An innocent Idaho man who spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit was mysteriously murdered a month after appearing on Dateline NBC to talk about his wrongful conviction.
Christopher Tapp was just 21 years old when he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of his then-18-year-old friend, Angie Dodge. He was exonerated in 2017 after the Idaho Innocence Project intervened.
The real killer, Brian Dripps, Sr., 55, confessed to the murder and pleaded guilty to the crime in 2021 and was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years and up to life in prison.
But after an exclusive September 2023 interview with Dateline, Tapp, then 47, was found dead in a hotel room in Las Vegas. He died from blunt force trauma and in January his death was ruled a homicide.
On Dateline NBC’s ‘True Confession’ episode, airing Friday, Tapp tells host Keith Morrison: ‘I’m just trying to be the best person I can be: combine the two people. The guy who was in prison and the guy before prison.’
‘We all make mistakes, good or bad. We can do things right or wrong, but I just try to be the best person I can.’
Morrison asked Tapp, though he moved on, “if he was still a little upset inside.”
‘Of course I will be. “These people stole my life for 20 years,” he said during the meeting. ‘I’ll always be angry. I’ll always have that little bit of tension and resentment about what these people did to me.’
Christopher Tapp, 47, was just 21 when he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of his then-18-year-old friend, Angie Dodd, but he was freed in 2017 after the Idaho Innocence Project will prove his innocence.
The real killer, Brian Dripps, Sr. in the Dodd murder, confessed to the murder and pleaded guilty to the crime in 2021. He is pictured at the Bonneville County Courthouse on February 9, 2021.
Angie Dodge was 18 years old when she was raped and stabbed to death in her Idaho Falls apartment on June 13, 1996.
Tapp told Morrison, “I wish I could say I’ve moved on and I’ve moved on because, again, look at all these things I’ve been able to accomplish since the exoneration with the compensation bill here in Idaho and Oregon.”
“I have helped across the country pass bills to help the wrongfully convicted get to the next individual.”
NBC Dateline has followed the case for decades, providing viewers with in-depth coverage.
His final two-hour broadcast airing Friday, February 23 at 9 pm (8 pm CT) will include new interviews with investigators, other suspects, Dodge’s family members and more key figures, including lead investigator Bill Squires, who is now is retired, and Jeremy Sargis, a friend whom Tapp falsely accused of being involved.
Additional interviews include Steven Drizin, an expert in false confessions who worked to free Tapp, and CeCe Moore, a research genetic genealogist who pointed police to the real killer.
The real killer: Brian Dripps, Sr., 55, confessed to the murder of 18-year-old Dodge and pleaded guilty to the crime in 2021.
On Thursday, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told DailyMail.com that the homicide investigation is ongoing and there are no updates at this time.
Angie Dodge was raped and stabbed to death in an apartment she had recently moved into in Idaho Falls in June 1996.
The young woman’s body was found by co-workers who came to check on her.
Investigators were able to obtain DNA samples from hair, skin cells and body fluids at the scene.
Tapp was interrogated nine times and subjected to seven polygraph tests, which he was told he had failed and could face the death penalty as a result.
He was found guilty after a jury heard what experts would later say were false confessions under extreme duress, and he was found guilty. even though his DNA did not match the evidence found at the crime scene.
On March 22, 2017, Tapp was released, after serving 20 years of a 30-year sentence, following a deal with prosecutors.
The judge overturned his rape conviction and resentenced him to time served for Dodge’s 1996 murder.
Christopher Tapp, pictured right with his public defender John Thomas during Tapp’s post-conviction relief hearing at the Bonneville Courthouse in Idaho Falls on March 22, 2017.
Christopher Tapp, right, and Jeremy Sargis, who was also originally linked to the crime but whose charges were dropped, hug during Tapp’s post-conviction relief hearing at the Bonneville Courthouse in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Tapp photographed hugging his lawyer in the courtroom after being exonerated
Christopher Tapp celebrates after his post-conviction relief hearing at the Bonneville Courthouse in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Tapp, who experts say was coerced into making a false murder confession, is now free after spending half his life behind bars
His conviction was overturned using pioneering DNA technology, a technique called “genetic genealogy.”
The technique requires making DNA matches with distant relatives, which in Tapp’s case, led police to Dripps, a Dodge neighbor who lived across the street.
The database is taken from websites that collect DNA samples from users and allow them to find relatives online by posting their results and generating a list.
Police used the database of genetic profiles collected from websites such as 23 and Me and Ancestry, where people submit DNA samples to discover their roots.
The technique has been used to implicate suspects in previous crimes, but this is the first time it has been used to exonerate someone who had already been imprisoned.
Christopher Tapp is pictured after his release as the media surrounds him
Tapp was sentenced in 1998 based solely on a confession that he later recanted. The court agreed to release him from prison in 2017, but the charges were not dropped.
On July 17, 2019, his murder conviction was overturned.
Judge Alan Stephens said: “As far as the court is concerned, you are acquitted of the charges under which you have been living for the last 20 years or more,” according to the Innocence Project.
Bonneville County District Attorney Danny Clark, who initially said Tapp was an accessory to Dodge’s death, joined the new motion to vacate the murder conviction.
After he was acquitted, Tapp said, “I’m grateful to have had this second chance at life.” “I’ve wasted 20 years of my life for something I never did, but I also grew during those 20 years.”
He added: “It’s a new life, a new beginning, a new world for me, and I’m going to enjoy every day.”
In December 2019, he filed a lawsuit in state court seeking damages from the city of Idaho Falls.