Idaho Falls man wrongly convicted for 1996 murder featured in Friday’s ‘Dateline’ episode

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Friday’s episode of “Dateline” features the Idaho Falls cold case of Angie Dodge, presenting the fatal 1996 incident with the 18-year-old.

The episode, according to the show’s teaser, features interviews from family members, local investigators and the man who served a wrongful sentence of over 20 years for Dodge’s death.

“It was probably the worst case I’ve ever seen,” said Idaho Falls detective Jeff Pratt, via ABC News.

The fatal incident

Angie was 18 years old when in June 13, 1996, she was found sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times in her apartment, reported ABC News,

Angie’s mother, Carol Dodge, helped her move out of the family house three weeks prior over a house rule disagreement. Within Angie’s last night alive, the two reconciled and made amends, per ABC News.

Christopher Tapp’s conviction

One person was specifically targeted during the investigation: Christopher Tapp, who was in Angie’s group of friends.

According to KTLA, Idaho Falls police officers allegedly interrogated him for multiple hours, claiming he could be convicted for the death penalty unless he incriminated himself and another suspect.

He eventually confessed to the murder. Despite contradictory evidence gathered from the crime scene, Tapp was convicted at a 1998 trial for the murder and was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years, up to life in prison, reported East Idaho News.

Tapp asserted his innocence from the beginning, and Carol, most importantly, supported him during his incarceration.

Carol, in particular, was irritated by the provided evidence, citing Tapp’s DNA did not link to any DNA found at the crime scene. Because of this, she started to investigate the case herself.

ABC News reported Carol went as far as going to the local police station every day, making sure the investigation was on course.

Later investigations

Tapp’s case had no leads until 2008, when Carol decide to look into his interrogation tapes. From her analysis, she found inconsistencies with Tapp’s knowledge of the crime.

Uniting with Tapp’s defense attorney, John Thomas, in 2013, they called up Steven Drizin, the co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, for help on Tapp’s case.

Drizin looked at the tapes and shared in his report that there was evidence of coercion from officers, mentioning the death penalty threat could “lead people to give false confessions,” per ABC News.

In 2016, samples from the crime scene were reportedly tested, resulting in no trace of Tapp’s DNA present, reported KTLA.

ABC News shared that from this evidence, in addition to a deal made between prosecutors and Tapp’s attorneys, Tapp — who was imprisoned for over two decades — was emancipated in 2017, yet he wasn’t completely exonerated at the time.

Genetic analysis leading to Brian Dripps

Knowing the killer was still out there, Captain Bill Squires of the Idaho Falls Police Department, along with Pratt, got involved with the case. And with the help of genetic genealogist CeCe Moore in 2018, investigators eventually led to Brian L. Dripps, reported ABC News.

DNA from a cigarette butt thrown away by Dripps matched DNA from the crime scene, and when he was approached by authorities, he admitted to the crimes.

In addition, per NBC News, it was found that Dripps did live close to Angie’s apartment during the incident.

Because of his confession, Dripps was arrested and later convicted and sentenced in 2021 to 20 years to life in prison.

The conviction, according to KTLA, led to Tapp’s formal exoneration.

Where is Christopher Tapp now?

After settling a 2022 suit against the Idaho State Police Department for over $11 million, reported East Idaho News, Tapp was interviewed by Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison last fall to discuss the case and his wrongful prison sentence.

Shortly after the interview, Tapp, 47 at the time, was found dead in Las Vegas.

Local police are investigating his death as a homicide, yet no suspects or charges have been named, per East Idaho News.

How to watch Friday’s ‘Dateline’

The episode, “Chilling Twist,” will air on NBC Friday at 7 p.m. MST and will be available for streaming on Peacock the following day, according to NBC’s website.