Quest for Daughter's Justice Takes an Unexpected Turn

Mother of murder victim helps clear convicted man and catch new suspect
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2019 10:00 AM CDT
Quest for Daughter's Justice Takes an Unexpected Turn
Christopher Tapp smiles at the Bonneville Courthouse in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. At the time, he was released from prison, but the conviction remained on his record.   (Taylor Carpenter/Post Register via AP, Pool)

Another remarkable crime case involving the field of genetic genealogy has surfaced, but this one out of Idaho comes with a twist. Usually, the technology is used to catch a suspect. This time, in what is believed to be a first, the technology also cleared a man who wrongly served 20 years in prison. The details of the case, which was broken open largely thanks to the diligence of the victim's mother:

  • The crime: In 1998, a jury convicted Christopher Tapp, then 20, of the rape and murder of Angie Dodge, 18, in Idaho Falls, reports the Idaho Statesman. The conviction came even though Tapp was not a match for DNA evidence found at the scene. However, police got a confession after 30 hours of interrogation.
  • Victim's mother: Angie's mother, Carol Dodge, continued poring over details of the case herself. She didn't do so initially because she thought Tapp was innocent but because she believed he must have had an accomplice, because of the non-match of the DNA, per the Marshall Project.

  • The confession: Dodge watched and listened to the entirety of the confession and came to believe that police coerced and manipulated Tapp into confessing over its long duration, sometimes answering questions for him, then getting him to agree, reports the New York Times. In prison, Tapp recanted his confession and insisted he was innocent.
  • Release: Dodge began working with the Innocence Project in 2014 on the case, and Tapp kept filing legal motions to win his release. In 2017, he was freed and prosecutors vacated the rape conviction. However, the murder conviction remained, reports the East Idaho News.
  • Bigger break: Dodge eventually sought help from genealogist CeCe Moore of the company Parabon. Using the semen sample from the scene, Moore created a DNA profile, then identified relatives in a genealogy database. Eventually, she zeroed in on a man named Brian Leigh Dripps. As it turns out, he had lived across the street from Angie Dodge. In May of this year, police arrested him and charged him with Dodge's rape and murder.
  • Cleared: This week, all charges were formally dropped against Tapp. “I’m thankful I’ve been given this second chance at life," he said in a statement released by the Innocence Project. "I’ve wasted 20 years of my life for something I never did. But I grew up in those 20 years. I'm thankful my mother will know that this last name is clean, and that’s the most important thing to me in this world.”
(More exoneration stories.)

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