''Confess.....or we'll send you to the Gas Chamber'' | 20 Years In Prison For A Crime He Didn't Commit

 (Angie Dodge. Picture credit: East Idaho News)

As you can see from the title of this post, I have been focusing on another miscarriage of justice case. You may remember me covering the terrible story of Michael Newton who lost 25 years of life for a crime he didn't commit (Michael had been sent to prison for the wrongful conviction of murdering his wife when the cops and the Judge knew he was an innocent man). You'll recognise a few similarities in this case which I'm just about to share with you.

The public have always had a love/hate relationship with the police and over the past few years we've seen quite a lot of bad press about the cops and how they carry out investigations. We've also seen how many in the police force have used their positions to prey on innocent people (using the horrendous story of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard as an example). Now don't get me wrong, I know there are some good cops out there but we have to be honest and recognise that there are a lot of bad ones too.

We know that in high profile murder cases where there has been a lot of media attention and murders that have happened in small towns, that there is often a lot of pressure on the police to find the perpetrator (or perpetrators) as soon as possible. The victim's family and friends want justice and to ensure that this never happens again. We've seen a lot of cases where cops have worked tirelessly to bring a killer to justice and put some very evil people behind bars but we've also seen cases where innocent men have been sent to prison. 

It's shocking to know that we have learned of cases over the years where innocent people have spend decades behind bars for crimes that they didn't commit. It's also shocking to learn about some of the terrible tricks and lies from people that we expect to uphold the law. From an early age we are told that the police are there to protect us, to keep the bad guys locked up, but sometimes, to our horror, we find out that it's sometimes the police that are the bad guys. 

Before I begin, I have to say (as I always do) to please be aware that some of the content shared in this post will be disturbing. I always try my best to be as sensitive as possible with the details without shying away from the facts of the case. My aim in this post is to bring Angie's story to you, what happened to her should never be forgotten and also the terrible miscarriage of justice that saw an innocent man lose years of his life and the incredible woman who stopped at nothing to see justice done for her daughter and to help free an innocent man. 

Nobody in Idaho Falls (USA) could ever forget the sickening murder of beautiful, 18 year old Angie Dodge in 1996. The poor girl was found dead in her new apartment in what investigators described as a bloodbath.  Some monster had attacked this young girl, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her over and over again, almost decapitating her. It was a horrendous scene. 

The police had learned of Angie's death though her work colleagues. Angie was a girly girl and loved all things make-up and glamour, she loved her job at the cosmetics store and would never miss a day of work unless it was something very important. Her work colleagues were also her close friends and everyone had a soft spot for Angie, she was adorable, fun to be around and had a heart of gold. When she didn't show up for work one day her colleagues thought they'd pop in to visit her at her new apartment to check everything was ok. 

Naturally they were expecting to find Angie at home but what they were to find was something that none of them could have ever imagined in their worst nightmares. They saw Angie deceased on her bedroom floor, next to her mattress, blood all over the place, it had been a savage and brutal attack. 

When authorities arrived they were briefed beforehand that the crime scene would be hard to take and even cops who'd been in the force for decades had struggled with what they were to eventually see. The murder of Angie Dodge shook the local community to it's core and everyone was devastated. Who would hurt a total sweetheart like Angie? She was a lovely girl and had time for everyone, she was also great with kids. 

This was a young woman who'd just moved into her new apartment just weeks before and she had everything going for her. The reason she had moved into the apartment was because she wanted her own space and there had been some tensions with her Mother. Angie was very independent and headstrong, like a lot of 18 year olds, she wanted the excitement of having her own place. Shortly before Angie's death she had patched things up with her Mother which was a blessing but the way that Carol Dodge was to find out about her daughter's death was very harsh and inappropriate. 

Angie was the baby of the family and had 3 older siblings. Carol wanted to do something special as her older brother was going to be visiting so she thought she'd make a quick phonecall to the cosmetics store and ask Angie if she fancied coming along to a little dinner with the family. Carol was transferred to the HR department and informed that Angie had not attended work because she had been found murdered and advised her to contact the police. It's hard to imagine what was going through Carol's mind at this moment, what a horrible and devastating thing to hear, not only that your daughter has been murdered but to hear it from people who simply worked with Angie. Angie's family should have been informed way sooner. Obviously because her work colleagues had found her, you can imagine the horrible news must have spread like wildfire but still, the HR department should have just said for Carol to contact the police and let investigators break it to her gently in a more sympathetic manner. 

Nobody knew who was responsible for Angie's murder but everyone was equally sickened and wanted this evil monster caught as soon as possible, there was widespread fear that he could strike again. The cops knew that the perpetrator was male because of the fair amount of DNA that had been found at the scene. They deciphered from the evidence that there had only been one man at the scene and found semen and hair. 

The investigation began with questioning and DNA testing over 100 men in the local area but none of the men tested had matched the samples found in Angie's apartment. The police were at a loss and had no idea who could have possibly committed this horrendous murder and Angie was just a genuinely sweet girl with no skeletons in the closet, there was nobody with an axe to grind with her so they focused on a local group of people who were nicknamed ''The River Rats''. The group would hang out in areas that were close to Angie's apartment and one of the guys, Ben Hobbs who had been a friend of Angie, just happened to be arrested for another horrible crime where he had held a woman at knifepoint and sexually assaulted her. 

With no DNA matches and nothing happening, the police became desperate and the local community were getting fed up, not to mention, Angie's Mother who was constantly demanding to know what was happening with the investigation especially as they had so much DNA evidence. 

The police decided that they would zoom in on Ben Hobbs because they were desperate to make it look as if they were doing something with the investigation and the fact that Ben was an unsavoury character anyway. One of the group, a young man by the name of Christopher Tapp was brought in for questioning and because the cops were getting nowhere with Ben, they decided it was time to play a few head games. 

Originally both boys said that they not seen Angie on the night of her death and had no idea what could have possibly happened but the police didn't want to leave it there. They told Christopher a pack of lies that Ben had tried to say he was involved in Angie's death, Christopher, being young, naive, unsure of what to do decided to make up a story about Ben being involved in Angie's death in an effort to get himself off the hook (even though he was innocent) and to keep the cops happy. The cops toyed with both the boys and suspicion soon moved from Ben to Christopher. There had been a lot of back and forth in the interviews and Christopher had been dragged in five times and each time he told a different story which didn't help matters. 

A lot of the time a lawyer wasn't present during these interviews and on the one occasion the lawyer was there, he was useless and just sat and watched as the cops continued to manipulate Christopher by trying to put words in his mouth. At one point (amongst other threats) the cops told Christopher ''Confess...or we'll send you to the Gas Chamber''

Both Ben and Christopher had taken lie detector tests and both were found to be telling the truth. By the time it was all said and done, Christopher had actually passed 7 polygraph tests in total on different occasions and no shred of guilt was found. The DNA at the scene didn't even match the boys. It was a complete and utter waste of time with both of them being innocent but the cops couldn't let it go.

Investigators had decided that because Christopher had changed his story so many times (not taking into consideration the amount of threats put to him and the psychological torture and mind games he endured) that he must be guilty and somehow managed to find a way to fool the polygraph machine. 

They wanted someone to pin the 'the murder on, the public and Carol were getting fed up waiting for them to do something. So, knowing fine well that Christopher Tapp was 100% innocent, they threw the book at him and made him go down for it himself. 

So a farce of a trial happened and they did what they could to try and paint Christopher in a bad light, a lot of things were hidden from the jury and they even found a fake witness who'd agreed beforehand to lie in court in exchange for getting off of drugs charges. This woman was coached to tell a pack of lies that she heard Christopher and Ben talking about killing Angie. 

In a shocking conclusion to the trial, Christopher Tapp was found guilty of the murder and rape of Angie Dodge. The jury came to the conclusion that because Christopher had changed his story so many times, that it had been a sign of guilt instead of what it really was, a young, terrified boy in over his head being bullied by the police to say what they wanted him to say. 

Christopher was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment (with a minimum of 10 years for rape and 30 years for murder) on the 28th of May 1998, he was just 20 years old. 

To Carol, the family and friends (as well as the wider community) of Angie, justice had been served, they got the monster who killed their beautiful Angie and now he was behind bars and couldn't hurt anybody else. As time went on and Christopher began to appeal his sentence and speak up about what had happened with the police, Carol began to feel that something just wasn't right. 

Carol contacted Christopher's lawyer and asked to see the interrogation tapes. Carol sat through everything that was said and was left horrified with an enormous amount of questions. She realised that they had thrown an innocent man in prison and she wanted to do something about it as well as find the real monster who killed her daughter. the real killer was still out there.

Getting Christopher out of prison wasn't going to be easy, the cops were not going to throw their hands up and admit to what they had done, there was jobs at risk, reputations at stake! Instead, any concerns or attempts at another look at things, were simply ignored but Carol was not going to give up. Years passed but she just kept on going and Christopher did what he could from his prison cell. 

After years of Christopher being behind bars, Carol joined forces with the Idaho Innocence Project and they worked together to try and persuade a judge to look over DNA evidence again but this was refused. 

(Angie Dodge with her parents: Picture credit: Good Morning America)

In 2017 after years of pushing for Christopher to be released as there was public outcry, Christopher was finally able to leave prison. Carol was waiting for him and held his hand when he walked out. The pair became very close and Christopher was and is forever thankful to Carol as well as the Idaho Innocence Project and supporters from around the world who believed in him.

Christopher was free but there was still work to be done, the real killer was still out there and had been free for over 2 decades. 

In 2019, a DNA breakthrough came about after a man called Brian Leigh Dripps Sr had matched the samples taken at the crime scene. Disturbingly enough this guy lived on the same street as Angie but he managed to avoid having the DNA tests done back in 1996. He confessed and told investigators that he didn't know what he was doing that night, that he had been high on drugs. Shortly after Angie's death he moved away from the area. If the police had done their jobs properly instead of focusing on two innocent boys then this man would have been caught earlier. He was right under their noses and you'd think they'd make sure that everyone in the neighbourhood had been tested and noticed that he just happened to conveniently move away just after the murder. 

He was found guilty by the court, obviously and sentenced to life in prison. 

Carol was there again to support Christopher at his vindication hearing and even though it was a heartbreaking story of a young woman who had lost her life and a young man who had lost his youth, a beautiful friendship blossomed between Carol and Christopher. Christopher was amazing, as is Carol and they seemed to give each other strength over all of those difficult years. 

(Christopher Tapp and Carol Dodge. Picture credit: BBC)

In a little bit of justice for Christopher, he was awarded 11.7 million pounds in damages because of everything that had happened to him. He lost his youth and was painted as a murderer and rapist when he was just a young boy who did nothing. 

This case is another frightening example of how lies, manipulation, coercion and desperation to find a culprit can ruin an innocent person's life. Who knows where Christopher would be right now if Carol had not pushed as much as she had. I'll tell you where he would be....still behind bars whilst Brian Dripps Sr was still out living his life. 

(Brian Dripps. Picture credit: Idaho Press

I hope Christopher is sipping cocktails right now on some paradise island. I hope that Carol and her family are doing well too. They've all been through so much. I also think of the friends/work colleagues who found Angie that day, I hope wherever they are that life has been kind to them, one can't imagine having seen such a traumatic thing. 

(Christopher Tapp. Picture credit: ABC News

And of course, Angie who should still be with us. It's heartbreaking to know that such a popular, sweet and kind girl who had so much going for her was to have her life taken in such a sick and barbaric way. It's anger inducing to know that the real murderer was living on her street and had managed to escape justice for so long whilst an innocent man was having years wasted in prison. I suppose all we can say now is that justice was finally done but it took a very long time to come and no matter the amount of money that Christopher was awarded through damages, it cannot bring Angie back or change the amount of time that was lost in Christopher's life, he essentially lost a big part of his youth. 

(Angie Dodge. Picture credit: ABC7 Los Angeles)

Further Reading & Sources: 

Christopher Trapp | Article: New York Times

Brian Dripps | Article: East Idaho News

Carol Dodge | Article: ABC7 News

Christopher Tapp | Innocence Project

Carol Dodge | Article: BBC News

Angie Dodge | Article: CBS News

Christopher Tapp | Article: CBS News

Angie Dodge | Article: NBC News

Murder of Angie Dodge | Wikipedia

Angie Dodge | Article: Washington Post

Brian Dripps | Article: East Idaho News

RIP Angie x

I just want to take this moment to say thank you for getting through this post with me, it was quite a hard case to take. Brian Dripps was responsible for wrecking so many lives and causing so much heartache. To me, it seems like he's had it easy. He's been out there free for all those years and been able to experience life and now he's of a certain age and finally gets his karma. It just doesn't seem fair and the investigation was a farce along with the trial. Like I mentioned before, no amount of money can ever put any of this right. it should never have happened. 

I hope you will join me in my next case and It would be nice to see you on my socials too. 

Please take care of yourselves x 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jo for your masterful work !

    Wrong conviction is always my biggest fear about the legal system. After many years of frustration for Christopher and also for Angie’s family, justice has been served.

    It’s an heartbreaking case. Cops and the judicial system were a complete failure.

    RIP Angie Dodge Xx