress in the case. It became clear that the police were in over their heads and it would be six months after Angie’s death before they had a break in the case.
In January of 1997, a man by the name of Benjamin Hobbs was arrested in the neighboring state of Nevada for a crime similar to what happened to Angie. He was accused of threatening a woman with a knife and forcing himself on her but unlike Angie, that woman was left alive. The police circled in on Benjamin and his group of friends because they believed that more than one person was responsible for Angie’s death. They were able to make a connection with Benjamin’s best friend, Christopher Tapp. Chris was from Idaho Falls and was known to run with a young group of kids known as the river rats. This group would spend their summers down at the river drinking and partying and like many people in Idaho Falls, Angie knew a few people in this group including Christopher Tapp. This is how the police were able to connect Christopher to Angie’s unsolved murder.
Christopher, Benjamin, and several of their close friends provided their DNA samples so police could compare theirs’ to the DNA found at the crime scene. Over the course of three weeks, 19-year-old Christopher was interrogated nine times and given seven lie detector tests as police were trying to prove his involvement in Angie’s murder. At first, the police made it seem like they were just interviewing Christopher to get him to give up information about Benjamin but in reality, they were building a case against Christopher, and eventually, their focus turned solely onto him. The entire time Christopher was cooperative with the police as they lied to him and used manipulative tactics to somehow prove Christopher was involved in Angie’s murder. Police lied to Christopher by saying that Benjamin had already confessed and told them everything but even when police offered Christopher full immunity to give up information about Benjamin he still denied having any involvement or information about Angie’s death. As the interrogations became more intense and draining, Christoper knew that if he didn’t give the police what they wanted, it would never end. After failing a lie detector test, Christopher told police that Benjamin was responsible for Angie’s murder and that he was there that night as a witness. Finally, the police had Christopher right where they wanted him but there was a problem because the DNA found at the crime scene didn’t match Christoper’s, Benjamin’s, or any of their friends that provide their DNA samples. The police were desperate as they felt the pressure from the community to close this case so there was no way there were letting Christopher go. They interrogated Christopher again and got him to say that a third person was involved in Angie’s murder which would explain why the DNA found at the crime scene didn’t match him or any of his friends. Christoper named Jeremy Sargis as the third person involved in Angie’s attack but of course, his DNA didn’t match either.
The same day that Jeremy’s DNA results came back, police took Christopher to Angie’s apartment so they could basically coach Christopher so he would be able to provide the perfect confession. Police coerced Christopher to confess that he participated in attacking Angie by arguing that he had lied to them about Jeremy’s involvement, which…I mean he did lie but only because he was scared and since when does lying make someone a murderer? The police told Christopher, who was very scared and nervous, that because he lied, the deal for full immunity was off the table but if he confessed to having some involvement with Angie’s murder then they would be able to get him life in prison instead of capital punishment. Christopher who was more desperate than ever to save his own life gave a “full confession” to the police. He told them that he had slashed Angie across her breast and another friend of Benjamin’s was there, he called him “Mike” but said he didn’t really know him. Of course, “Mike” was put into the mix to excuse away the DNA from the semen found at the scene that the police didn’t have a match for. Finally, police had constructed the perfect “confession” from Christopher and he was arrested on February 3rd, 1997, and was charged with first-degree murder, rape, and the use of a deadly weapon. The charges against Benjamin and Jeremy were dropped in Angie’s case but Benjamin was convicted of the charges he was facing back in Nevada.
In May of 1998, Christopher found himself in a courtroom with a room full of people who looked at him like he was a monster. Angie’s mother, Carol, attended every single day of the trial and listened to the details of what happened to her beautiful daughter. A witness for the defense testified that there was no way Christopher could have committed this crime because the night Angie was murdered, he was on a date with someone he shouldn’t have been, and his girlfriend at the time caught them in bed together which caused a huge fight that he witnessed. However, the prosecution convinced the jury that this witness simply had the date of that event wrong and it wasn’t the date Angie was murdered. Christopher’s attorney tried hard to get the judge to squash Christopher’s confession tape to be used as evidence in court because he said that Christopher was coerced to confess to any involvement. But he was unsuccessful and the Judge allowed the tape to be played in court to the jury. Along with the confession tape, the prosecution introduced a key witness, Destiny Osburne, who said she was at a party a few days after Angie was murdered and she overheard Christopher and Benjamin talking about the crime. Destiny did acknowledge that she was high on drugs at the party but said that she heard them talk about killing Angie because she owed Benjamin money for methamphetamine. Which her story doesn’t make a lot of sense since Angie’s toxicology reported that no drugs were found in her system. Despite the fact that Christopher’s DNA wasn’t found anywhere at the crime scene and despite a witness providing an alibi for him, the jury found him guilty of three charges on May 28th, 1998 and later that year he was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 30 years served for the murder conviction and 10 years for the rape conviction. He would be about 60 years old by the time he was eligible for parole.
You would think that Angie’s family would be relieved that the person responsible for Angie’s death was finally sent away to prison but it was quite the opposite for Angie’s mother. In fact, Carol was quite furious and she couldn’t understand why Christopher would not give up the other person whose DNA was found at the crime scene. Remember, police still hadn’t found a match for the semen found on Angie’s pants. She even wrote Christopher letters begging him to give this person up because she wanted to know the full story of why her daughter had to die that night. As years passed, Carol replayed the trial over and over again in her head and the longer time went on without anyone else being arrested, she began to think that maybe Christopher was innocent. She requested to see Christopher’s full interrogation videos and was shocked by the way police handled these interrogations and it only furthered the feeling she had that Christopher was innocent. The fight for Christopher’s freedom began in 2001 through several appeals but it seemed like there wasn’t much luck until 2007 when the Idaho Innocence Project took on Christopher’s case. Carol stood by Christopher’s side as he fought to prove his innocence. Which you would think having the victim’s mother say that she believed they had the wrong man would be a significant help in Christopher’s defense. However, despite their best efforts, it would take several years for Christopher to see a light at the end of a very very dark tunnel.
In 2017 it became more clear that Christopher was innocent when Destiny Osborne recanted her statement about the conversation she heard at the party between Christopher and Benjamin. She said she didn’t even know them and she also said the police had threatened to arrest her on drug charges if she didn’t give this statement. On March 22, 2017, their efforts finally started to pay off. Christopher’s legal team made a deal with Bonneville County District Attorney Danny Clark: Christopher’s rape conviction was vacated, and the sentence for his murder conviction was reduced to time served. Christopher was released from prison but the fight was not over yet as the person who was responsible for Angie’s murder was still free.
In 2008 Christopher’s new team requested DNA testing on hairs that were found on Angie. The hairs had originally only been visually inspected. Mitochondrial DNA testing performed at the regional laboratory of the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that the DNA on the hair was a match for the semen found on Angie’s pants which didn’t match Christopher’s DNA. Christopher’s legal team continued to push for further DNA testing and at the end of 2012 limited DNA testing that was done on Angie’s shirt, sweatpants, and her teddy bear did not match Christopher either which further proved that he was never near the crime scene. In 2013 Carol contacted Steven Drizin, one of the nation’s leading experts in false confessions. Steven had already been in communication with Christopher’s legal team since 2012 and he agreed to investigate the case pro bono. The report he published in 2014 concluded that Christopher’s confession was coerced, produced through deceit and pressure, and then enhanced by the officers supplying him with sufficient details to lend credibility to his statements. Steven helped recruit the Innocence Project of New York to work with the Idaho Innocence Project and Judges for Justice to work together to secure Christopher’s freedom.
After Christopher’s release, the Idaho Falls police began working with the Idaho Innocence Project and a technology company called Parabon Nanolabs in an effort to identify the source of the DNA sample. After creating a genetic profile from the sample, Parabon compared it with profiles submitted to genetic databases by people looking to identify relatives or discover their ancestry. Starting with profiles in the database, Parabon was able to use other records to build a family tree through the use of genetic genealogy. DNA samples were obtained from six people of interest which included men who were roughly the right age and lived in or around Idaho Falls at the time of the murder. All were eliminated as the sources of the semen.
Then, the analysts learned that there was a seventh person of interest, a man named Brian Dripps. He had lived across the street from Angie and been questioned by police early in the investigation before the focus turned to Christopher. Since Angie’s murder, Brian had moved to Caldwell, Idaho which was on the other side of the state. The Idaho Falls police watched Brian closely, waiting for him to leave a DNA sample through a discarded cigarette. Eventually, they recovered a cigarette butt, which allowed Parabon to compare Dripps’s DNA with the sample from the crime scene which came back a match. Brian was brought in for questioning and after five hours of being integrated by police, he confessed to the murder and rape of Angie Dodge. He said he acted alone and did not know Christopher. He said he had no intentions of killing Angie, that he only planned to rape her. Not only did he take Angie’s life but he let an innocent man go to prison for over 20 years for a crime that he committed. He was arrested on May 15, 2019, for the murder and rape of Angie Dodge. On June 8th, 2021, nearly 25 years after Angie’s murder, Brian Dripp was sentenced to twenty years in prison which doesn’t sound like the right amount of time for murdering an innocent young woman who had her whole life ahead of her but both the prosecution and defense agreed that due to his poor health, 20 years was effectively a life sentence and that he would likely die in prison.
On July 17, 2019, Christopher’s murder conviction was finally overturned. Christopher said “I’m so thankful that I’ve been given this second chance at life. I’ve wasted 20 years of my life for something I never did, but I also grew up over those 20 years.” In June of 2022, the city of Idaho Falls agreed to pay Christopher Tapp $11.7 million for the 20 years he served in prison for the murder and rape he did not commit.
In a letter from Mayor Rebecca Casper, she apologized to Christopher for the city’s role in his conviction and incarceration and she hoped that the settlement and apology would help bring closure. She also stated, “In addition to the settlement, the city pledges to review its policies, procedures, and training (especially related to custodial interrogations) and to revise them, as needed, to prevent any recurrence of what happened in your case.” Christopher made the following statement to the press – “No dollar amount could ever make up for the over 20 years of my life I spent in prison for crimes I did not commit. However, the settlement will help me move forward with my life.”
I want to end this post with some final thoughts about the Dodge family. Angie’s father, unfortunately, passed away in 2004 but during Brian Dripp’s sentencing hearing, Angie’s brothers and her mother gave powerful victim impact statements. Her murder is something they will never get over and something they will never forgive Brian for. Carol never stopped fighting for the truth and she never stopped seeking true justice for her daughter. She is a perfect example of a mother who sees no limit when it comes to how far some will go for their children and my heart goes out to Angie’s family and friends.
Idaho Innocence Project
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