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An Idaho man who confessed to a cold-case slaying that sent an innocent man to prison for nearly 20 years has been sentenced to life behind bars.
Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., 55, who pleaded guilty in February to raping and fatally stabbing 18-year-old Angie Dodge in Idaho Falls in 1996, must serve at least 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Dripps was arrested in May 2019 after investigators linked his DNA to the murder scene.
Another man, Christopher Tapp, had been convicted by a jury in Dodge’s slaying in 1998, although his DNA wasn’t found inside her apartment, where she was nearly decapitated, East Idaho News reported.
Attorneys for Tapp have said he was coerced to confess and provided names of other alleged accomplices in the slaying whose DNA also didn’t match crime scene evidence.
He was released from custody in 2017 after his rape conviction was vacated and his murder sentence was reduced to time served, according to the Innocence Project, which picked up his case.
“A young man spent a significant part of his life in prison for no good reason,” Judge Joel Tingey told Dripps Tuesday. “That falls on you.”
Dripps, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and rape, apologized to Dodge’s relatives who attended the sentencing hearing. He claimed in February that he planned to rape Dodge but never intended to kill her, saying he was “pretty high on cocaine and alcohol” at the time.
“I just wish I could do over that night,” Dripps said, according to East Idaho News. “I am sorry. I know you will never forgive me, but I am sorry.”
Dripps had a heart attack while jailed in November and his attorneys claim the minimum of 20 years he’ll spend in prison means he’ll likely die behind bars.
“When talking about his declining health, [Dripps] thought this was God’s way of punishing him for what he did to Angie,” defense attorney James Archibald said. “So I can tell the court that he has felt bad, he has felt horrible, felt remorseful about what happened.”
But Idaho Deputy Attorney General Jessica Kuehn said Dripps knew for 23 years that he killed Dodge — and chose to never own up to his actions.
“He knew someone was serving time for his crime, and yet every day, he woke up and refused to take accountability for his actions,” Kuehn said Tuesday.
Investigators said they identified Dripps as Dodge’s killer using genetic genealogy. He lived across the street from the woman at the time and cops linked his DNA to the crime scene from a cigarette butt he tossed into the road, East Idaho News previously reported.
Dodge’s mother, meanwhile, said in a statement Tuesday that Dripps “shattered” her family, while the murdered woman’s brother said Dripps was the “definition of evil,” East Idaho News reported.
“There is no way to pick up the pieces ever again,” Carol Dodge said in her statement. “You, Brian Dripps, deserve eternal hell.”
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