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An Idaho man has pled guilty to raping and murdering a woman in 1996, a crime for which an innocent man has unjustly spent almost 20 years in prison.
Angie Dodge, 18, was found raped and murdered in her apartment in June 1996, surrounded by DNA evidence including semen and hair determined to be from a man’s head, according to the East Idaho News. The DNA did not match that of 20-year-old Chris Tapp, a suspect identified seven months after the crime. However, over several grueling rounds of police questioning, Tapp confessed to the attack and was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison, according to the Innocence Project.
Following multiple appeals, recanted testimony from a key witness, and growing support from Dodge’s own mother – who became increasingly convinced of her son’s innocence – Tapp was finally exonerated in July 2019, more than two decades after his arrest.
But this left a new question. If Tapp didn’t commit this crime, who was the real culprit?
By comparing collected DNA evidence against that which was submitted to ancestry tracking websites, police soon honed in on a new suspect: 53-year-old Brian Dripps, according to The Marshall Project.
DNA taken from one of Dripps’s cigarette butts matched that which was found at the crime scene. Dripps was arrested in May 2019, according to the East Idaho News. He accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to Dodge’s rape and murder at a Tuesday hearing.
“I didn’t mean to murder her, I didn’t think I did, but I guess it just happened,” Dripps told the court.
Dripps will likely be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. Prior to the plea deal, prosecutors had been threatening to pursue the death penalty, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Tapp filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Falls Police Department in late 2019. He claims police relied on “psychological manipulation, threats, and false promises” to extract his confession, according to court documents acquired by KTVB-7.
The Idaho Falls Police Department said it was “proud of the work done in recent months” and intended to “participate” in the lawsuit filed against it, according to KTVB.
As for Dodge’s family, they said Dripps’s guilty plea is letting them breathe a sigh of relief.
“There was some finality there, just, ‘hey, we got the right guy this time,’” Dodge’s brother, Tyler Dodge, told the East Idaho News.
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