IDAHO FALLS — In a hearing scheduled for Christopher Tapp later this month, he is expected to be exonerated for a murder he did not commit more than 20 years ago.
Tapp will appear before 7th District Judge Alan Stephens on July 17 for a status conference, where Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark could make a motion to have Tapp exonerated for the rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
“We believe that Mr. Tapp is innocent of this horrible crime, and there’s an expectation from everyone that there will be a resolution to this on July 17,” John Thomas, Tapp’s attorney, said in a court hearing Monday.
Tapp was arrested in 1996 and has maintained that Idaho Falls Police Department detectives coerced him into confessing to the crimes. Numerous DNA samples left at the crime scene did not match Tapp’s, and the man to whom the DNA belonged had not been identified until two months ago.
Brian Dripps Sr. of Caldwell was arrested in May and charged with rape and first-degree murder. His DNA was all over the crime scene and on Dodge’s body, according to a probable cause statement. Court documents show Dripps confessed to police that he acted alone in the crime.
Tapp was released from prison in 2017 but he was not exonerated.
The hearing Monday was meant for Stephens to be aware that the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office is willing to provide unredacted information on the Dripps case to Tapp’s legal team under a protective order.
“If there is a request for dissemination beyond Tapp’s legal team, we could either stipulate to that or bring that issue back to the court,” Clark said.
Tapp was joined by Thomas and Peter Neufeld, the co-director of the Innocence Project in New York. Neufeld mentioned that this will be exoneration in the world made possible because of DNA gathered from genealogical research.
“There’s no question that Angie Dodge was a victim in this unspeakable crime. But I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the fact that Chris Tapp is a victim also and has been a victim for 22 years and 6 months,” Neufeld said.
Clark acknowledged that some may be impatient that a remedy to Tapp’s conviction has not yet been reached, especially since Dripps has confessed to the crime. But the prosecutor is waiting on the Idaho Falls Police Department to conclude its portion of the Dripps investigation before he can proceed.
“If there was ever a case that speaks to the proposition that when a defendant or suspect makes a statement, the police ought to make an effort to verify or check the veracity of those statements, the Angie Dodge case is certainly that,” Clark said.
Tapp declined to comment Monday but referred EastIdahoNews.com to a statement he released in May:
“I want to thank all those who fought with me for the truth, especially the Dodge family. In respect for their mourning, I have no further statement at this time. I hope the DNA match and confession brings them some closure, and that Angie Dodge may finally rest in peace.”
Thomas invited the public to Tapp’s court hearing July 17 and “hopefully we’ll have a great celebration.” He said the first thing his client plans to do once exonerated is secure better employment.
“He’s going to look for a better paying job. Anybody who’s out there willing to hire him, please do so,” Thomas said. “Call our office and we’ll get you hooked up. He’s certainly somebody who is looking to get this murder case behind him and get fully exonerated as he’s innocent.”