Judge finds enough evidence for Dripps’ case to proceed to District Court
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IDAHO FALLS — Moments after hearing details about how her daughter was brutally raped and killed, Carol Dodge approached the suspect’s mother Friday afternoon at the Bonneville County Courthouse.
“It’s going to be okay,” Dodge said as she and Brian L. Dripps’ mom hugged in tears outside the courtroom.
Dripps was in court for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors must show a magistrate judge there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to District Court. Dripps is charged with first-degree murder and rape in the 1996 death of 18-year-old Angie Dodge.
Police tied Dripps to the case after groundbreaking DNA testing led detectives to the Caldwell man in May.
During the Friday hearing, Idaho Falls Police detective Sage Albright took the witness stand as Bonneville County prosecutors and Dripps’ defense attorney, James Archibald, asked Albright to describe the day Dripps admitted to killing Dodge.
Albright said Dripps was “articulate and intelligent” when he and Idaho Falls Sgt. John Marley spoke to Dripps in Caldwell. He says the pair handed Dripps a form stating he was waiving his Miranda rights, and Dripps signed the paper.
When the investigators told Dripps they were speaking with him about a major case in Idaho Falls, Albright said “the only thing he (Dripps) could think of was that murder case in Idaho Falls.” Initially, Dripps denied ever knowing anything about Dodge, who lived across the street from him in June 1996.
Albright said Dripps told him that three days after the birth of his daughter, he and a friend went drinking. Dripps came home early June 13 — the same day police believe Dodge was killed. They did not investigate Dripps in 1996.
When the investigators asked Dripps if his DNA would have been at the scene of the crime, he said no. Charging documents show DNA found on a cigarette butt smoked by Dripps matched that of the DNA profile from semen left on Dodge’s body.
At the hearing, an Idaho State Police Forensic Laboratory scientist said the DNA collected from hair and semen left at the crime matched Dripps with an extremely high level of certainty.
Albright said he and Marley confronted Dripps with the fact his DNA matched that found at the crime scene. He “didn’t seem awfully surprised” and had no explanation why they found his DNA on Dodge’s body. Albright said during the interrogation, Dripps continued denying being at Dodge’s apartment before suddenly asking if he needed a lawyer and asking if he could smoke one more cigarette.
When outside, Albright said Dripps told the detectives, “I’m sure you want to get this on tape.”
After they escorted Dripps back inside the interrogation room, he said he didn’t know Dodge, was drunk and high on cocaine and didn’t remember what happened.
“You got me dead right on the DNA,” Dripps said, according to Albright.
Dripps then asked for an attorney. He continued to talk with the detectives about “elements of the crime,” saying “s*** happened.” When asked what he meant, Dripps told them he only intended to rape Dodge that night, and the killing “was an accident,” Albright said.
During the interrogation, detectives learned he brought the weapon, a knife and gloves to the apartment and held the knife against Dodge’s throat while raping her. Dripps said he then cut her throat, according to court documents.
Dodge’s cause of death was determined to be the result of a laceration to her throat, which severed her right carotid artery and jugular vein.
Archibald argued to Magistrate Judge Andrew R. Woolf that his client was not orally read his Miranda rights and was denied a lawyer when he asked two to three times for one. Archibald asked to have the testimony given in the reported confession suppressed.
Woolf determined that it does not matter if the rights are read orally or if a suspect is given a written copy, though he said one can argue a written copy of Miranda rights is easier to understand.
Woolf noted that the DNA evidence on Dodge’s body alone is enough probable cause for the case to proceed to District Court.
Dripps left the courtroom with his walker moments after Woolf announced District Judge Dane H. Watkins Jr. will preside at his arraignment Sept. 10. Prosecutors have not determined if they will seek the death penalty.