Brian Leigh Dripps was sentenced to life in prison, having raped and fatally stabbed Angie Dodge over two decades ago. Dripps confessed nearly 20 years after an innocent man was convicted for his crimes. The 55-year-old Idaho man pleaded guilty in February for raping and murdering an 18-year-old girl in Idaho Falls back in 1996.
He was arrested in May 2019, after police linked his DNA with the murder scene. Brian Leigh Dripps will have to serve 20 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. Police were pressed to reevaluate the case by Dodge’s mom, after major improvements to DNA analysis and the use of genetic genealogy make it possible to produce stronger evidence.
Christopher Tapp, who was originally arrested and convicted for the crime, was allegedly coerced to confess by Idaho Falls police. He was exonerated in July 2019 after new evidence revealed his innocence, though he already spent 20-years of his life in prison.
According to the Innocence Project, which picked up the case, Tapp was released in 2017 before being officially exonerated for the 1996 crime. Police released him from custody when the rape conviction was vacated and his murder sentence had been reduced to time served.
Mr. Dripps confessed in February to killing Angie Dodge, though he admitted he only intended to rape her. He entered a plea deal, in which he traded a guilty plea for an agreement that he would serve at least 20 years in prison before he was eligible for parole. He was charged with first-degree murder and rape.
During the sentencing, Judge Joel E. Tingey said that “a young man spent a significant part of his life in prison for no good reason,” speaking directly to Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. “He was innocent. That falls on you.”
Mr. Dripps was also addressed by Ms. Dodge, Angie’s mother. “I can’t forgive you, ever” she admitted. “You have shattered our family. And there is no way to pick up the pieces ever again.” The family took turns giving victim impact statements during Tuesday sentencing, some claiming that there was more than one victim impacted by the 1996 events.
“Chris Tapp should be given the opportunity to voice his nightmare to this court,” said Todd Dodge, Ms. Dodge’s brother. “He served and lost 20 years of his life because of Mr. Dripps.”
According to the lawyer representing Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., the convict was drunk and high on cocaine during the murder. At the sentencing, Mr. Dripps apologized to the Dodge family.
“I would just like to say that I am sorry,” Brian Dripps said, “I just wish I could do over that night.” He also acknowledged that the Dodge family would not forgive him for his actions.
The family at least has some solace now, after two decades of questioning the incident that took Angie Dodge away. “Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for some type of closure on such a crime,” Judge Tingey said as he prepared to sentence Mr. Dripps. “On such a brutal crime.”
Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. will likely die in prison, according to his attorneys. He had a heart attack in November while jailed, and he likely won’t survive the 20-year sentence. “When talking about his declining health, [Dripps] thought this was God’s way of punishing him for what he did to Angie,” James Archibald, Brian Dripps’ defense attorney said. “So I can tell the court that he has felt bad, he has felt horrible, felt remorseful about what happened.”