Eighteen-year-old Angie Dodge was raped and murdered in her Idaho home a quarter century ago and an innocent man wrongfully served 20 years in prison for the crime.
7th District Judge Joel Tingie said 55-year-old Brian Leigh Drips Sr. would have to serve at least 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Drips’ defense lawyers say his medical problems — including a history of cardiac problems and an autoimmune disease — make it unlikely he will live long enough to get parole.
“Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for some sort of closure on such a brutal crime,” Tingi said. “… it is impossible to measure how much damage has been done, and it has been widely spread.”
Angie Dodge had moved into her own apartment in Idaho Falls in 1996 when she was murdered. Prosecutors said Dodge was sleeping when Drips entered her apartment and that he raped her and slit her throat so severely that she was nearly beheaded.
Soon after the murder, investigators zeroed in on another suspect – Christopher Tap.
Idaho Falls Police Department officers questioned him repeatedly for hours, briefed him on the case and told him that unless he implicated himself and any other suspects, he could face the death penalty. Tapp eventually wrongfully confessed, although he later claimed his innocence, and was convicted.
But Tapp was supported by the Idaho Innocence Project, an advocacy group at Boise State University, and eventually Dodge’s mother, Carol Dodge, and the New York-based Innocence Project.
DNA evidence collected from the crime scene was not tested until 2016 and showed that Tapp’s genetic material was not present in the sample. She was released in 2017 after reaching a settlement that reduced her murder sentence and vacated her rape sentence.
Meanwhile, investigators periodically work on the cold case, in hopes of uncovering what really happened the night Dodge was killed.
They began using DNA databases to try to find a suspect or someone who is likely to be related to the person who left the DNA.
After some dead ends, in 2019 they discovered a potential suspect who lived in Idaho Falls at the time of the murder and is now living in Caldwell across the state – Brian Drips Sr.
Law enforcement officers chased down Drips and pulled out a cigarette butt he had thrown through a car window. There was enough DNA to show that it matched a sample left at the crime scene in 1996.
When confronted by police, Drips confessed, saying that he was high on cocaine and alcohol and that he planned not to murder Dodge, but to rape. He claimed he didn’t remember slitting Dodge’s throat. But he didn’t deny it.
Due to Drips’ confession, Tapp was formally acquitted of the crimes.
“A young man spent a significant part of his life in prison for no good reason. He was innocent. It falls on you,” the judge told Drips during the sentencing hearing.
Angie Dodge’s brother, Todd Dodge, told the court that Drips “dropped an atomic bomb at the heart of our family and our community” and spoke of the guilt and frustration that he, the jury, and others brought to the original against Tape. Felt after learning in trial. Tap was innocent.
Todd Dodge said of Drips, “They sentenced me to hell for a lifetime – so far I’ve served 9,126 days.”
Another brother, Roger Dodge, said that the murder of Angie Dodge was the most devastating thing he had ever experienced.
Drips also spoke while offering an apology.
“I am sorry. It was not my intention for this to happen,” he said. “I wish we had a do-over because I would have done it that day… I know you will never forgive me but I am sorry “