Carol Dodge almost gave up looking for her daughter’s killer. Then she felt Angie say, ‘You’re almost there, Mom.’
IDAHO FALLS — Carol Dodge was ready to give up.
Her only daughter, Angie, had been dead for nearly 23 years, and the killer had not been found.
As she sat meditating last month, she expressed her frustrations and then felt an overwhelming calmness.
“I was saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore, Angie. I’ve gone as far as I can go,'” Dodge tells EastIdahoNews.com. “And I just felt her there saying, ‘You’re almost there, Mom.’ ”
Those impressions from her daughter became a reality Wednesday night when 53-year-old Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. was arrested in Caldwell and charged with rape and first-degree murder in perpetration of a rape.
Dripps was booked into the Canyon County Jail around 6:45 p.m. During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson told reporters that Dripps admitted to killing Dodge in June 1996 during recent interviews with police.
“His DNA matches the DNA sample left at the scene of the crime, and he has also confessed in an interview in both the rape and murder,” Johnson said.
Angie Dodge was found stabbed to death with her throat slit in her I Street apartment around 11 a.m. on that summer day. Dripps lived across the street from the 18-year-old, but the two did not know each other well, police say. Circumstances about the crime were not released during the news conference.
How police were led to Dripps
With the help of new technology called genetic genealogy, Idaho Falls Police detectives worked with Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs and were led to Dripps.
Genetic genealogy is a lead generation tool that can tie DNA to an individual whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Detectives gave a semen sample found in Angie’s apartment to CeCe Moore at Parabon NanoLabs.
“Genetic genealogy had never been done in a suspect case with such a degraded DNA sample, so it was quite a challenge,” Moore said.
Moore’s team was able to link the sample to Dripps’ family tree and slowly eliminate family members until Dripps was left. Idaho Falls police detectives used that information and traveled to Caldwell last week to try and obtain a current DNA sample from Dripps to match the semen sample.
“They spent hours and hours and hours of surveillance in the car waiting to see if they could get something that might have a DNA sample,” Johnson said.
After following Dripps for 20 hours, Johnson said he threw a cigarette butt out his car window Friday, and a detective picked it up. Authorities then sent it to the Idaho State Lab in Boise.
“They stayed open Friday to let us know that there was a sufficient sample on the cigarette. They remained open all weekend long, and on Saturday they made the phone call (and said) we have a DNA match. We got the person who left the DNA at the murder scene,” Johnson said.
On Tuesday, with the help of the Idaho State Police and Caldwell Police Department, Idaho Falls Police detectives arrested Dripps in Caldwell as he got out of his vehicle. He was taken to the Caldwell Police Department where investigators say he eventually confessed to the crime.
“He did lie initially. It was a lengthy interview — probably five to five and a half hours,” Idaho Falls Police Capt. Bill Squires said. “Ultimately the truth has a way to come out. Sometimes on something like this, that’s been repressed for so long — sometimes that truth isn’t easily divulged.”
Dripps appeared for an initial court hearing Thursday afternoon. The Idaho Statesman reports defense attorney Josh Taylor requested Canyon County Magistrate Judge David Eames consider bond for Dripps as he has medical problems and needs pain management medication.
Eames denied the request, stating it was Bonneville County’s case. Dripps will be transported to the Bonneville County Jail and be held without bail.
If convicted of the crimes, Dripps could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Who is Brian Dripps Sr.?
Dripps has no major criminal history in Idaho. He has a misdemeanor conviction for drug possession in 2002 in Adams County and several driving infractions. In 1989, he was convicted of driving under the influence in Canyon County. In 1991, he was convicted of another DUI in Canyon County.
In 1996, the same year Dodge was killed, Dripps’ then-wife, Nycole Sept, filed for divorce in Bonneville County, but it wasn’t finalized until 1999 according to the Idaho Statesman.
They have three children together. When the Idaho Statesman reached out to Sept on Thursday morning, she was unaware of Dripps’ arrest.
“I had two more children with him after he murdered her?” she asked after she had been told that Dripps had been charged as a suspect in connection with the 1996 killing.
Sept confirmed to the newspaper that Dripps was living in Idaho Falls in 1996, the same year she was pregnant with her first child and tried to leave him. She said she left him because he was using drugs, acknowledging they both were drug users, and he was violent.
“I was afraid of him, especially when he was doing drugs,” Sept said.
Sept and Dripps got back together after the birth of their first child. They moved to California, had two more children, and then moved back to Caldwell, where she says Dripps’ mother lived, according to the newspaper.
Sept lost custody of her children when they divorced, and she hasn’t spoken to Dripps in 17 years. Today, Sept lives in Nevada with her current husband.
Christopher Tapp was originally arrested for Angie Dodge’s murder, but he claimed Idaho Falls Police detectives coerced his confession. His DNA never matched the DNA found at the scene, and with the help of the Idaho Innocence Project,Tapp was released from prison in 2017 after spending 20 years behind bars.
Carol Dodge had publicly stated that she does not believe Tapp killed Angie and fought for his release from prison.
Tapp attended the news conference on Thursday with his wife. He embraced Carol Dodge for several minutes and said he was glad this day has come.
Johnson was asked if the police department owes Tapp an apology.
“That would be a question for a couple of weeks from now. We’re here is to talk about Angie, to talk about Carol and talk about what’s happened,” Johnson said. “Chris Tapp is another important part of this case that deserves its day in the sunlight, and we will do that. That day will probably be in a couple of weeks. We need a little more time to dot I’s and cross T’s.”
Dodge family reaction
On the day Angie Dodge’s family was called to the Idaho Falls Police Department in 1996 to identify her body, her brother, Brent, was there with his 6-year-old daughter, Heidi.
An officer cared for the young girl while detectives met with Brent and Carol.
“As we were leaving, my daughter said, ‘Dad, did you lock the doors? Are we safe tonight?'” Brent recalled during the news conference, holding back tears.
Looking at his mother during the news conference, Brent continued, ‘We’re safe tonight. The bad guy is behind bars.”
Brent, Johnson and Moore all credit Carol’s determination and strength to solve her daughter’s homicide and bring closure.
“We express our gratitude for the prayers, the faith and hope to help our mother soldier on,” Brent said. “This is a great day for our family. Angie was a wonderful, bright young woman. I never had the opportunity to become an uncle because she was taken from us. We love her. We appreciate her. We appreciate this day.”
Brent announced the Dodge family is launching a fundraising project called “5 for Hope,” which will collect money to be used in solving unsolved murders nationwide. Donations are being accepted on AngieDodge.com.
“There are 200,000 unsolved murders in the United States. They are people like us. They have families, they live in pain and they suffer,” Brent said. “I had this idea. What would it be like if we could crowdfund some additional technology or source some additional technology to help solve those?”
Following Brent’s remarks, Carol thanked the police, public, media and others for supporting her over the years.
“What an overwhelming day. I can’t express how hard this journey has been,” Carol said. “Hundreds of people (have) been affected by one person’s choice to take my daughter’s life. Not only did he take her life, he took a piece out of all of our lives and affected so many people around the world.”
Through tears, Carol said her family has been blessed by God for putting the right people in their lives that have brought them to this day.
“We had to go through all the learning processes, and all the technologies had to come about because it was really in God’s hands,” she said. “He orchestrated the whole thing. It just took us 23 years to get here.”
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