Angie Dodge’s murder has hung over this city like a dark mist for 23 years. It has torn countless lives to shreds. It has left a large family and her many friends in continuous grief, wondering what happened in that I Street apartment on a warm June night all those years ago.
And it deprived all of us of knowing who Angie, a bright, happy 18-year-old who loved to write and play with children, would have become.
This week, it appears we learned what happened. Brian Dripps, of Caldwell, who resided across the street, has been arrested and charged with Angie’s rape and murder. Police say they have both a DNA match and a confession.
It is important to reserve final judgment until all the facts are known, but we have great hope that with a coming trial or plea, the dark mist that has hung over Idaho Falls will finally clear.
Many people — especially Carol Dodge, Angie’s mother — deserve this community’s thanks.
Idaho Falls owes a deep debt of gratitude to CeCe Moore and Parabon NanoLabs, who’ve found a way to combine new genetic testing and analysis techniques with the gray archival work of genealogy to create a method of cracking impossible cases. Even their breakthrough investigative techniques nearly failed in this case — Dripps didn’t initially show up on the family tree that Moore constructed because of a divorce just after his birth. Only by turning up a single old obituary did they discover that Dripps could be the man who left his DNA at the scene of the murder.
Angie’s family has set up a donation page at gofundme.com/5-For-Hope so that the families of other victims of unsolved homicides can have access to Moore’s seemingly magical investigative techniques. They hope to raise $100,000 to help others. They raised about $2,200 the first day. We should all pitch in to bring them to their goal.
This city also owes a great debt to the men and women of the Idaho Falls Police Department.
They tested more than 100 DNA samples over the last two decades, none of which turned up the killer. Nonetheless, they continued to work on a case where every potential break seemed to lead to a dead end.
People sometimes call murders that have gone unsolved for a long time “cold cases.” Chief Bryce Johnson doesn’t like that term. It implies that a case is sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. IFPD doesn’t do that with unsolved cases, he has objected.
By recently bringing charges, first in the 2007 murder of Stephanie Eldredge and then in Angie’s 1996 murder, IFPD has proven its point. There are no cold cases in Idaho Falls, only cases yet to be solved.
Most of all, this community owes a debt Carol Dodge. A few years ago, Dripps was happily living out his life in Caldwell while Christopher Tapp languished in prison. Today, Tapp is free and Dripps is in a jail cell awaiting trial. That would never have happened without her persistence.
Almost anyone would have lost hope after 23 years without a break in the case. They would have given up. They would have clung to a conviction, despite the mounting evidence that it was probably false, because it was something, at least. They would have listened to all the people telling them: It’s time to move on.
Any of those reactions would have been easy to understand.
But those were never Carol Dodge’s reactions. She wanted the truth. She wanted real justice for her daughter. And she went to the ends of the Earth, over and over again, to get it.
Carol Dodge always said that new technology would solve the case. And, as she has been so many other times, she was right.
Carol Dodge is a very good mother. The best anyone could imagine. It is our great hope that with justice, she and her family will also find peace.
Because of her work, all of us, even those who never met her, will always remember Angie Dodge.