Man Exonerated after DNA Proves Innocence, 30 Years Later


After 18-year-old Angie Dodge was murdered on the morning go June 13, 1996, the Idaho Falls police department spent half a year looking for a possible suspect. In early 1997, Benjamin Hobbs was arrested on a sexual assault charge, upon which the Idaho Falls department interviewed him and his friends to try to build a case around him. One of his friends was then 20-year-old Christopher Tapp. Tapp’s story of his knowledge of Dodge’s murder changed throughout a rigorous interview process and entered an immunity agreement.

However, a week later, DNA tests came back excluding Tapp from the crime scene to which the police suggested the involvement of a third friend. Tapp changed his story again and was ultimately charged with first degree murder, rape, and use of a deadly weapon. The other two friends remained free. Tapp was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

As mitochondrial DNA testing performed by the FBI continued to exclude Tapp from the scene, he continued to appeal the conviction. As serious doubts about Tapp’s guilt arose, Angie’s mother, Carol Dodge, became one of Tapp’s biggest advocates. The Innocence Project took on the case and after a series of reviews, Tapp was released.

After his release the Idaho Falls police began working with GEDmatch’s database to identify the source of the DNA sample from the scene. Family tree analysis was able to identify seven people of interest, including Brian Dripps. In May of 2019, Dripps confessed and was arrested for the crime, stating that the acted alone and did not know Tapp. Tapp was able to gain a second chance of life after spending 20 years being wrongfully convicted.

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