IDAHO FALLS – Nearly 25 years after the horrific rape and death of Angie Dodge, her killer is going to prison.
On Tuesday, Brian Leigh Dripps, 55, sat before a court in Idaho Falls as a 20-year to life prison sentence was pronounced by District Judge Joel Tingey. Dripps had previously pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder and rape of Dodge as part of a plea agreement.
The pronouncement comes after Dripps spent decades as a free man, while Christopher Tapp, an innocent man, sat in prison wrongfully convicted for Dripp’s crime. Investigators tied Dripps to the crime in 2019 after new technology connected him with DNA left on Dodge’s body.
“You have shattered our family,” Dodge’s mother, Carol Dodge, said in her victim impact statement. “There is no way to pick up the pieces ever again. You, Brian Dripps, deserve eternal hell.”
Two of Dodge’s brothers, Todd and Roger Dodge, also shared their anguish in the years after their sister’s murder. Todd laid out on the floor a large graphic image of the crime scene as he gave his tear-filled victim impact statement.
“That crime scene is speaking, Your Honor,” Todd said. “Angie is crying out asking you to hear her voice, to hear her words of how this crime impacted her. The size of the photo pales in comparison to the enormity of the situation and the enormity of the horrific nature of Mr. Dripps’ actions.”
Todd described the actions like Dripps dropping an “atomic bomb” upon not only the Dodge family but the entire community. He called Dripps the “definition of evil.”
“I cannot believe how long (Angie’s) been in a casket, (lying) in a grave she shouldn’t be in,” Roger Dodge said.
Tuesday’s sentence closes the door on a decades-long investigation that began June 13, 1996. Dodge, 18, was living in her I Street apartment in Idaho Falls. When she failed to show up for work, two coworkers went to check on her.
The co-workers discovered her body, and later investigators determined she had been raped and brutally murdered earlier that morning.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office once again described Dodge’s body. Her throat had been slit so deeply as to nearly decapitate her, and she bled to death with multiple knife wounds on her body.
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.
Eventually, Tapp came out and asserted his innocence, beginning a long fight, alongside Carol Dodge, to clear his name.
Investigators began making serious progress on the case in 2019 by using genetic genealogy. By examining family connections from the DNA recovered at the scene, DNA experts identified a number of people who could be related to the case. Among them was Dripps, who police learned at the time of the murder and rape was living across the street from Dodge. He had even been interviewed by police at the time of the murder as a possible witness.
On May 10, 2019, investigators drove to Caldwell, where Dripps was living, and to collect 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. The lab returned a positive match within 24 hours.
Investigators took Dripps into custody on May 15, 2019, and during questioning, he confessed to raping and 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.
When Dripps pleaded guilty to the crimes in February, he described being on cocaine and alcohol when he went into Dodge’s apartment intending to rape her. He said he had a pocketknife but did not intend to murder her. However, Dripps said, “It just happened.” He said he didn’t remember slitting her throat, but also did not deny it happened.
“I just wish I could do over that night,” Dripps said after he struggled to stand at his sentencing. “I am sorry. I know you will never forgive me, but I am sorry.”
Co-defense attorney Elisa Massoth painted a picture of Dripps’ life, mentioning his adoption, joining the United States Marine Corps and a career in construction. The father of three spent nearly 23 years taking care of his three children from a failed marriage.
“When you look at this period of time … and you take the timeline and you pare it down, we’re looking at a window that was a horrible, horrible window of time that was about 20 minutes on one day,” Massoth said.
In the years after Dodge’s murder, Dripps’ health has continued to decline. From the heart attack Dripps had in November while in the Bonneville County Jail to other lifelong chronic conditions, Massoth and co-defense attorney James Archibald asserted that Dripps receiving a 20-year minimum sentence likely equates to the rest of his life.
“When talking about his declining health, (Dripps) thought this was God’s way of punishing him for what he did to Angie,” Archibald said. “So I can tell the court that he has felt bad, he has felt horrible, felt remorseful about what happened.”
Idaho Deputy Attorney General Jessica Kuehn disagreed, and said Dripps lived 23 years of his life knowing he killed Dodge but never came forward. That leaves her asking, “Where was the remorse?”
“He knew someone was serving time for his crime, and yet every day, he woke up and refused to take accountability for his actions,” Kuehn said.
At the end of the hearing, Tingey upheld the binding plea agreement reached during mediation between the defense team and prosecutors. In addition to the 20-year sentence, if the Idaho Department of Correction has available space, Dripps will also stay in a special medical unit.
“You look at crimes like this, and it’s impossible to quantify how much damage has been caused,” Tingey said. “It’s spread wide. I particularly like Mr. (Todd) Dodge’s comment — it’s chaos, it’s chaos for a lifetime.”
Tingey also ordered Dripps to pay $10,000 in fines.
“I wouldn’t say its closure because as Todd described there is still a lot of chaos,” Brent Dodge, another one of Angie Dodge’s brothers told EastIdahoNews.com after the sentencing. “But I would describe it as probably a milestone in that path to continuing the healing process.”
The Idaho Falls Police Department said in a statement on Tuesday how it appreciates the work of the Attorney General’s Office, Capt. Bill Squires, Capt. Joel Tisdale, Lt. John Marley, Det. Sage Albright, Det. Jeff Pratt, Sgt. Josh Deede and others.
“Over the course of the past 25 years, this case and the Dodge Family have become interwoven with our agency and our community at large,” the statement reads. “As evidenced by the impactful statements made by her family today in court, Angie’s memory will live on with her family, our community, and certainly within the Idaho Falls Police Department.”