Stranger than Fiction: The Murder of Angie Dodge
Author Scott Turow discusses the wrongful imprisonment of a man (Tapp) for 20 years for the murder and rape of Angie Dodge in 1996. Interviews with Carol, who talks about her daughter and her tireless pursuit of justice; Tapp, who discusses his newfound freedom after serving time in jail; and members of the Center on Wrongful Conviction and the Innocence Project round out this two-hour documentary. The victims mother, Carol Dodge, was concerned that justice was still not done even after Trapp was convicted thus actively sought out the truth. The murder and rape of Angie Dodge happened on June 13, 1996, in Idaho Falls, and the case was still not solved until May 2016. The crime scene where Angie Dodge was murdered in 1996 was described as "one of the most graphic" by one detective. Police discovered her inside her bedroom in a terrible condition. Angie was stabbed several times, including once in the upper right breast area, and had her neck slashed.
DNA samples were taken from the subject's hair and gametes. Tapp was imprisoned for the murder and rape of Dodge for a total of 20 years while police looked for other possible suspects whose DNA matched evidence found at the scene. In 2017, Tapp's rape conviction was quashed and he was released from jail the same year. While Tapp was in prison, officials kept looking for other possible suspects, in part because of pleas from the deceased girl's mother, Carole Dodge. The verdict in the murder case had left her dissatisfied, and she was determined to track out the individual whose DNA had been found at the murder scene. Carole spent 20 years reading every case file and conducting street interviews and surveillance. She also carefully listened to all sixty hours of Chris Tapp's questioning recordings. She discovers by paying attention to the tapes that Chris Tapp knew relatively little about Angie's murder. Over time, Carole grew to believe that Chris Tapp was not present at the crime scene.
Carol Dodge contacted CeCe Moore, an expert genomic genealogist, on November 2018. Moore enlisted Parabon Nanotech to aid him in his collaboration with law enforcement. Through the use of public genomic databases, genetic genealogy may analyze undiscovered DNA evidence to locate possible culprits though the respective family trees. Moore claimed she began constructing family trees to find where individuals who matched DNA with the mystery suspect and with each other. Michael Usry Jr. was first identified as a possible suspect of murder and rape.. Y-chromosome familial searching, in which authorities utilize incomplete DNA matching with relatives to identify an individual, lead them to Usry. Nonetheless, DNA testing at the crime scene revealed that Usry was not a match for evidence. Moore continued to look into the matter and discovered that one of the male relatives had married and divorced at a young age. Soon after the couple split up, she learned that one of their children, Brian L. Dripps Sr., had been conceived. In 2019, officials used autosomal familial sequencing to positively identify and convict Dripps, who was determined to have a complete genetic similarity. He even admitted to the crime during interrogation, making Carole Dodge's efforts worthwhile. This meant that Tapp was cleared of any wrongdoing.
This cold case gained attention as an illustration of how family searching might lead to the identification of a suspect through the use of DNA testing seeking relatives. The case illustrates how non-criminal genetic archives are employed in criminal cases and the disagreements on the propriety of their usage, with erroneous charges and the eventual conviction gained through family research. Officials said the success of the Angie Dodge case investigation will increase the prevalence of familial searching in similar criminal investigations, albeit this is not the first instance to adopt this strategy. When it comes to how this case will ultimately affect people's attitudes and behavior around family tree searches, the jury is yet out. The Idaho Innocence Project is using cutting-edge technology to improve the state's justice system.
What a tragedy that men wronged by the state will never get back the years they have lost. And the detectives who threatened Trapp will likely only receive a reprimand. The 'eye for an eye' idea suggests that if a prosecutor or investigator intentionally employs coercion to obtain a guilty conviction, that individual should be required to make restitution in an amount equal to the social cost borne by the victims of the crime. If the police simply followed the evidence instead of employing terrorist tactics, perhaps more murders could be solved. The only way for humanity to overcome this atrocity is for its members to show resilience and do the right thing by never confessing to crimes they never committed. The general public needs to toughen up and take a stronger stand. Just because something is easy to do does not mean you should stop trying. It is my sincere hope that I would be able to maintain my honesty if I were in Trapp's position and faced with the same pressure to lie. But under those circumstances, I can understand why things happened the way they did. We hope that when the going gets tough, everyone will do the right thing. Still, we cannot deny the prevalence of fear in society and must acknowledge its pervasiveness.