Forensics Magazine Article
Idaho Man Cleared on Rape, Resentenced in 1996 Murder, Released from Prison
Forensic Magazine, Wed 3/29/17 - 12:11 PM by Seth Augustine
Excerpts from the article -
Chris Tapp was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Angie Dodge, brutally slain in her Idaho Falls apartment in 1996.
The Idaho Innocence Project took up the case about 10 years ago, questioning the DNA evidence at the crime scene. Over the last year, it's been revealed that a distinct trail of DNA in Dodge's apartment, including semen stains and a pubic hair on her body, pointed to one man.
That man wasn't Chris Tapp. That man has been at large for two decades.
Tapp was released from prison last week, after serving 20 years for the crime. The deal struck between prosecutors and Tapp's public defender meant he was cleared on the rape charge—but only resentenced to less time for the murder conviction, despite the DNA clues excluding him from the violent acts against Dodge.
Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University and the founder of the Idaho Innocence Project, told Forensic Magazine in an interview today that the final Y-STR analysis from the semen matched every other DNA sample from the scene, including those on the stuffed animal, the clothing, and the fingers. That Y-STR profile did not match Tapp, or either of the other two persons of interest in the case in 1996.
One of the key breakthroughs was increased DNA collection in the case, say several experts. Swabs had been used, but the wet-vacuum technology by the M-Vac collection system had made the samples clearer to interpret than ever before, said police.
“Using the M-Vac was definitely a smart move by the department as it gave us much more information than we had before,” said Det. Pat McKenna, the lead Idaho Falls investigator on the case. “We now have stronger DNA evidence, from multiple items from the crime scene, that all points to one suspect.”
The Idaho Falls police reached out to the West Jordan Police Department in Utah, which has used an M-Vac machine on several cases before with startling success.
“We've successfully used the M-Vac so many times that it's become an area where we can certainly advise others in where to use it,” said Francine Bardole, a senior CSI in West Jordan. “This case definitely fit into the ‘must try it' category. It's a great tool and there are a lot of cases out there where it would help significantly.”
The increased amount of genetic material produced by the tool was analyzed with the probabilistic genotyping software known as TrueAllele, made by the Pittsburgh-based company Cybergenetics. The tool has also been the focus of several features by Forensic Magazine. Essentially, it uses complex algorithms to determine what persons are part of a complex mixture of DNA.
The results that distanced Tapp from the crime scene were set to be presented at a court hearing next week - but Tapp took the deal to get his release, according to Hampikian.