Idaho Man Sentenced To Life For 1996 Killing That Sent Wrong Man To Prison For 20 Years

An Idaho man who recently admitted to a 1996 murder that sent a wrongfully convicted man to prison for two decades, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., 55, was sentenced to life in prison by a district judge on Tuesday in the decades-old killing of Angie Dodge, according to the Idaho Statesman.

In June 1996, 18-year-old Dodge was raped and killed in her Idaho Falls home. The teen’s throat had been cut, nearly decapitating her. 

Christopher Tapp was wrongfully convicted in her killing — and spent 20 years in prison before he was freed. 

Two decades later, DNA evidence found at the scene of Dodge’s slaying was tested, revealing Tapp’s genetic material wasn’t present. Tapp was released from prison in 2017 and was officially exonerated two years later. 

In 2019, as authorities focused their investigation on Dripps, he flung a cigarette butt from a car. Investigators retrieved it and matched his DNA to the genetic material collected by investigators nearly 25 years ago at the scene of Dodge’s murder. 

Under questioning, Dripps admitted he’d been drunk and using cocaine the night of Dodge’s killing. He confessed he’d meant to rape Dodge, not kill her. Dripps claimed he didn’t recall slicing Dodge with a knife, however, investigators said he also didn’t deny it. Dripps was living across the street from Dodge at the time of her death, according to court documents. 

Dripps was later charged with Dodge’s murder. He pleaded guilty in February, the Idaho Statesman reported. 

“Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for some type of closure on such a brutal crime,” 7th District Judge Joel Tingey said at Tuesday’s hearing, according to the Associated Press. “It’s impossible to quantify how much damage has been caused, and it’s spread wide.”

Dripps’ confession also paved the way for Tapp’s exoneration. 

“A young man spent a significant part of his life in prison for no good reason,” Tingey added. “He was innocent. That falls on you.”

Dodge’s family, who attended the sentencing, also told the court how their lives had been irreparably shattered by Dripps’ actions.

“He sentenced me to a lifetime of hell — so far I have served 9,126 days,” Todd Dodge, Angie Dodge’s brother said.

Dripps, who addressed the court at Tuesday’s hearing, also acknowledged the torment he inflicted on both Dodge and Tapp’s families.

“I am sorry,” Dripps said, according to the Associated Press. “I didn’t intend for this to happen. Wish we could have a chance at a do-over, because I would do over that day…I know you’ll never forgive me, but I am sorry.”

Dripps must serve 20 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole. 

Tapp is currently suing the Idaho Falls police department over the botched investigation. The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho in January, 

“Tapp’s conviction was the direct result of some of the worst police misconduct in the history of wrongful convictions, including about 60 hours of abusive interrogations and sham polygraphs,” Peter Neufeld, Tapp’s attorney, stated in a press release.

The suit describes Dodge’s murder case as the “most high profile” investigation in Idaho Falls city police history. It argues Tapp was “stripped” of his humanity and suffered “severe mental anguish” from being imprisoned for two decades.

“Tapp has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress which has been accompanied by physical manifestations, including anxiety, depression, extreme stress, and other ailments,” the lawsuit, obtained by Oxygen.com, states. “Tapp missed out on the ability to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, opportunities to fall in love, to marry, to have a family, and the fundamental freedom to live one’s life as an autonomous human being.”

The suit is seeking unspecified “compensatory damages” against the City of Idaho Falls to be determined at trial. 

“I’m hoping that this nightmare will come to an end,” Tapp told the Post Register. “I’ve been living it for the last 23 years of my life.”

In March, Governor Brad Little signed Idaho’s Wrongful Conviction Act into law. The legislation was spurred on by Tapp’s case. It awards wrongfully imprisoned individuals $62,000 per year they were jailed. Wrongfully convicted death row inmates are eligible for $75,000.

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