Carol Dodge waited 25 years before her daughter's killer was charged for his crimes. He had gone scot-free for many years.
Having to say goodbye to one's child can be the most heartbreaking thing for a mother. One mom decided to take matters into her own hands when her 18-year-old daughter was killed in the 1990s. She kept looking for the truth for several years and was finally able to get the man responsible for her child's death behind the bars recently.
In 1996, Angie Dodge, 18, was stabbed to death in her own apartment in Idaho Falls. "They cautioned me that it was a pretty graphic and violent scene -- a lot of blood,” said Idaho Falls detective Jeff Pratt. “It was probably the worst case I've ever seen. It's the nightmare," he told ABC News.
Angie's mother, Carol Dodge, said that her daughter had moved out of their family home only three weeks prior to her death. The mother and daughter had had a disagreement over a house rule. But Carol could never have imagined how her child's life would end. The night before she died, they had made amends.
"The night that she came over, I rocked her and I said, ‘I’m so glad you’re not mad at me anymore,’ and she just looked up. She said, ‘Not even in a blue moon,’” said Carol. "The next day, that’s when they told me that Angie had been found dead," she added.
Angie was found in her apartment by two colleagues who worked with her at a beauty store in downtown Idaho Falls. She had been sexually abused and murdered, as per BBC. There were no signs of forced entry but Angie had struggled against the predator. The police were able to find DNA of the killer.
The 18-year-old had been the youngest of Carol's children and the only daughter. "She didn't put up with people's crap," her best friend, Jessica Martinez, said. "She was very smart and one of the only people in our group to graduate high school."
The mother, who fought hard to get the man wrongfully convicted for Angie's death be freed, was blessed with a beautiful last memory of her daughter. "She threw me a kiss when she coasted out of the driveway," Carol said. "Her last words to me were 'I love you'. I just had no idea what was about to happen. I look at it now as a God-given moment. And I'm so grateful that we got to have it."
The police collected more than 100 DNA samples but none of them matched. Many months later, Angie's friend, Benjamin Hobbs, was arrested for raping a woman at knife point. Since the crimes were similar and he knew Angie, Benjamin became a suspect for her murder, according to ABC. Police interviewed his friend Chris Tapp, 20, of Idaho Falls, who was part of the same friend group.
However, Chris' story changed five times during the almost 60 hours of interrogations, including while represented by counsel. This made the police suspicious about him. Eventually, he ended up confessing being at the scene with Benjamin and one other person. But, none of their DNA samples matched that of the killer. Chris was charged with first-degree murder, rape, and use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony. Benjamin was never charged in connection with the crime and denied any involvement.
"I can say without equivocation that had Mr. Tapp not confessed, there would have been no conviction in this case," Judge Ted Wood had said during Chris's sentencing in 1998. He was given 30 years to life in prison.
Carol wasn't satisfied with the judgement. "There is one person who killed my daughter. That's what the DNA shows," said she. "I literally went to the streets. I kept going back and forth... kept reading all of the documents and the different reports that I had accumulated."
She kept investigating for 20 years and eventually, in 2008, when she looked at the videos of Chris' interrogation, she realized he wasn't the murderer. He had reportedly been threatened with the death penalty. So, he confessed. He was released from prison in 2017.
The following year, the Idaho Falls police got in touch with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore. They found the actual predator who had killed Angie. Brian L. Dripps Sr. was found after his discarded cigarette was matched with the sample. He used to live across the street from Angie in 1996 when she was killed. He pleaded guilty to the crime in February 2021.
"Without Carol Dodge, Angie Dodge's murder would have gone off into the annals of boxes upon boxes in some basement somewhere," said John Thomas of the Bonneville County Public Defender's Office.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Pixels Effect