By KATY MOELLER - IDAHO STATESMAN
Chris Tapp says he didn't rape and kill Angie Dodge in 1996; Carol Dodge just wants to know who else was involved.
August 06, 2008 — Pushing for answers in the 1996 rape and murder of 18-year-old Angie Raye Dodge are two people serving life sentences: the man who confessed to involvement in the crime and the victim's mother.
Christopher Tapp wants DNA testing on crime scene evidence that wasn't tested earlier. He says he isn't the killer.
Carol Dodge wants justice. She and police believe more than one person was responsible for her daughter's murder. She said she's not hoping for or expecting Tapp's exoneration.
Tapp and Dodge are both working with the Idaho Innocence Project and Idaho Falls police to get the DNA tests done on the evidence, including pubic hair found on Dodge's body.
This kind of coordinated effort is likely a first in Idaho and possibly nationwide, said Greg Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project at Boise State University.
The Idaho Innocence Project, which uses BSU students and University of Idaho law interns, investigates the claims of those who say they were wrongly convicted of crimes.
"I've worked a couple hundred cases, and this is the first time I've worked with a man who claims he's innocent and the (family of) the victim of the crime," said Hampikian, a BSU professor of biology and criminal justice.
"We all want the DNA to talk to us. The DNA is telling a historical fact," Hampikian said. "We're investigating the evidence to see what the evidence says."
Some DNA tests were done during the initial investigation.
Semen found on Dodge's body didn't match Tapp's. That's why police believe there's a rapist at large and probably others who were involved in the murder.
"We believe there were at least three involved, but there could have been more," said Idaho Falls police Sgt. Jim Hoffman, who has been the lead investigator on the case for the past five years. "We've got other suspects we believe were there. We just don't have enough evidence to convict."
Carol Dodge has never given up her quest for answers in the death of Angie, the youngest of her four children and her only daughter.
"I've been pushing for justice for my daughter for 12 years," Dodge said. "I really don't care how it gets done."
She said her husband, Jack, suffered mental collapse after their daughter's death and died of a "broken heart" in 2004.
Angie Dodge, who graduated from Idaho Falls High School, was working two jobs at the time of her death. She aspired to own a business like her mom and gain financial independence.
She was close to her parents and was a "daddy's girl," her mom said.
"Hours before my daughter was murdered, I held her in my arms," she said. "We sat and talked on the patio. We laughed. She said to me, 'Mom, I've done something really stupid.' "
Carol Dodge said her daughter wanted to leave town the next day. Dodge didn't want to intrude on her fiercely independent daughter's affairs, so she didn't ask what was wrong.
She believes her daughter, who hung out with youths and young adults at a boat dock on the Snake River in Idaho Falls, may have threatened to "narc" on some people involved in drugs.
"Angie wasn't into the drug world. She'd get right in your face and say, 'You're a scum bucket,' " Carol Dodge said. "I think her death was nothing but a statement. This is what happens when someone says they're going to rat."
Dodge was raped and murdered at her Idaho Falls apartment in the early morning hours of June 13, 1996. Her body was discovered by co-workers who checked on her when she didn't come to work that day.
Her mother said toxicology tests showed no signs of alcohol or drugs in her system.
Six months went by without any arrests.
Then, on Jan. 11, 1997, police arrested Christopher Tapp, an acquaintance of Dodge from the dock hang-out, on a charge of being an accessory to a felony. They gave him limited immunity in exchange for his full cooperation with the investigation.
Tapp told police that he could name the rapist. He gave police many names, including a close friend, but no one's DNA matched the semen found on Dodge.
In fact, no physical evidence tested so far links Tapp to the crime scene. But after his immunity deal with police broke down, he told police he held Dodge down while she was sexually assaulted and fatally stabbed by others.
Tapp, who was 19 at the time of the murder, was convicted by a jury of rape and first-degree murder in May 1998. He's serving a life sentence for the murder and a minimum of 10 years for the rape. He could be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.
Despite his confession and conviction, Tapp maintains his innocence. Two of his appeals were denied. He wrote a letter to the Idaho Innocence Project more than a year ago.
"It wasn't a well-written letter," said Hampikian, who nevertheless had an intern research Tapp's case. "She came away saying it sounds like they have a good case against him. ... We shelved it."
The case resurfaced last spring.
Hampikian asked a public defender a question he regularly asks: Is there one case that's really bothered you over the years, where you think an innocent person went to jail?
Sara Thomas' answer: Have you looked at Chris Tapp's case?
"Chris' case has always weighed heavily on me," said Thomas, who represented Tapp on his first appeal during 1998-2001. Thomas is chief of the appellate unit at the Idaho appellate public defenders office.
"I knew there was something more to this case than