IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Police have arrested a man in connection with the rape and murder of a young Idaho Falls woman more than two decades ago with the help of DNA and a family tree.
Caldwell Police on Wednesday arrested 53-year-old Brian Leigh Dripps Sr. on a warrant accusing him of first-degree murder in perpetration of a rape in the 1996 death of Angie Dodge.
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said Thursday at a news conference that Dripps’ DNA matches a sample found at the scene, The Post Register reported.
Police said Dripps lived across the street from Dodge at the time of her death and knew her as an acquaintance. Police say she was raped and stabbed to death in her apartment.
Johnson said genealogist CeCe Moore, with crime scene DNA, used the public genealogy database GEDmatch to create a family tree and identify a potential suspect.
After targeting Dripps as that possible suspect, Johnson said detectives collected his discarded cigarette butt. Testing showed the cigarette butt matched the DNA at the crime scene, he said.
“This is a great day for our family,” Angie Dodge’s brother Brent Dodge said at the news conference.
“Not only did he take her life, he took a piece out of all of our lives,” said Angie’s mother Carol Dodge.
Canyon County Magistrate Judge David Eames presided over Dripps’ initial hearing on rape and murder charges Thursday where defense attorney Josh Taylor unsuccessfully requested that Eames listen to a bond argument.
Taylor said Dripps had medical problems and needed pain management that he was unsure the jail could handle, The Idaho Statesman reported . Messages to Taylor from The Associated Press for further comment weren’t immediately returned.
Dripps will be transported to Bonneville County and held without bail.
Another man, Christopher Tapp, spent 20 years in prison for Dodge’s murder before he was released in 2017. His attorney John Thomas argued Tapp’s confession was false and had been coerced by police.
A 2014 investigation by national nonprofit Judges for Justice found that Tapp’s confession was demonstrably false – obtained by threats of life imprisonment or death, and with promises of immunity – and that the physical evidence in the case did not match detectives’ conclusions.
Public genealogy databases, which contain information from people who have obtained their DNA profiles from companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, have become a powerful police tool in the past year, since investigators in California revealed that they used the method to identify and arrest Golden State Killer suspect Joseph DeAngelo. DeAngelo is accused of having murdered at least a dozen people and raped 50 in the 1970s and ’80s.
More than 60 cases using genetic genealogy since then have identified suspects.
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