On June 13, 1996, Angie Dodge was raped and murdered. In the days and years that followed the investigation has continued and questions have remained. On May 15, 2019, the Idaho Falls Police Department arrested Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., a 53 year-old man living in Caldwell, Idaho, for the murder and rape of Angie Dodge. A combination of advancements in DNA analysis and dedicated police work have culminated in the final stages of what has become one of the nation’s more widely known “Cold Cases.”
Through all 23 years of the investigation, Carol Dodge has been a warrior for her daughter. Carol has met with investigators over the years and has taken a very active role in the pursuit of answers. Carol has conducted her own research, contacted experts, and done all she can to keep a light shining on Angie’s case.
This investigation has involved many different people over the years. Nearly all of them have had an opportunity to meet Carol Dodge. Many of those people will say they were inspired to do more, to try harder, and to innovate because of Carol Dodge and her fierce love for her daughter.
Nearly 23 years ago, Angie Dodge was 18 year’s old and was living in her first apartment at 444 “I” Street in Idaho Falls, Idaho. In the early hours of June 13, between 12:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Angie was raped and brutally murdered. Her body was discovered by two coworkers who were concerned that Angie had not come to work that morning.
The Idaho Falls Police Department (IFPD) began investigating immediately. What had happened to Angie was apparent, but the questions of ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘who’ were mysteries. Evidence collected at the scene, interviews with anyone who had known or seen Angie that night, and tips from that time suggested that one or more people participated in the perpetration of the crime.
In June of 1996, DNA evidence being used to solve crimes was a relatively new science. The first criminal case to utilize DNA evidence was a 1986 rape and murder case in England. DNA evidence was used for the first time in a United States court in 1987. At the time of Angie Dodge’s murder, investigators were able to collect semen and hairs left at the crime scene. DNA testing available at the time showed that the samples collected belonged to the same unknown suspect.
In January 1997, Christopher Tapp, a 20 year old Idaho Falls man, became a suspect in this case. Although his DNA did not match crime scene samples collected at the time, an existing theory was that multiple people were involved and Tapp was suspected to have been one of those people. In late January 1997, Christopher Tapp confessed to being involved in the rape and murder of Angie Dodge. Based on his confessions, knowledge of the crime, and other facts that supported a theory that multiple people had been involved in the rape and murder, Tapp was convicted in 1998 by a jury of his peers in Bonneville County.
Tapp’s confession matched details from the crime scene and included assertions that he had not acted alone. None of the information Tapp gave led to the arrest of any additional suspects or the successful identification of the person who had left the DNA.
Later, Tapp alleged that his confessions in 1997 were coerced and attempted to appeal the conviction. In July 2001 the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. Tapp also filed several Post Conviction Relief Petitions between 2002 and 2015. All but one was dismissed.
The Idaho Innocence Project and Judges for Justice began working with Chris Tapp on his case. In 2017, Tapp’s rape conviction was vacated, his murder sentence was reduced to time served, and he was released.
The DNA Match – Unknown Suspect
The DNA that was collected in June 1996 belonged to an unknown suspect, and the search for a DNA match has been ongoing through all 23 years of the investigation. IFPD has collected and submitted over 100 DNA samples for testing and comparison. As the technology and science around DNA testing has evolved through the years, IFPD has embraced and been among the first to try each one. Cases around the nation were solved and brought to successful conclusions with each step forward in the scientific field.
Advancements have also been made in the law enforcement profession. Everything that law enforcement as a profession knew to do in 1996 was applied to this case. That has remained true as the investigation has continued. Over the years, IFPD has sought assistance from special task forces, the FBI, the attorney general’s office, and multiple specialists to help identify suspects.
Thousands of hours, numerous officers, and a significant amount of resources have been invested in the pursuit of truth and of justice for Angie. Investigators have followed hundreds of tips, and interviews have been conducted with a multitude of people - both suspects and people with information everyone hoped may lead closer to the truth and the identity of the DNA match.
In the mid-2010s, investigators traveled to Louisiana to procure a DNA sample from a possible suspect who had been identified utilizing an early version of genetic genealogy. The results of that DNA comparison were negative.
In 2016, IFPD asked for assistance from Francine Bardole and the West Jordan Police Department in Utah. Investigators hoped that by utilizing WJPD’s M-Vac Forensic DNA Collection System, a DNA extraction tool, to retest evidence collected at the scene additional “touch DNA” may be procured, leading to the identification of other suspects.
In 2017 Snapshot Parabon Labs, the Idaho Falls Police Department sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia that specializes in advanced DNA analysis services. One of the services used in this case was DNA phenotyping: the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence. Law enforcement agencies use the company’s Snapshot ® DNA Phenotyping Service (Snapshot) to narrow suspect lists and generate leads in criminal investigations.
Using the DNA evidence left at the crime scene, Parabon produced trait predictions for the unknown suspect. Individual predictions were made for his ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape. By combining these attributes of appearance, a Snapshot composite was produced depicting what the suspect may have looked like at 25 years old and with an average body-mass index (BMI) of 22. These default values were used because age and BMI cannot be determined from DNA.
It is important to note that Snapshot composites are scientific approximations of appearance based on DNA, and are not likely to be exact replicas of appearance. Environmental factors such as smoking, drinking, diet, and other non-environmental factors — e.g., facial hair, hairstyle, scars, etc. — cannot be predicted by DNA analysis and may cause further variation between the subject’s predicted and actual appearances.
Investigators hoped that this Snapshot would prompt someone with previously unknown information to step forward or provide a further lead in another way. Not long after that, investigators traveled to Nevada pursuing yet another lead. A lead that, again, came back negative.
Through each DNA comparison, every advancement in DNA technology and analysis, and every negative result, hope remained that a match to the crime scene DNA would be found. Aside from the pursuit of a DNA match, efforts were made to generate new leads and to investigate them. The law enforcement profession also progressed. The Idaho Falls Police Department and the Dodge family continued to push forward and search for answers.
The Final Team
In the fall of 2017, the Idaho Falls Police Department welcomed a new Chief of Police, Chief Bryce Johnson. The Investigations Bureau received new leadership as well and Captain Bill Squires, Lieutenant Joel Tisdale and Sergeant John Marley took the helm of the Investigations Bureau.
Up until this point Captain Squires had spent the majority of his career in the Patrol Division, but this was not his first time working on the Angie Dodge case. 1996 was Captain Squire’s rookie year as a police officer. On June 13, 1996, then Patrol Officer Squires was the third officer on scene. He was directed to stand guard on Angie’s porch and to act as the scene security officer, keeping a log of every officer coming in and out until the scene had been cleared and Angie’s body taken to the funeral home.
Captain Squires has often said that he always knew that this case would be solved. No amount of time passed, resources needed or distance traveled to follow leads would prevent investigators from finding the truth about what happened to Angie Dodge. As the Captain of the Investigations Bureau, Captain Squires has led and shepherded the investigation through its final stages.
Not long after he arrived, City of Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper asked Chief Johnson to look into the status of the four major cold cases in IFPD’s jurisdiction (The Dodge Case marks the second of those cases to have since been solved).
With the current leadership team in place, a briefing was held to update the team on each of the cold cases in IFPD’s jurisdiction. The lead detective on the Dodge case at the time, Detective Josh Deede, started his briefing by displaying a large photo of Angie. Detective Deede made the powerful statement that, no matter what else was associated with this case, “This is all about Angie Dodge. This is about finding the truth about what happened to Angie.”
At this point the Angie Dodge case had spanned two decades, and the original investigators had since retired. Multiple IFPD detectives had been assigned the lead investigator role in this case, and numerous more had assisted over the years. An immense amount information had been collected by various people and housed in different software and reporting systems. It was difficult to confirm that any one person currently at the department truly knew all of the information and could utilize it successfully.
While the nature of police work rarely allows investigators the opportunity to concentrate solely on one case, the department made arrangements to allow Detective Deede to step back from other responsibilities, cases, and day to day police work. Officers and staff around the department backfilled and took on additional responsibilities so that he was able to devote all of his focus to the Angie Dodge case.
Over two decades of case reports, crime scene photos, files, interview recordings, evidence and tips existed in digital files, floppy disks, hard copies, multiple medias, and even hand written notes. In twenty years, the department had changed records systems four times and these records needed to be converted to one searchable and complete database in order for current investigators to study this case in its entirety.
East Idaho Cold Cases donated a high speed scanner to the Idaho Falls Police Department which was used for this arduous but essential task. For weeks on end Detective Deede studied and compiled the Angie Dodge case. He and other investigators generated and followed possible leads. Lists were compiled of evidence and what testing had been done, and what new advances could be utilized to retest blankets, personal effects, clothing, the DNA and other items taken from the crime scene.
In December of 2018, Detective Deede was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to the Patrol Division of the department. Angie’s case was then assigned to Detective Sage Albright who has since acted as lead investigator on this case.
In November of 2018, IFPD Investigators again partnered with Parabon for the newest advancement in criminal DNA testing, genetic genealogy. Genetic genealogy uses advanced DNA testing in combination with innovative genetic analysis, sophisticated identification techniques and traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors. For forensic investigations, it is used to generate highly informative leads as to the possible identity of an unknown victim or offender.
“When my team at Parabon received this sample that was extremely degraded genetic genealogy had never been done in a suspect case with such a degraded sample,” said CeCe Moore, Genetic Genealogist from Parabon Labs. “So it was extremely challenging.”
Moore has said that under normal circumstances, she and Parabon would not have taken this case because of the degraded sample. However, after speaking with Carol Dodge, Moore committed to try.
Moore and Parabon submitted a genetic data profile created from the crime scene DNA sample to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding individuals who shared significant amounts of DNA with the unknown subject. These genetic matches serve as clues to inform traditional genealogy research: first, family trees of the matches were constructed back to the set of possible common ancestors using online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries, and other public records, after which descendancy research was employed to enumerate the possible identities of the unknown subject.
Moore’s team and IFPD investigators utilized other information, such as age, location, triangulation between matches, and/or ancestry and phenotype (trait) predictions, to narrow down the possibilities before a final list of six possible leads was produced. The science showed that DNA collected from just one of the individuals on this list, even if it wasn’t a match to the DNA at the 1996 crime scene, would lead to the further identification of the suspect DNA.
IFPD set out to collect a DNA sample from one of these six people – people who were spread out around the country. While IFPD was fully prepared to send the entire team of detectives to different states if needed and had plans in place to do so, the closest lead was living in Twin Falls, Idaho. In February, IFPD investigators took a team of detectives to Twin Falls to hunt for DNA.
This operation entailed surreptitiously acquiring this person’s DNA as they discarded it. The Twin Falls Police Department, Twin Falls Sherriff’s Office, and the Idaho State Police assisted with the operation. Investigators from IFPD and the two local agencies wore plain clothes and drove unmarked vehicles as they surveilled the individual waiting for anything that could possibly contain DNA to be discarded – a water bottle, straw, Kleenex, cigarette butt, chewing tobacco.
With detectives watching, the subject stepped out of a building and spit out a wad of chewing tobacco before getting in his car and driving away. Investigators quickly collected the tobacco, hoping it would contain enough DNA for an analysis.
Those samples were sent to a private lab who expedited the results. That DNA profile came back as a negative match to the DNA left at the 1996 crime scene, which was disappointing but not unexpected. Investigators still hoped further analysis could identify one of the remaining five men as the suspect and the DNA profile was sent to Parabon for analysis.
The Seventh Man
IFPD investigators met with Moore at the start of May via video conference. The news was disheartening. Not only was that person not a match, Moore’s genetic genealogy analysis indicated that the suspect to whom the crime scene DNA belonged was more distantly related to the person whose DNA was collected in Twin Falls than had been expected. The analysis suggested that based on the remaining five people of interests’ position on the familial tree, it was unlikely that one of them could be the donor of the crime scene DNA.
“We were confident in the science though,” Chief Johnson said. “So the question became, ‘Is there an unknown person? Is there a person who isn’t listed on the family tree anywhere who is part of this genealogy?”
Moore and her team at Parabon were able to find an obituary in the digital records of a small library across the country. The obituary was for a woman whose daughter had been briefly married into the familial tree indicated by the genetic genealogical analysis. The marriage had ended before any children had been born, causing Parabon and IFPD to believe that this branch of the tree had died off and therefore could not produce further suspects.
The obituary listed that this woman had a child. A son, who was born after the divorce to the male in the suspect family line but before her second marriage. The child had the DNA of the familial line indicated by Parabon’s genetic genealogy analysis, but had been raised under his step father’s surname – Dripps.
“We originally had it narrowed down to about six men,” Moore said. “But it turned out there was a seventh and that was Brian Dripps [Sr.]. It took perseverance to find out that he even existed, and our wonderful officers and investigators to take it across the finish line.”
After receiving this information from Moore and Parabon, IFPD detectives set out to investigate the lead of Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. as the match to the DNA evidence from the 1996 crime scene.
Detective Sage Albright found information that indicated Dripps had been living in the area at the time of the murder. An old pawn receipt and archived utility records showed his address as 459 “I” Street in Idaho Falls from April 3, 1996 to August 2, 1996. 459 “I” Street is directly across the street from 444 “I” Street, the apartment where Angie had been living and was killed.
“It became pretty clear that this might be the person we are looking at,” said Chief Johnson. “At that point the investigation really kicked into hyper drive.”
The Final Lead
On August 2, 1996 Dripps left Idaho Falls. A 1999 divorce proceeding in Canyon County showed an address in Caldwell, Idaho and recent records suggested Dripps was still living in that area.
Detective Captain Bill Squires and others rallied a team of detectives who traveled the five hours to Caldwell for another operation to collect a DNA sample from the suspect. The Caldwell Police Department (CPD) were able to verify a current address for Dripps before the IFPD team arrived.
A small team of IFPD detectives and representatives from CPD and the Idaho State Police surveilled Dripps for upwards of 24 hours straight. In the first hour of surveillance, Dripps flipped a cigarette butt out the window of a vehicle.
As soon as Dripps moved on with traffic, investigators attempted to recover the cigarette butt. However, because of busy traffic investigators lost sight of the item and it was mixed into several other cigarette butts that had been discarded in the roadway. Investigators were forced to try again.
On the afternoon of Friday, May 10th, over 20 hours of constant surveillance later, investigators saw Dripps discard another cigarette butt out the window of his vehicle. As soon as Dripps had moved on, an undercover IFPD detective rushed into traffic to recover the cigarette butt he had witnessed Dripps discard. Other officers in plain clothes blocked cars from ruining the sample or injuring the detective.
The sample was rushed to the Idaho State Lab in nearby Boise, Idaho. The lab stayed open late into the evening to confirm that the sample was sufficient for a comparison to the original suspect DNA. After confirming that the sample was sufficient, The Idaho State Lab worked through the weekend to extract the DNA and perform the comparison. The genealogic analysis performed by Parabon is a scientific lead generator and cannot be used to verify that two samples match for criminal and legal purposes.
The Idaho State Lab compared Brian Dripps Sr.’s DNA on the cigarette butt to the DNA found in the semen and hairs left at the crime scene on June 13, 1996. On Saturday, May 11, after nearly 23 years and over 100 DNA samples, the results came back positive for the first time. Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. was the confirmed DNA match to the semen and hair left at the Angie Dodge crime scene.
This was a cause for celebration but there was still work to be done. The IFPD Investigations Bureau quickly began making plans for a second operation in Caldwell, Idaho. On Monday, the first of many detectives headed to Caldwell and began surveillance of the suspect.
A common phrase in law enforcement is operational security. Operational security is characterized by the sharing of information only on a need-to-know basis in order to maintain the integrity of an investigation or operation. In order to execute the operation, a significant number of officers and detectives from IFPD and other state agencies were brought in to assist.
“This really speaks to how great the local, state and county law enforcement agencies in Idaho work together,” said Chief Johnson. “They all knew the importance of what we were doing. This is the Angie Dodge case. And together we were able to maintain that operational security.”
A team of law enforcement professionals made up of Idaho Falls Police detectives, Caldwell Police detectives and officers, and detectives from the Idaho State Police gathered at the Caldwell Police Department.
Detective Lieutenant Joel Tisdale of the Idaho Falls Police Department took the lead on building and presenting the operational plan. This included assignments for every officer involved, maps of the area, and information about the suspect’s schedule. There was a plan for how the suspect would be contacted, contingency plans if something didn’t go according to plan, and further plans to keep the community safe.
“There is this huge group of law enforcement officers and Lieutenant Tisdale has planned every last detail of this operation,” said Chief Johnson. “And I am sitting in the back next to the Caldwell Police Chief and I say to him, ‘Yeah, he’s mine.’”
On Wednesday, May 15 the operation was set in motion. From surveillance, investigators knew that the suspect went to a convenience store every day between 12:00 and 12:15 p.m. The plan was to make contact with Dripps on his way out of the convenience store.
Investigators were in place ready to execute the plan, but Dripps took a different turn and did not go to the convenience store. Investigators followed the suspect for quite some time and prepared to move forward with a contingency plan.
Eventually, Dripps stopped, went into a bank and Detective Lieutenant Tisdale indicated that it was time. Lt. Tisdale and another IFPD detective entered the bank behind Dripps, both in plain clothes. When he exited the bank Lt. Tisdale and the other detective blocked the doorways going back into the bank, a contingency to protect the people in the bank from any risk.
Before he could reach his vehicle, Detective Sergeant John Marley and Detective Sage Albright made contact with Dripps. They were in suits dressed for their part, and introduced themselves as detectives from the Idaho Falls Police Department. For approximately 15 minutes the three of them talked – at one point Dripps was laughing.
Detective Sgt. Marley and Detective Albright asked Dripps to come with them, but he wasn’t ready to go willingly. At this point, investigators had the DNA evidence and enough probable cause to simply detain him, but they knew that the interview was vitally important. There were questions that needed to be answered and the only way to get those answers was from Dripps.
The goal was to convince Dripps to go with investigators and to voluntarily participate in an interview. Dripps had a dog in the car that he wanted to see safely home. Sgt. Marley decided that he would get in the vehicle with Dripps and ride with him back to his house, with Detective Albright following in an IFPD vehicle. They would let the dog out at the house and Dripps agreed that at that point he would go with detectives voluntarily.
Getting into a vehicle with a murder suspect is not standard police procedure. This was not the plan, but the primary goal of the operation was to get that interview and Sgt. Marley made a decision that he believed was necessary to make that happen.
“I was immensely concerned about him and what might occur,” said Chief Johnson. “I trust Sgt. Marley with my life and I trusted him with his life that day.”
Unaware of how many police officers surrounded him, Dripps allowed Sgt. Marley into his vehicle and drove to his residence, with Detective Albright following closely behind. Lt. Tisdale directed dozens of unmarked police cars and undercover officers to surround the vehicle in a barrier that was invisible to both Dripps and the general public. Investigators moved from the bank to the residence with baited breath, and also without incident.
Back at the residence, Dripps let the dog out and then voluntarily got into the police car with Detective Albright and Sgt. Marley. They went to the Caldwell Police Department where the interview was conducted.
The night before, Chief Johnson sat down with Sgt. Marley and Detective Albright and asked if they were ready. The question was coupled with an offer of more time if they felt like it was needed.
Sgt. Marley and Detective Albright told him, no. They had been pouring over this for days and days. They had the crime scene memorized. The case files memorized. One of them said, “When I close my eyes all I can see is Angie.” Knowing the importance of what they were about to do, they agreed that they were as ready as they were ever going to be.
The Caldwell Police Department graciously opened their entire department to this operation, including their building and their interview rooms.
Current law enforcement practices include standards and rules for how these interviews are conducted. Aside from the format, there is also a science to the way investigators conduct the interview. Both Detective Albright and Detective Sergeant Marley have extensive training in these areas and utilized that training in this interview.
The interview lasted approximately five to five-and-a-half hours. Both detectives agreed that it was one of the longest and most important interviews of their careers. At the start of the interview Dripps denied any involvement in the crime.
“Detective Albright and Sergeant Marley questioned his versions of the story,” said Captain Squires. “If something didn’t make sense we kept coming back to it. The truth has a way of coming out, but on something like that that has been repressed for so long, sometimes that truth isn’t easily divulged.”
Investigators took multiple breaks throughout the interview. After about three hours, Dripps said he was hungry and asked for a peanut butter sandwich. Detective Lieutenant Tisdale tracked down sandwich fixings and Captain Squires made the sandwich.
A short time later, after being confronted with the DNA test results, Brian L. Dripps Sr. admitted to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
The interview continued and investigators received many additional pieces of information that are now in the process of being corroborated. At the conclusion of the interview, Dripps was taken to the Canyon County Jail.
At the same time the interview was occurring, several other things were happening. Search warrants were served at Dripps’ residence. The Idaho State Police offered the use of their crime scene trailer and personnel to assist IFPD detectives with the search.
Chief Johnson was also on his way back to Idaho Falls to meet with Carol and Brent Dodge. Knowing that an arrest was very likely to be made on Wednesday, Chief Johnson had set a meeting for that night a couple days before.
Chief Johnson, Detective Captain Bill Squires and other members of the department had been meeting with Carol Dodge and other family members regularly. Chief Johnson had often told Carol that Angie’s case was not a “Cold Case” and that work was actively being done to move the case forward. IFPD leadership had done their best to share information with Carol and the Dodge’s about various activity when appropriate and without giving false hope. After 23 years, the Chief and the investigative team did not want to get their hopes up or let them down.
While on the road from Caldwell to Idaho Falls, Chief Johnson was receiving live updates from Captain Squires who was observing the interview. At a gas station along the way, Chief Johnson pulled over to take a call from Captain Squires. Dripps had just confessed to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
Chief Johnson arrived back in Idaho Falls at about 5:15 p.m. He changed out of the plain clothes he wore during the operation, and put on his uniform. The meeting was at 5:30 p.m. and Sgt. Deede, who has a special bond with the Dodge family, was asked to attend.
Carol and Brent Dodge, Angie’s brother, arrived and the usual greetings were exchanged. Chief Johnson, Sgt. Deede and other members of the department have grown quite close to Carol and Brent, and most meetings begin with hugs from Carol.
“There was little bit of the normal small talk banter,” Chief Johnson said, “and then I told them, ‘You know we just need to cut to the chase. We have positively identified the DNA sample that was left at the crime scene. ‘“
After 23 years, that information alone was understandably overwhelming. At the end of that meeting, Chief and the Dodge’s made plans to meet again the next day. Carol and Brent were told to invite anyone they would like to attend.
The next day, Chief Johnson, Captain Squires, Lt. Tisdale, Sgt. Marley, Detective Albright and Sgt. Deede met with approximately 30 members of the Dodge family and their close friends. CeCe Moore from Parabon Labs also attended, and other professionals who had assisted with the case over the years.
In a crowded briefing room investigators shared details of the operation, answered questions, and discussed as much new and corroborated information as possible with Dodge family. A short time later, on Thursday, May 16, the Idaho Falls Police Department held a press conference in the Idaho Falls City Council Chambers. In yet another crowded room with photos of Angie to his right and Carol Dodge, Brent Dodge and members of the IFPD Investigations team to his left, Chief Johnson announced the arrest of Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. in the Angie Dodge rape and homicide.
What Happens Next?
Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. was taken to the Canyon County Jail. He was charged later that night with Murder, Idaho Code 18-4001, Idaho Code 18-4003(d), and Rape, Idaho Code 18-6101. Dripps initial appearance was on Thursday, May 16 in the Canyon County Court where he was denied bail. He was then transferred to Bonneville County to face criminal proceedings where he is currently being held.
The identification of Brian Dripps Sr. as the match to the DNA evidence left at the crime scene, his arrest and confession is a major break in the investigation, but it is not necessarily the end of the Dodge Case. Lingering questions still remain and investigators will spend the coming days working to corroborate the confession and to answer those lingering questions.
Christopher Tapp (part 2)
Among those questions is the involvement of Christopher Tapp in the original crime. Although Tapp confessed to being involved in the rape and murder of Angie Dodge in 1997, in 2001 he alleged his confessions were coerced and today asserts that he is innocent.
In the probable cause affidavit for Dripps arrest warrant prepared by Detective Albright, it states that at one point during his interview, Dripps made the statement that he had entered Dodge’s apartment by himself to commit the crime.
During the course of the interview, Dripps made a great many statements. For example, at the start of the interview Dripps continually denied any involvement in the crime or knowing Angie Dodge at all. It was only after being confronted with DNA test results obtained the Idaho Falls Police Department that he admitted to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
At the Press Conference on Thursday, May 15th, when asked whether another person could have been involved, Chief Johnson said, “We don’t have enough information today to share that, but I believe in the coming weeks we will be able to reconvene and tell that story as well. Right now we are really focused on finding the truth. We are very confident with the information that we have been able to gather and with this break in the case and what has been done over the last couple of days that that truth will come out.”
At this point the investigation is still ongoing. Investigators now have a professional obligation to independently verify and corroborate each piece of the confession and information provided by Dripps. This includes the statement that he committed the crime by himself.
“Our mission, our obligation is to find the truth,” said Chief Johnson. “If that truth helps an investigation, if that truth makes the police department look good, if that truth makes the police department look bad is irrelevant. Our mission, our purpose is to find the truth of what happened.”
Investigators are confident that with the new information provided by Dripps, the truth of what occurred on June 13, 1996 will be able to be determined. Idaho Falls Police Detectives are working diligently to corroborate those and other details of the investigation. As a whole, the Idaho Falls Police Department is committed to finding the truth and has committed to sharing that truth as soon as it is available.
A 23 Year Puzzle
This investigation has generated an immense amount of material over the course of 23 years. Over 100 DNA samples, a multitude of interviews, countless tips and possible leads, crime scene photos, evidence, theories, consultations, research, and records exist that are associated with the Dodge Case.
In the world of investigations, cases can often be viewed as a puzzle. Pieces of the puzzle are collected during the course of the investigation, with the hope that as pieces are collected the picture of the crime will be made clear.
In the process of searching for the correct puzzle pieces, many pieces that don’t belong are also collected. These pieces belong to other puzzles that may be associated with the crime, may provide assistance in finding correct pieces, or may even belong to puzzles that are completely irrelevant. This is a normal and common occurrence in an investigation, and in fact is necessary in the pursuit of the truth.
Another normal and common part of solving a puzzle is to develop theories of what the final puzzle will look like. Fortunately, most puzzles come with an image that shows what the true picture will be. This is where a major difference lies between puzzles and criminal investigations. Criminal investigations start without that guiding image. Instead, investigators must develop theories about what the truth may be or what the puzzle will look like when finally completed based on the pieces available.
If a person were to mix two 100 piece puzzles together, how long would it take them to separate the two and finish the puzzles? When presented with a handful of pieces that belonged to two different puzzles, what would their theory be about the final image? What if there were 50 puzzles? What if there were also 1000 extra misfit pieces? What if the major and recognizable pieces of the puzzle were missing all together?
If every individual piece of information associated with the Dodge Case was placed on a puzzle piece and the pieces collected, thousands of pieces would exist. Various theories would, and have, existed of what the final image would look like. Of those several thousand pieces, a small group of puzzle pieces buried and mixed into the pile would make up the actual puzzle of the events of June 13, 1996.
By the time a case goes to trial and public information is available about the case, the correct pieces have been found, pieced together and the other pieces ruled out. The probable cause affidavit for Dripps’ arrest warrant represents a puzzle that has gone through this process and perhaps is still awaiting the placement of a few pieces close at hand, but ultimately is no longer cluttered by the thousands of other puzzle pieces collected over the course of the investigation.
The affidavit makes the case sound straightforward and it is intended to. This is the culmination of a 23 year investigation into a serious crime and when the case is heard in a court of law, the intention is for the court to have all of the relevant information available in an easily accessible and straightforward way.
Among the puzzle pieces is the DNA evidence left at the crime scene. Thanks to modern scientific advancements and innovative police work, investigators have now deduced and corroborated the identity of the DNA match. This is a major and central piece of the puzzle.
The Snapshot composite profile of the suspect produced by Parabon NanoLabs in February of 2017 is another piece of the puzzle - a piece that isn’t central but still supported the pursuit to find other more major pieces of the puzzle.
Another piece of the puzzle is evidence that determined that Dripps had been living at 459 “I” Street, across the street from the crime scene, at the time of the murder. This piece was collected along with puzzle pieces that represented other neighbors and addresses of suspects. Now, with the identity of the DNA match available, the suspect’s address becomes part of the assembled puzzle and other address pieces may be removed from the focus area.
Also in the affidavit is another puzzle piece called a field interview or neighborhood canvas. Neighborhood canvases are basic investigative procedures that were in place in 1996 and are still utilized today. These canvases are used to generate leads if possible and are documented to be referred to later. This documentation provides evidence of where a person was and what they said was happening at the time of the crime or in the days surrounding it. When a suspect has been identified that field interview, if documented, can be invaluable.
In this case a neighborhood canvas was performed and a field interview with Dripps was documented on June 18, 1996. Because the officer documented the contact, investigators today were able to go back to that brief statement and determine that Dripps was in fact in Idaho Falls and living across the street at the time of the crime. Furthermore, other information provided in that brief statement corroborates pieces of Dripps’ confession nearly 23 years later.
Many other pieces of the final puzzle exist. Some are available to the public at this time, and others are being corroborated and vetted before being added to the final puzzle. This investigation is ongoing and the truth of what happened to Angie Dodge is becoming more and more clear.
This major development in Angie’s case will hopefully bring closure to the Dodge family and hope to others awaiting the closure of their own loved ones’ Cold Cases.
This journey was started by tragedy, but lessons have been learned along the way. Before Angie’s case, the analysis of degraded DNA for use in genetic genealogy had never been done. This marks a significant advancement in the world of criminal genetics. One that may offer hope to other people awaiting a break in their loved one’s cases.
Angie’s family is also in the process of creating a fund titled 5-For-Hope. According to the crowd funding site, the funds will be donated to cold case foundations and under-funded police departments to educate staff and give them the foundation and tools to test DNA results and ultimately solve cold cases. To learn more about 5-For-Hope visit AngieDodge.com.
The Angie Dodge case has been woven into the identity of the Idaho Falls Police Department. Many officers and personnel have never worked at an Idaho Falls Police Department where Angie’s case was not being investigated. Carol Dodge has become a fixture at the department, and a door into the Law Enforcement Building has even been dubbed “the Carol Door.”
The Idaho Falls Police Department is pleased to have reached this point, and remains committed to seeing the investigation through to its conclusion – the truth and justice for Angie.