IDAHO FALLS — After spending nearly half of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit, Chris Tapp was officially exonerated during a court hearing Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m thankful I’ve been given this second chance at life. I’ve wasted 20 years of my life for something I never did. But I grew up in those 20 years,” Tapp said during the hearing. “I’m thankful my mother will know that this last name is clean, and that’s the most important thing to me in this world.”
In front of a packed courtroom, Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark made a motion asking for Judge Alan Stephens to dismiss all charges against Tapp on the basis of his innocence.
Stephan granted the motion, which officially cleared Tapp of any involvement in the case against him.
Tapp was convicted for the first-degree murder and rape of Angie Dodge in May 1998 and subsequently spent 20 years in prison. While incarcerated, Tapp maintained his innocence — his DNA did not match the DNA collected at the crime scene — and filed with the court five unsuccessful petitions for post-conviction relief.
Eventually, on March 22, 2017, Tapp was released early from prison after reaching a deal with prosecutors, but his murder-related conviction remained on his record.
On May 16, Idaho Falls police announced a new break in the case. Using new genetic genealogy technology, police were able to link DNA from the Dodge crime scene to a Caldwell resident Brian Leigh Dripps, who lived across the street from Dodge when she was murdered, was arrested for the rape and murder of Dodge.
During the hearing, Brent Dodge, Angie’s brother, said Tapp is no longer the face of their family’s pain, and “today is a day of healing for all of us.”