tv Dateline MSNBC January 31, 2021 2:00am-3:00am PST
really? why? >> greed. plain and simple, it just came down to greed. it was all about money. was ally i'm craig mel zmrin and i'm natalie morales >> and this is "dateline." >> please, no. this cannot be real. >> a teenager home alone, in a night of terror. >> trying to figure out how she must have been. >> on her body like a signature, a hand print in blood. >> it was a crime of passion. there was a lot of anger involved in this.
>> but hang on, the handprint doesn't belong to the man police put in prison.n' >> the anger just surged through me. >> now a mother turns detective. >> her words to me, i'll never forget, were i just want to know what happened to my daughter. >> join in as she hunts for a killer and searches for the truth. >> i wanted to put my fist through the tv. >> it still brings the hair up on the back of my neck. ♪♪ ♪♪ hello and welcome to "dateline." a confession can break a murder investigation wide open, it certainly did in this story. soon after 19-year-old angie dodd was found stabbed to death in her apartment, a local admitted he was one of her killers, policeof recorded ever grisly detail, convinced they had cracked the case. but years later, there was someone else who thought those tapes might tell a different
story. here's keith morrison with the confession.th >> reporter: they kept him in here, deep, inside the multiple walls and the armed doors and the rolls and rolls of razor wire, the confessed stabber, the convicted killer of that sweet young woman all those years ago.s he's lucky to be alive probably, given the nature of the crime and the appeal from that girl's mother for the death sentence, which made what that mother tells us about him later on very puzzling indeed.zz >> let him go. it's the only thing his mother has. it's her only child. let him go. >> her name is carol dodge, and the amazing story she would tell us tonight began on the worst day of her life. t it was a thursday, june 13th, 1996, midmorning. she placed a call to a beauty salon to talk to her daughter angie.
>> i dialed angie's number at work. and a lady answered, and i said, this is carol dodge, angie's mom. and she said, angie's been found dead. >> just over the phone? >> and i remember saying, god, no. please no. this can't be real. >> reporter: it happened, it turned out, the night before in the tiny ni second floor walkup where the independent 18-year-old had just started to build her life, stabbed to death, her throat cut. and carol was haunted by a conversation she'd had with angie that very week. >> that's what she said to me, you know, mom, i've done something really stupid. >> did you say to her, what did you do?ou >> no, i didn't want to pry. >> reporter: what could that have been, that something stupid? did it lead to murder? idaho falls, idaho, big blue heaven above, dazzling white mormon temple below to anchor the town, and signal like a
beacon its moral core of american virtue. fine place to raise a family. three dodge boys and one girl t named angie whose birth occasion, brother brent remembers, the biggest celebration of all. >> that was a pinnacle for my parents to have a baby girl. >> reporter: little angie was one of those>> kids who learned about independence early on, who grew up busy and strong and stubborn. >> angie was 5'11", and she was strong. >> reporter: but of course, big can be a problem for a girl. as a teenager, she was too tall, too awkward. she struggled. and to make it worse, her parents' marriage fell apart. >> that's when angie went and just made friends with whoever accepted her. >> reporter: among angie's new friends was jessica martinez.
we wanted to be accepted, not for what we looked like but for the people that we were. >> but back then carol worried a lot about those new friends, didn't know they, like angie, had big plans. >> she wanted to go to college k and just be the best person that she could be. >> reporter: now in this little apartment, angie's life was over, and carol, grief stricken and dazed, endured a murder investigation. >> we clearly thought there was, some sort of relationship therea because it was a crime of passion. >> reporter: jared furman and ken brown were back then te detectives in the idaho falls p.d. angie's boyfriend was out of town. her other friends seemed to have alibis too. so they turned to the physical evidence, like this bloody handprint on angie's stomach, , must have been left after she was dead, they figured, when her killer did something quite beyond sick, pulled down her pants, pulled up her shirt, left ahi deposit of semen on her bod
his mark and his dna. >> there was a lot of anger, a lot of humiliation involved in this. >> reporter: and frustration for the cops because that dna didn't match any of their possible suspects. month after month, they chased leads into disappointing dead te ends, and all the while carol to dodge haunted the investigation practically stalked the detectives, desperate for information, begging them, find the killer. >> i drove to the police department every day that they were open. >> reporter: and then one day, seven months later, dead of winter, january '97, an arrest u next door in nevada broke the case wide open. in custody was a young man named benjamin hobbs, one of those less savory friends of angie's. here he is at angie's funeral carrying flowers. but get this, hobbs was now th charged with sexually assaulting a woman at knife point. sound familiar?at so while detective ken brown rushed off to question hobbs, d detective jared furman began talking to hobbs' friends. why do you think you're down here? >> honestly, i have no idea.
>> reporter: one of whom was a 20-year-old named christopher tapp. tapp was no felon, but he was an admitted druggy, and what do you know, chris tapp had a bit of a history with ex-school resource officer, now detective fuhrman.n >> he was in trouble at the tim or two. >> i trust you, and hopefully you trust me, okay? >> reporter: yes, said tapp, he trusted fuhriman, but didn't know anything about angie's murder. >> if i did know anything about this, i would say, but i do not know. that's the honest truth. >> reporter: and having made his statement, christopher tapp went home, in the clear apparently. a couple of days later, the detectives asked him to come downtown again. >> i told him, i says, what are you doing? i says, this is a murder case. >> reporter: this is tapp's mother vera. she understood what he apparently did not, that her son was quite possibly talking himself into very big trouble.e
>> he said, mom, i don't have anything to hide, and i want to tell them that i don't know anything. >> reporter: but it didn't quite work out that way. before long, chris tapp had written a statement for police saying, ben hobbs said he killed her, and i just laughed it off like he was just telling me a joke. ah, but that was just the beginning. over the next several weeks, they had tapp in here nine times, questioned him 20 hours, even gave him an immunity deal, and that is when mr. tapp's story began to evolve. yes, he admitted he was there when ben hobbs killed angie, even held her down, he admitted, when ben stabbed her, and then finally, he said, he even stabbed her once himself. the motive, revenge. supposedly angie had been meddling in ben's marriage, and mr. hobbs did not like that one bit. i so detectives confronted hobbs, who denied any part in the murder, and asked them a question about angie. >> was she raped and not just killed?
>> was she raped? >> i don't know. that's what i'm asking you.'t the dna will prove my innocence right there. >> reporter: and lo and behold, he was right. that dna result came back, and the semen found on angie's body didn't belong to ben hobbs or chris tapp, neither one of them. >> what went through your heads when the dna results came back and it showed that the attacker was not ben hobbs? >> if you're going to nail it down to one word, it's frustration. >> reporter: but the detectivese decided that didn't mean chris was lying or that their theory of the crime was wrong.th it could only mean, they decided, that they needed to o expand the theory. ben hobbs and chris tapp were guilty, they were sure of it. so that mystery dna must have come from a third man, a third attacker. so they put tapp back in the little interrogation room and asked him, was a third man involved in the crime? and sure enough, chris tapp said, yes, there was a third man. but no matter how many times
detectives asked, he couldn't or wouldn't tell them who it was. so prosecutors made a decision. if tapp wasn't going to tell them the whole truth, he wa wouldn't get his deal. chris tapp was charged with murder, but only chris. not enough evidence to go after hobbs or anyone else. the announcement caught carol dodge by surprise. detectives had kept her in the dark until now.es but one look at christopher tapp in court, and she knew she wanted him dead. >> i mean, i was finally looking somebody in the eye i thought was a devil who had taken my daughter's life. >> reporter: chris tapp was found guilty and sent off to prison for angie murder and 0 years for rape, which is when carol dodge's odyssey really began. her own investigation filled with danger, surprise, and some very troubling discoveries.
>> one discovery so disturbing that angie's mother reached out for help. coming up -- >> the anger just surged through me. >> it still brings the hair up on the back of my neck. >> "when "dateline" continues. w. so you can emerge your best with emergen-c. flexible hours. that work around your schedule. jackson hewitt is here to fight for the biggest refund you deserve. whether you're a 9-5er or 5-9er. ♪♪
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muscle pain. give up, the couch is calling. i say, it's me, the couch, i'm calling. pain says you can't. advil says you can. ♪♪ >> reporter: this the years after angie dodge's murder, the man christopher tapp was safely tucked away at prison. his alleged accomplice, ben hobbs was never charged with angie's murder. and idaho falls police told angie's mother carol they still couldn't find that third man, the one who left his dna on
angie's body. that's when carol became, her word, obsessed. if the police couldn't track down her daughter's killer, well, then, she would. >> the anger just surged through me. and that's when i went to the streets, and i literally put 60,000 miles on my truck searching for her killer. >> you put yourself in harm's way? >> oh, absolutely. i remember going to a place, and the lady said, you need to leave before somebody hurts you. >> that's how the days and weeks passed. >> i had a gun put to my head one night. >> reporter: in a frenzy of new leads that never panned out, with carol often ending up parked outside the apartment where angie was murdered. >> i would just stare at that house and stare at the windows and try and figure out how scared she must have been. >> reporter: something else carol couldn't stop doing -- reading police reports, practically memorizing them. >> i don't sleep when i get up,
and i just go, what part of this don't i understand? >> it didn't make sense? >> none of it made sense. >> reporter: and in one of those reports, carol found a phrase, which the more she read it sounded out of place in the dna world. it was about pubic hairs, which in addition to the semen, had been found on angie's body. >> it was written in this lab report as similar or same as the victim. and i said to myself, it's either angie's or it's not angie's. it can't be an either/or, you know, not in today's scientific world. >> of course. >> reporter: then carol remembered reading an article about an internationally known dna expert who just happened to live and work right in idaho. how does it feel to be a recognized dna expert? >> it's fun. >> it's fun but -- >> i did fruit flies. nobody invited me to talk on television. >> reporter: this is the expert,
dr. greg hemvikian, a fruit fly geneticist, who now spreads his infectious enthusiasm at boise state university. his work isn't all done in the classroom. in fact, his own path changed in 1984 when he was asked to test dna that eventually led to an innocent man being freed from prison in georgia. the doctor and the exonoree wrote a book together, and just like that, the doctor found a new calling. he's now in high demand. in 2011, he was part of the team credited with freeing amanda knox, that american college student imprisoned for murder in italy. and in his spare time, he's the founder and director of idaho's innocence project. >> it's an unfortunate thing that our name is innocence because honestly i've worked on, i think, 13 exonerations now. four of the ones in georgia, they found the actual perpetrator. so to those four guys, i'm the guilty project.
>> reporter: so now, the coincidence you just couldn't make up. the very week carol left a phone message for dr. hempikian asking for help, idaho's innocence project had just taken on a new case -- the case of the man convicted of killing carol's daughter, christopher tapp. the doctor called carol back. >> her words to me, i'll never forget, were i just want to know what happened to my daughter. it still brings the hair up on the back of my neck. >> the curiosity of her surprise you? >> the knowledge surprised me. she's turned all of that love and devotion for her daughter into a very careful record of this case. >> reporter: so she read that report to him, the one that said the pubic hairs found on angie were similar to or the same as the victim. >> he goes, well, they're either hers or they're not. >> just as you thought. >> he said, well, where are the hairs? >> i said, i assume that they're still in evidence.
>> reporter: so she called the idaho falls police department, which found the hairs in an envelope in the evidence room where they'd been stored for all those years. after carol's call, those pubic hairs were sent out to the crime lab where state of the art dna tests could show that chris tapp was there at the crime scene or that ben hobbs was there at the crime scene or that the entirety of the physical evidence was left by one unknown third man. that was a fundamental question, huge, and the answer from the dna left no doubt. >> it's one person who did this, in terms of the dna. >> reporter: one killer. the science said there was no evidence there were three attackers in angie's apartment that night, as the police had theorized, but just one. and that remarkable news could mean only one thing, at least according to the idaho innocence project. chris tapp's story was a false confession. he was not there. he was an innocent man. the theory of multiple killers,
ridiculous said hempikian. >> to imagine that there's this group of criminals who know about dna and are so careful, what did they do? they planted somebody else's semen and pubic hair and then cleaned up all their own dna. >> reporter: as you might well imagine, that conclusion that chris tapp had to be innocent, that the killer had never been caught, came down like a hammer to the head on angie's mother. >> i was extremely angry. when they have dna not once, but twice, that belongs to the same person and it's not chris tapp, something's wrong. >> so what did you do? >> i met with the chief, and i asked for copies of all of the videotapes. >> reporter: those videotapes, the ones in which chris tapp had confessed to taking part in the murder, by most accounts, carol knew more about the case than anyone, but the one thing she had never done was watch all the
more than 20 hours of the chris tapp interrogation. but now she did, watched every minute. when she was done, carol dodge was a changed woman looking at a brand-new case. coming up -- the tale of the tapes. what exactly had she found? >> we're going to go from there. >> when "dateline" continues. e"s r but, um, look around. these days it's not that easy. you're telling me. but humana helps make it easy. human care gives you tons of ways to talk to your doctor: phone, computer, in person, or tablet. hey jean! hi! this is just a quick follow up. your numbers are looking great. you don't even have to put on shoes. ooo! easy peasy. you like that, huh? mhm. humana. a more human way to healthcare.
♪♪ >> reporter: more than a dozen years after her daughter's murder, the ground beneath carol dodge's feet was quaking. new dna tests revealed that none of the physical evidence implicated confessed murderer christopher tapp but pointed instead to some mystery man still at large. and the woman who'd relentlessly prodded the idaho falls police to find her daughter's killer began to doubt everything those detectives had been telling her. >> for 13 years, they had me convinced that chris tapp was there. all they kept saying is he confessed, carol. he confessed. >> reporter: but, was it a real confession? carol asked for and got a complete set of tapp's videotaped confessions, and what she saw amazed her.
by this time, of course, she knew so much more than she had a decade before, knew, for example, that then detective jared fuhriman who ran the interviews had been a school resource officer, well-known to a young chris tapp. >> i trust you, and hopefully you trust me, okay? >> fuhriman kept telling chris, just trust me, chris. you've got to trust me. you know, we go way back, chris. and i think that he was taught to respect adults, and he was a follower. >> reporter: she watched as chris insisted he knew nothing, and then she saw detectives, as they're trained to do, subtly make tapp an active participant. >> let's say, for example, hypothetically, chris, you were there. okay? >> okay. >> hypothetically, chris, how do you think it happened? and i remember chris saying, you mean like a tv show? >> reporter: next, she saw police administering polygraph after polygraph and almost always with the same result. they would tell him he was
deceptive, and how, when tapp was promised immunity, his story about ben hobbs changed. >> he got a knife, and he just started to cut her. >> reporter: but perhaps what troubled carol most was seeing how confused tapp was, even ten days after his first interviews, he still seemed not to know what house angie lived in. >> angie like lived on the corner. >> reporter: police, carol noticed, kept correcting him. for a guy who'd taken part in a murder, tapp also seemed to not know much about the layout of angie's apartment. >> maybe if you could just draw it out. >> reporter: when they asked him to draw it, he couldn't do it. detectives even, perhaps inadvertently, showed him where the murder occurred. >> it happened in here, in the bedroom, back here. >> it's back here.
>> reporter: oh, yes, and there was more. police always told carol tapp knew things only the killer would know, the position of angie's body, the clothes she was wearing. now carol could see for herself on tape the reason chris would know those things. carol was stunned to see police had shown tapp photos of the crime scene. >> i want you to tell us how you remember it, how you don't remember it, and we're going to go from there. >> there's times that i wanted to put my fist through the tv. >> reporter: and finally, remember that the police theory of the crime after dna didn't match tapp or hobbs was that three people committed the murder together. the detectives spent hours, literally, trying to drag the name of that third man out of tapp. and when carol saw the tape, well, you watch it. >> the name, nothing comes to my head. >> it wasn't jeff? it wasn't russ?
>> i'm gonna say jeff. maybe just a first name. >> by the time you had gone through all those tapes, what did you think about chris tapp, the man you believed all those years? >> how did they do this to me? how have they managed to keep someone in prison for all these years, and it's a possibility it's not him? >> reporter: and after that eureka moment, carol dodge made a decision. she would do more than search to find her daughter's killer. she would actively work to free christopher tapp, the only man convicted of the murder. >> i think that chris' case truly got taken seriously after i made my contact with boise state. >> she was the first victim's family member who came forward to work with the innocence project on a case. i mean, she's the leading edge of a group of people who have come forward and said, you know what, we just want to know what happened.
>> reporter: but no matter who was now on his side, chris tapp was face to face with two very uncomfortable truths. one, years of appeals had done nothing to overturn his conviction and prison sentence, and, two, the detective who put him behind bars had gone on to a much more powerful position in idaho falls, and he was still absolutely certain that chris tapp was as guilty as sin. >> the former didn't reveals what makes him so sure of tapp's guilt. coming up -- >> he took us into the bedroom and relived that night, and you could see it on his face. he was reliving it. >> when "dateline" continues. ins sensodyne sensitivity and gum you get the sensitivity relief as well as improved gum health all in one tasha, did you know geico could save you hundreds on car insurance and a whole lot more? hmm. so what are you waiting for? hip hop group tag team to help you plan dessert?
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added 520 new words to the dictionary. second gentleman was put in dictionary. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm craig melvin. more than a dozen years had passed, chris tapp admitted to his role in crime. what made investigators so confident, we told something that couldn't be found on the tapts. here, again, is keith morrison with "the confession." >> reporter: by the time we
visited the city of idaho falls in march of 2012, the angie dodge murder case was to some just a piece of city history, but to idaho's innocence project and its founder, it was a miscarriage of justice and a cause. >> if there's dna, for god's sakes, believe the science. people are not that accurate. the dna is very precise. >> reporter: and 15 years after the murder of her daughter, angie's own mother, carol dodge, had done what was once unthinkable. she had joined forces with the idaho innocence project. >> the city of idaho falls has got it wrong. >> you want someone to take you seriously? >> yes. >> reporter: in the years since the murder, finding angie's killer had become carol's reason for living. through three heart attacks, the death of an estranged husband, off and on battles with the idaho falls police, and now she was going to have to fight that power in a whole new way because -- remember jared fuhriman, the
detective who had befriended chris tapp in a previous position as school resources officer? >> the fellow who got that confession has gone on to become the mayor of the town. >> true. >> did that have anything to do with it as far as you can tell? >> people have got to protect their story without looking any deeper and saying, you know, is this really accurate? >> reporter: so the idaho falls police had taken a false confession, put the wrong man in prison, and failed to find the real killer? former detective now mayor said, not true. it was fuhriman who took tapp to visit the crime scene during some of those many interviews all those years ago. >> let me tell you, they weren't in the room with me when he took us up the stairs, took us into the bedroom, and relived that night. and you could see it on his face. he was reliving it.
>> reporter: of course. the critics wouldn't be able to see that because it was one of the only times during the investigation when the police did not videotape chris tapp. but -- >> i have no doubts in my mind that chris tapp is part of that homicide. >> right. and you can't say anything now. >> well, you can because, what is it, 25% of all dna resolved cases where somebody is released from prison, it turns out there's a false confession. people do confess to things they didn't do. >> we know that, but when people confess to crimes that they don't do, they don't know the minute details of that case, and chris knew and knows the minute details of that case. >> he, of course, claims that he knows them because he was fed them. >> we would politely disagree with that. >> is it possible at least that there was some suggestion involved in these things before he actually said them? >> for us to sit and say there was no poeblt, anything can
happen. we can't say things like that. we have reviewed those tapes over and over. >> for two guys who interviewed this person over and over again and found that in the first interview, the second interview, the third interview, the fourth interview, the fifth interview, he lied like a sidewalk, then you finally get to the seventh interview, and that the gospel truth. >> no, absolutely not. during each of the interviews, he was bringing out information that he absolutely knew, wasn't fed to him. the color of clothes that she was wearing, the position of the clothes, how many times she was stabbed, the diagram on where she was at in the room. >> reporter: interesting. many times as the interviews progressed, chris tapp claimed to know nothing about the clothes angie dodge was wearing. >> do you remember what she had on? >> no. there was a lot of blood. >> do you remember if she was clothed, not clothed? >> no. >> reporter: but some details in
the interview could be interpreted to back up the claims by police. once, for example, before tapp was shown the crime scene photos, he seems to, in a guessing kind of way, know what angie was wearing. >> kind of comfy around the house, like a t-shirt and sweats. >> reporter: and although he's wrong about the color of her clothes, after being asked many times if her clothes were half on, half off, or pulled up, or pushed down, he does correctly say this about her pants. >> her sweats are off on with one leg out. >> reporter: also, detectives said chris talked about ben hobbs hitting angie behind the ear. and? >> we have the evidence to back it. we have bruising where he says that ben hit her. >> reporter: so detectives insisted they were right. ben hobbs was the ring leader. chris tapp was involved in the attack, and an unknown third man left the dna in the form of semen. three attackers. the identity of the third still a secret, unrevealed by either of the other two all those years later.
and about the fact that carol dodge now disagrees with their theory and was now supporting chris tapp, the only man in prison for the murder? what's it like to know that carol is now actively campaigning for his release, believes him an innocent man? >> i think that's part of the process. in some respects, her heart has been broken. >> and she's convinced you got the wrong guy? >> when i heard that, i was genuinely surprised. >> it's been a roller coaster ride for 16 years for her. she's looking for closure. tomorrow or the next day, chris could be guilty in her mind again. >> reporter: so perhaps now would be a good time to talk to the man in the middle of all this, the serial confessor, christopher tapp. coming up -- >> i didn't kill nobody. >> so why would he confess? when "dateline" continues. "dat. ♪♪
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you saw on thosee videotapes of 1997. when we met him he was a man who had done more than a decade of hard time. as people look at you, what do you most want them to know about you? >> i've been so wronged all these years. how could individuals do something to another human being like they've done to me? >> you're an innocent man? >> yes, sir, i am. >> of course, everybody in prison is innocent, right? >> if you look at the whole entire case, the dna, none of it points to me. >> reporter: on that point, there is little dispute, of course, but how did chris tapp get here? that's a familiar story to many families. the sweet little boy shown in all these pictures of a typical childhood, carefully kept by his mom vera. started smoking marijuana at 13, then at 16 turned to meth. chris dropped out of high school. got and stayed high every minute he could, he says. hanging out down by the river in
idaho falls with all those kids his mother warned him about, and that, he says, is how his name came up after the murder of angie dodge, when police were scouring the city for suspects who might match that dna left behind after the murder. so too he was asked to submit dna. did you think anything of that? >> no. i had no rhyme, no reason to be scared. >> reporter: but then not a word for months until, you'll recall, january of 1997, when tapp was brought in for questioning after his friend ben hobbs was arrested for a nevada sexual attack, which police said was similar to the murder of angie dodge. >> i didn't know what i was being brought in for. >> you didn't connect it with the angie thing at all? >> no, honestly, i thought i was going in for drugs. >> reporter: and as you've seen over the course of several weeks, chris tapp soon went from
saying he knew nothing about angie's murder to being the only man charged in the case, just as his mother warned him. >> how was your mother during all of this? >> frantic, and i was honest with her. i said, i had nothing to do with this, mom. and i tried to explain to her, i didn't really confess. it took days to get to a story where i actually made a confession. >> well, of course, one of the difficulties was your story kept changing, right? >> very much it did. >> i mean, you went from saying, i don't know anything about this, to then saying, well, maybe ben had something to do with it. to then maybe there was a third guy involved. to wait a minute, i was there. and oh, yeah, and i cut her. where did that come from? >> trying to give them what they wanted to hear, just to appease them. >> wait a minute, but why would you say you cut her? >> because during that time mr. fuhriman, he said hypothetically, even if you did cut her, it still ain't going to matter. we'll be able to get you another deal. we'll be able to help you. you just need to help us.
>> reporter: indeed, here it is, on tape, with then detective, jared fuhriman in charge of the interview. >> hypothetically, if chris tapp was holding on to angie as she was being cut and some other stuff was going on, if chris tapp took part in the knife in any way, shape, or form cutting her, okay? >> but i didn't. >> would you listen? >> i'm sorry. >> okay. hypothetically, if you took part in any of that, that's okay because you're still here. you're still showing some good faith that you want to cooperate, and the prosecutor will reconsider another -- >> a deal. >> exactly. >> you believed that story? >> hook, line, and sinker. >> try to put yourself there right now and tell me what's going on inside your stomach and your brain. >> scared. trying to figure out what they want just for them to leave me alone. >> why? >> i didn't kill nobody. i was never there the night the murder happened. they just kept focusing on, well, if you was there, if you did do it, if you held the
knife, it's okay. we'll help you. so like an idiot, i believed them. >> and then they charged you with murder. >> yes. >> reporter: by now, of course, chris tapp was fighting to clear his name, with the support of not only his own mother and the innocence project, but of carol dodge, the victim's mother. >> carol dodge came around to your side. what was that like? >> it's an amazing feeling, and i appreciate her finally understanding. that i'm innocent. >> reporter: and as we spoke, for the first time in years, chris tapp had reason to feel one spark of possibility. someone in a position to change his future was going to listen. coming up -- a new chance at freedom. could that controversial confession get thrown out of court? >> if this confession goes, the state has almost no evidence.
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and as chris tapp entered the courtroom, he and his supporters finally have reason for hope, not that the judge could review the evidence and just declare tapp innocent, no, this would have to be based strictly on points of law. idaho's court of appeals had over the years thrown out all but one of tapp's videotaped interviews, that being the one where he said he took part in the crime, but in this hearing, it could be thrown out too, if the court decided tapp believed he was in custody when he said those incriminating things. if he thought he was unable to leave this little room, because that would have violated his basic constitutional rights. tapp's attorneys dennis benjamin and john thomas. what's the best result from this, new trial, or is it possible to have any exoneration? >> if this confession goes, the state has almost no evidence. >> i think they'd have to dismiss the case. >> the stakes could not have been higher for mr. tapp.
his mother vera sat right behind him. carol dodge was there too. two of her sons also. >> they've got a lot at stake. if chris tapp walks free, then what? then it's who is the killer? >> the prosecution would rely on the word of former detective and current idaho falls mayor jared fuhriman. fuhriman ran the police interviews and said chris tapp was never technically in custody. >> was chris tapp free to leave? >> yes. >> that's funny, chris tapp's lawyers argued when it was their turn. how could a 20-year-old who'd been arrested twice and watched as the door was actually barred during some of his interviews. >> the only reason i'm doing it is so nobody comes in. >> how could that young man, who'd been questioned on and off for nearly a month, who spent a week of that time actually locked up in jail, who watched as immunity deals were offered and then later torn up -- how could that kid, the lawyer asked, be expected to believe he could leave whenever he wanted? >> did you think that, if you decided not to talk to the
police, that you were going to be able to go home? >> no, i would not have been allowed to go home. >> but tapp had to acknowledge when he was questioned by the prosecutor he had indeed lied over the years many times. including in sworn affidavits used in past appeals. >> you've admitted the fact that you lied on any number of occasions. and if you lied before, how can we believe you now? >> of course they're going to say i'm a liar now. he's just trying to save himself. but it's the truth. i'm innocent. i've never committed this crime. >> when testimony was over, it was up to the judge. would he order a new trial for chris tapp, or would he send him back to prison maybe for good? and then four months later, a ruling. chris tapp was never threatened, restrained or handcuffed, said the judge, and thus was not in custody. appeal denied.
>> it's quite a line, but the truth will set me free someday. >> and you're pretty convinced of that? >> as the years go on, yeah. >> there were more emotions, more hearings, but always the same result. then two decades after his conviction in march 2017 a stunning twist. prosecutors offered chris tapp a plea deal, downgrading his conviction to second degree murder and vacating his rape conviction. chris had a decision to make. this was not an exoneration. he'd still be a killer in the eyes of the law but he'd be out of prison. he accepted and was resentenced to time served. no probation or parole. after 20 years behind bars, he left the hearing a free man. >> how are you feeling? >> overwhelmed. completely, totally overwhelmed. >> for the doctor with the idaho
innocence project, the answer to who killed angie dodge still rested in science. he said dna left at the scene points to the simplest explanation, not to three men, not even two, just one. >> secrets can be kept, but science reveals those secrets. someone went in and committed a typical violent rape-murder and left typical evidence. there's no other person there by dna. where is he? >> then in may 2019, a long-awaited breakthrough, using the latest add vencement known as genetic genealogy, investigators finally announced the dan. >> today we and we're here to announce we arrested brian drips. >> a neighbor who lived across the street from angie. he was charged with the rape and
murder. police announced he confessed to him, he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. it was an emotional moment for angie's mother carol who was at the press conference. >> it was in god's hands. he orchestrated the whole thing. it took 23 years to get here. >> for chris tapp, the break in the case was a new beginning n. july 2019, a judge finally vacated his murder conviction. this time he left the court not only a free man, but a fully exonerated one. [ cheers and applause ]. >> i'm thankful that my mother would know that my last name was cleared. that's the most important thing to me in this world. >> as for carol dodge, the idaho falls police department called her a warrior, adding that over
the years many of their investigators said they were inspired to do more, try harder and innovate because of her fierce love for her daughter. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. breaking news on msnbc. major developments overnight ahead of donald trump's impeachment trial. the former president losing at least two of his defense attorneys just days before the trial begins. senate majority leader chuck schumer now dismissing the idea of censuring trump. instead he says, he vows to expose him in trial. >> donald trump is the worst president in history, and to sweep it under the rug, say never mind, i told tim kaine, censure, clap on the wrist, no. we want to go for full trial.