Man Wrongly Convicted of Teen's Murder Released Thanks to Victim's Mother's Efforts: 'My Champion'
Christopher Tapp was exonerated earlier this month after spending two decades in prison. His unlikely champion? The victim's mother.
An Idaho Falls man was exonerated of a crime he did not commit thanks to DNA evidence after spending two decades behind bars.
One of the strongest allies for his release? The mother of the victim.
In 1996, 18-year-old Angie Dodge was savagely stabbed and raped. The chilling crime sent shock waves through her hometown of Idaho Falls.
Christopher Tapp, then 19, was charged with her murder even though his DNA did not match samples found at the crime scene.
“In my heart and my mind, I knew I was innocent of all this,” he told Inside Edition.
In police interrogation video, he was asked if he heard Dodge scream and Tapp insisted he wasn’t at the scene of the crime.
Cops conducted an intense 30-hour interrogation and Tapp was also given seven polygraph tests.
“I felt scared, coerced, like a snowball going downhill, and it ran over me,” Tapp told Inside Edition.
In court, Carol Dodge, Annie's mother, came face to face with the man she believed killed her daughter.
“I just blurted out 'you beast' because was the first person I could put a face to that killed my daughter,” she told Inside Edition.
Tapp eventually was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison.
Years passed and Carol started to have doubts, and she became obsessed with finding out whose DNA was left at the crime scene.
Everything changed when she met with Tapp's attorney, John Thomas, who showed her the full interrogation and polygraph tapes.
“When I saw those tapes, it got sick to my stomach and wanted to put my fist through the television,” she said.
As time went on, Carol relentlessly appealed to Idaho Falls' new police chief, Bryce Johnson, to have the DNA evidence analyzed.
“She wanted to know who killed her daughter. She wanted justice,” the police chief said.
Twenty-three years after the murder came a huge break in the case. In May, police announced that 53-year-old Brian Leigh Dripps of Caldwell, Idaho, was arrested and charged with the murder of Angie.
“His DNA matches the DNA left at the scene of the crime and he has also confessed to the crime in the interview – both the rape and murder,” Johnson said at a press conference after Dripps' arrest.
Dripps has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
But Dripps' arrest led to Tapp being fully exonerated in July. Outside court, Carol celebrated with Tapp’s mom, Vera.
“I gave her her son back, but I gained one,” Carol said.
Now, Tapp can finally enjoy freedom thanks to a mom who never gave up seeking justice for her daughter.
“If it wasn't for her being my champion and standing up for me, then I would still be sitting inside prison,” he said.
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