Suspect arrested for 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge after innocent man spent 20 years in prison for the crime
Idaho authorities have made an arrest in the 1996 rape and murder case of Angie Dodge, two years after another man who was wrongfully sent to prison for the crime and spent 20 years in jail was released. Idaho Statesman reported that police have arrested Brian Leigh Dripps Sr, a 53-year-old man who faces a charge of first-degree murder in perpetration of rape for the killing of Angie Dodge. He was booked into Canyon County jail on Wednesday, May 15. He was denied bail even though his lawyers argued that he had a medical condition.
Angie Dodge was raped and murdered in her own home on June 13, 1996. She was found stabbed to death with her throat slit, apart from being sexually assaulted. Her body was discovered in her home, half naked and brutally stabbed with blood everywhere. Her front door was left unlocked and the assailant's semen was also found.
Dripps Sr. has a misdemeanor conviction for drug possession in 2002 in Adams County and several driving infractions. He is divorced and has three kids, and at the time of the murder, he was going through a divorce with his then-wife Nycole Sept that was finalized in 1999. "I was afraid of him, especially when he was doing drugs,” Sept told the publication and added that she was not aware of the arrest. Sept was also shocked that he murdered the woman after they had children together.
In court documents obtained by East Idaho News, it was revealed that Dripps was actually the victim's neighbor when the crime happened. The documents also stated that the man claimed that he did not mean to kill Dodge but only rape her. However, "he had held a knife to her throat during the commission of the rape and had cut her throat". He said that he believed that she was still alive when he left her apartment.
Christopher Tapps, a 40-year-old man, was convicted and spent 20 years in prison for the crime even though his DNA samples did not link him to the murder and rape of Angie Dodge. He was freed in 2017 with the help of the Idaho Innocence Project after he was put behind bars in 1998. At the time, prosecutors reportedly claimed that they had a confession but Tapp has long alleged that it was coerced. In fact, even the victim's family members said that they thought that he was innocent.
Tapp’s rape conviction for aiding and abetting rape was overturned after many appeals. In 2017, Tapps was set free.
However, Tapps wasn't the only man caught in the crosshairs of the case. Michael Usry Jr. who was living with his wife in New Orleans at the time found himself being questioned by the Louisiana State Police regarding the murder and rape of Dodge. "The majority of the time that I was in the interrogation room, I just didn't know what they were talking about," he reportedly told 48 hours, "They finally had to look at me and go, 'No, we think that you, Michael Usry, we think that you're involved in this murder case'."
But they had the wrong guy. Within six weeks, more DNA tests cleared Usry in early 2015. The reason why he was caught in the middle of it all was because of a genealogical analysis of the suspect's DNA from the crime scene which had led investigators to these men. The DNA analysis is also what caused Dripps' undoing. Parabon NanoLabs, the Virginia-based company processed DNA from the crime and managed to draw up the suspect's family tree which led the police to him. Then when they matched it with a cigarette butt that he had thrown away, they made their arrest.