I am writing this having just finished watching the press conference by the Idaho Falls Police Department announcing the arrest of Brian Leigh Dripps for the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge. Congratulations to them; it’s about time this case was solved.
That may sound mean-spirited, but it’s not; it’s outrage.
In June of 2018, I wrote a blog about Angie’s murder and my limited involvement in reviewing the case file and following new leads of the unsolved case. I had been hired by a production company that produced a documentary called Wrong Man which aired on the STARZ network.
After my review of the case, I declared to those with whom I was working, and to Angie’s mother, Carol Dodge, and to the detectives at the Idaho Falls Police Department, that something had been missed during their neighborhood canvas. My strategy was simple: start over, talk to everyone who lived near Angie at the time of her death. This was not the work of professional killers.
As it turns out, the real killer lived across the street.
A Flawed Theory
Most seemed to believe that Angie’s murder was related to drugs and that it was a contract killing. The cops seemed to have been focused in on that angle as well. I rejected the idea of it. “I’ve never seen a drug hit that overlapped with a sexual murder,” I stated. This was a sexual murder case, plain and simple.
From the blog I wrote in June 2018: Angie’s case was a sexual murder. It is a very rare occurrence that more than one offender is ever involved in that type of case. The police are convinced that there is a drug connection. I have never seen a sexual component involved in a drug hit, nor have I heard of any such occurrence. Remember, someone came into her apartment in the middle of the night and attacked her as she slept.
The Cops Had a Problem
The detectives of the Idaho Falls Police Department, past and present, had a problem, and it was a big one: they had tried and convicted Christopher Tapp for Angie’s murder after coercing a false confession from him.
Even after tests proved that Tapp was not the source of DNA on Angie’s body (in the form of ejaculation), Idaho Falls refused to admit they had made a mistake and convicted an innocent man. There was not one shred of physical evidence against Tapp, but that didn’t stop an overzealous, inexperienced team of investigators and prosecutors from staying on that theory until the bitter end.
Who knows, maybe they still believe it.
Christopher Tapp Released from Prison
But it was only after pressure had been placed on them by the Idaho Innocence Project, the national media, and those of us who were reinvestigating the case, that Tapp was released from prison.
His release, however, was not an exoneration; he was offered a sentence reduction and “time served” if he admitted to parts of the crime.
His attorney and many of us “outsiders” strongly discouraged him from doing so, but Tapp was the one who had wasted twenty-one years of his life behind bars for a murder he hadn’t committed.
Who could blame him?
So today I watched in disgust at the self-congratulatory way the cops spoke of their “cutting edge” police work. No, Chief, it wasn’t “cutting edge police work” that solved the case; DNA solved the case. Criminalists solved the case. The cops looked at some genealogy reports and narrowed their focus to the man who now stands accused of killing Angie. Had the technology not led them there, the case would have never been solved.
More importantly, had outside sources not put your city in the national spotlight, you and your “cutting-edge” cops and prosecutors would have let Christopher Tapp rot in prison, and you never would have solved anything! How can you be so proud and cheerful when you and your ilk stole the entire adult life of an innocent man?
Your arrogant detectives rejected all outside help and remained adamant that Christopher Tapp was involved in Angie’s murder. In spite of the fact that there was not a shred of evidence to support that theory, and contrary to many experts strongly suggesting otherwise, none of you would ever admit you had made a mistake in prosecuting Tapp. I honestly will not be surprised if you still maintain Tapp was involved.
Several times I met with those investigators and offered my ideas about the case. They scoffed. I have investigated more than a hundred murders and I have worked side-by-side with others who have investigated five or ten times that, and upon whose experience I was able to draw.
During my work on Angie’s case, I was teamed with a former NCIS investigator who has handled hundreds of murders in as many countries, and who is a recognized expert in cold case homicide investigation.
But the detectives in Idaho Falls scoffed at our theories on the case and rejected any outside help.
In fact, as we began work on the case, the detectives actively attempted to hinder our efforts by discouraging people from talking to us.
Once the STARZ production was finished and I was no longer “working” on the case, I reached out and offered to assist the detectives by providing leads and theories that I had developed through my review of the files and interviews with numerous people. They were completely uninterested in any outside help.
After all, who wants outsiders seeing the piles of dirty laundry on the floor?
Justice for Angie
Regardless of my ire about the overall situation, I am elated that the killer has been found, that he has been arrested, and that Carol Dodge and her family can at least have that much closure.
I just hope Idaho Falls doesn’t screw up this case too.
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Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.
As a former police officer, I am sickened and appalled at how this transpired. A good investigation is a maze not a mouse trap, pun intended… the evidence being the cheese. They started out with a good lead that they could believe was a dead end. LE 101. Know when you have reached your investigatory end and move. You can not make a case where there is no evidence. I hope that department and the whole government that allowed it is not allowed to do this again. The young man deserves an apology and compensation for the life he lost. Her mother deserves it to for having to investigate and sort through her daughters investigation which is what they weren’t willing to do. Due to their ignorance and pride. I will apologize for them as a peace officer who would have never let that happen. Thanks for doing there job!!!!
I agree. Thank you, Cristal.
Hi, Danny. I’m sure that you are not a very popular man in Idaho Falls, but that’s their problem, not yours. I have written instructions in my will that if my death is deemed suspicious you be the first person my family contacts to determine what happened. At least then I will know the guilty person will be found…’grin’. Great work; you should be proud.
Thank you, Teresa… But let’s pray you live a long and healthy life! (:
This is amazing! God bless you for your continued efforts and your dedication in justice for Angie. I’ve followed this case for years. My heart was broken for Carol Dodge. As a Mother myself I immediately related to Carol and to Mr. Tapp’s Mother. This is a worst case for a parent. I truly do not know how they have both gotten through these years. It spoke to an incredibly strong Spirit and will that Carol Dodge supported Mr. Tapp and fought for his release. She is amazing. She deserved justice, years ago. It is both heartbreaking and alarming that law enforcement trapped Mr. Tapp and he was forced to waste all those irreplaceable years of his life in prison for something he absolutely didn’t do. I pray they are able to find some peace, all of them. Thank you for your persistence in helping to resolve this case for these amazing people.
Thank you, Kathryn. Yes, the Angie Dodge case was tragic all around. I remember having a conversation with the “expert” that Idaho Falls had hired to “evaluate” the case (tell them what they wanted to believe, at a huge expense to the taxpayers), and when I referenced the Angie Dodge case, he was perplexed for a moment, before saying, “Oh, the Chris Tapp case.” He went on to say that is how they always referred to it. Well, there’s your first problem, I thought.
Good work, Danny. What a shame on IFPD. I have read in other police procedurals books that it doesn’t matter how guilty a person is Defense Attorneys are paid to get them off. What a sick society we live in.
I really enjoy your blogs.
Also can t wait for the next Vickie Floyd book. I love them all. I have read everything you have written. Not a better author out there.
Thank you, Carolyn, for the feedback and very kind words! (: Danny
Danny, I did not know about this case before you wrote this. I would also hope Chris Tapp will get his name cleared and sue the Idaho Falls police department and the lead detectives. They are a disgrace to good police everywhere.
Keep up the great work and the great writing.
Thank you, Denise. I certainly will. (:
I still think that the two detectives are involved in her murder
On a FB post in an IF group I belong to, they said the original lead detective. Who went on to become Mayor, had tons of cash and drugs in his home safe after retirement. His supporters blame it on his now diagnosed Alzheimer’s. Please. He was a disgrace. The IF police had been crooked as long as I recall and even my Mom says they were when she was young (she’s 79).
The detective still has his ardent supporters, those being members of the predominant church that he apparently belongs to.
I hope Chris Tapp can get his name cleared and then sue for a whole lot of money. To so brazenly ruin another’s life to further your own career? I hope he’ll has a special place for him and those involved in trying to cover up this deceit. I will never say his Alzheimer’s is karma because my Dad has dementia. He was a good man that did nothing in his life to have it be Karma. And with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, you do have clarity at times. When he left the IFPD, he still had his faculties as he went on to be Mayor.
As for Carol Dodge, she is a class act. She helped get Chris Tapp our and I think she always knew he was innocent.
I, too, could never imagine a person confessing to something they did not do. However, I have seen it in cases over and over. Such a shame that justice is not about justice anymore, it’s about detectives closing cases and Prosecutors conviction rate. Our justice system needs a huge overhaul.
Thank you for keeping up with this case.
Oops. That was a special place in hell. And my Dad HAD Dementia as he passed in 2013.
Really good work Danny. It’s unbelievable how close minded some individuals can be when it comes to re-evaluating their case work. I followed this case on the STARZ Network. Thank you for realizing and exposing the truth. Unfortunately, sometimes detectives and prosecutors “get it wrong.” I’ve never been a fan of the innocence program, because I didn’t believe detectives would stoop so low as to arrest and prosecute a completely innocent individual. Well, I was wrong and it’s happened more than anyone would ever realize. Please continue your good work and God Bless those Attorneys and Investigators working on behalf of the wrongfully accused.
Thank you, Bobby. You’re a good man.
Good ending (finally) to a very sad case. No words can express the disdain for the investigators.
I have read all your books and short stories. I find them very interesting and well written and am anxious for more.
Please keep up the good work.
Thank you, sir! I appreciate the feedback. Danny