IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — This article was written by Eric Grossarth of East Idaho News.
Brian Dripps says he never intended to murder Angie Dodge and had only planned on raping the 18-year-old. But in a change of plea hearing Tuesday morning, Dripps admitted to killing Dodge 25 years ago.
Dripps, 55, appeared in a Bonneville County Courtroom wearing his jail uniform and an American flag decorated face mask where he pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree murder and rape.
“All I really know is I went over there with the intent to rape her. I was pretty high on cocaine and alcohol,” Dripps said. “I had a pocket knife with me … I didn’t mean to murder her. I guess it just happened when I was there. I remember the rape part … that’s all I remember of that evening.”
Dripps said he doesn’t remember cutting Dodge’s throat but did not deny doing it. For nearly 23 years, he was a free man until his arrest in 2019 after DNA connected him to the crime scene.
Family members of both Dodge and Dripps sat in a socially distanced courtroom as Dripps graphically described the sexual assault. After the 15 minute hearing, Dodge’s family members spoke with EastIdahoNews.com.
“Today was a good day in that there’s some finality to it,” Brent Dodge, Dodge’s brother, told EastIdahoNews.com. “As we heard Brian Dripps plead guilty and admit to killing my sister and to raping her, there was some finality there that we’ve got the right guy this time and we’re looking forward to healing and going through the process of grieving.”
WATCH: ANGIE DODGE’S FAMILY SPEAKS FOLLOWING THE CHANGE OF PLEA HEARING
As part of the plea agreement, attorneys recommended Dripps spend 20 years to life in prison. The plea agreement is binding, meaning District Judge Joel Tingey will have to follow the recommendations. If not, Dripps could withdraw his plea and take the case to a jury trial.
“It’s been a burden that we carried for a long time,” Tyler Dodge, Angie Dodge’s nephew, said on behalf of his family. “It’s been 25 years since we lost my Aunt Angie and we’re happy with what transpired today. There is a lot of value and a lot of wisdom in finality and conclusion and that’s what we’ve gotten today.”
Dodge lived in an apartment on I street and when she failed to show up to work on June 13, 1996, two coworkers went to check on her. Her colleagues found Dodge’s body and investigators determined she had been raped and brutally murdered that morning.
Police collected evidence, including DNA, and the samples showed a single unknown suspect had raped and killed Dodge. For months, police tried to solve the crime but could not pin down the suspect.
In January 1997, investigators named 20-year-old Christopher Tapp a suspect. The DNA did not match Tapp’s and police theorized multiple people were involved in the crime. Through what experts and Tapp’s attorneys say were coerced confessions, Tapp admitted to the crime and gave the names of other alleged participants, whose DNA also did not match.
In 1998, a jury convicted Tapp of the rape and murder of Dodge. A judge sentenced him to serve 30 years to life in prison. Tapp continually appealed the sentence and found an unlikely ally in Carol Dodge, Angie’s mother. For years, Carol said she did not believe Tapp killed her daughter and fought for his release from prison. The Idaho Innocence Project provided assistance and ultimately, Tapp was released from prison in 2017 and exonerated in 2019.
Investigators began using genetic genealogy and teamed up with Paragon NanoLabs. On May 6, 2019, DNA experts determined Dripps was most likely the suspect in the case. Police learned at the time of the murder and rape, Dripps lived across the street from Dodge.
On May 10, 2019, investigators drove to Caldwell, where Dripps was living, and collected a DNA sample from a cigarette butt he threw into the road. Detectives ran into the road, collected the sample and sent it to the Idaho State Police lab. A positive match was returned within 24 hours.
Investigators took Dripps into custody on May 15 and during questioning, he confessed to raping killing Dodge 23 years earlier. He was arrested and booked into the Canyon County Jail before authorities brought him to Idaho Falls. He has been in the Bonneville County Jail since that time.
“We are grateful for those who have worked on this case that have helped it come to this conclusion,” Tyler Dodge said. “We are looking forward as a family to healing and to writing the next chapter of our lives.”
Dripps is scheduled to be sentenced on April 27 by Judge Tingey.
“We would like to thank the Idaho Attorney Generals Office for their diligent efforts to see this case through the prosecutorial stages and in reaching this plea agreement – which included Mr. Dripps admitting his guilt in court this morning,” Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Jessica Clements said in a statement to the media. “We hope that Carol and the Dodge family may feel some measure of peace as they process the hearing today and the upcoming sentencing.”