tv Dateline Extra MSNBC December 25, 2018 8:00am-9:01am PST
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra" i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. god no, please no. this cannot be real. >> a teenager home alone in a night of terror. >> i would just stare at the windows and try and figure out how scared 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. >> reporter: but hang on,
because that hand print doesn't belong to the man police put in prison. >> the anger just surged through me. >> reporter: 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 on the back of my neck. >> "the confession". hello and welcome to "da "dateline extra" i'm craig melvin though 18 years old, angie dodge was eager to live life on her own terms. she'd found a job and an apartment. then angie was stabbed to death in her bedroom. a local admitted he was one of his killers, a grisly tale police captured on videotape. for angie's mom, the troubling details revealed on that tape didn't give her answers. in fact, they raised more
questions. here's keith morrison. >> reporter: they kept him here, deep inside the multiple walls and the armed doors, the rolls and rolls of razor wire, the confessed stabber, the convicted killer of that sweet young woman all those years ago. 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 told us later on very puzzling indeed. >> let him go. it's the only thing his mother has. it's her only child. >> reporter: her name is carol dodge and the amazing story she'll tell us began on the worst day of her life. it was a thursday, june 16th, 1996, mid-morning. 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. 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 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'd you do? >> no, i didn't want to pry. >> reporter: what could it 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 by a beacon
its moral core of american virtues, fine place to raise a family, three dodge boys and one girl 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. >> little angie was one of those kids who learned about independence early on, who grew up busy and strong and stubborn. >> nobody got in her face because she would take care of you. >> wasn't a petite thing, right? >> 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 both had very poor image because we had weight problems, and we wanted to be accepted not
for what we looked like, but for the people that we were. >> reporter: jessica has since turned out fine, of course, 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 and just be the best person that she could be. >> reporter: now suddenly, in this little apartment, angie's life was over, and carol, grief stricken and dazed endured a murder investigation. >> we clearly thought that there was some sort of relationship there because it was a crime of passion. >> jared furman and ken brown were back then 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 hand print on an jgie's stomach, must have been left after she was dead, when her killer did something that was sick, pulled down her pants,
pulled up her shirt, left a deposit of semen on her body, his mark and his dna. >> there was a lot of anger, a lot of humiliation involved in this. >> 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 ends. all the while carol 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 next door in nevada broke the case wide open. in custody was a young man named benjam benjam benjamin hobbs one of those left savory friends of angie he's. hobbs was now charged with sexually assaulting a woman at knife point. sound familiar? so while detective ken brown
rushed off to question hobbs, detective furman began talking to hobbs friends. >> why do you think you're down here? >> honestly, i have no idea. >> one of whom was a 20-year-old named christopher tap. tap was no felon, but he was an admitted drug gee. what do you know, chris tapp had a history with detective fuhriman. >> he was in trouble a time or two? >> he was. i tried to help him out. >> he trusted fuhriman but didn't know anything about angie's murder? >> 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.
>> 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. >> 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. 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 tylenol finally he even stabbed her one himself the the motive, revenge. supposedly angie had been meddling in ben's marriage and
mr. hobbs did not like that one bit. >> detectives asked him a question about angie. >> was she raped the night she was killed? >> i don't know, that's why i'm asking you. because if she was my dna will prove my innocence right there. >> and low 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 o'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: the detectives decided that didn't mean chris was lying or that their theory of the crime was wrong. it could only mean, they decided that they needed to 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 wont 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. 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. >> chris tapp was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for angie's murder and 20 years for rape, which is when carol
dodge's -- really began. her own investigation filled with danger and 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. >> her search for the truth would hold some chilling surprises. >> still brings the hair up on the back of my neck. >> when "the confession" continues. fession" continues. in cash back. which i used to offer health insurance to my employees. what's in your wallet?
in the years after angie dodge's murder, the man who confessed to taking part in her killing, christopher tapp, was safely tucked away at state prison. his alleged accomplice, ben hobbs in prison for a different felony, 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. >> in a frenzy of new leads that never panned out, but carol often ended 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. >> something else carol couldn't stop doing, reading police reports. practically memorizing them. >> i don't sleep and 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. >> and in one of those reports, carol found a phrase which, the more she read it, sounded out of place in a 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 that it is similar or same as the victim. and i said to myself, it's either angie's or it's not angie's. >> right. >> it can't be an either or. not in today's society world. >> of course. >> then carol remembered reading an article about an internationally known dna expert who just so happened to live and work right in idaho. >> how does it feel to be a recognized dna expert? >> it's fun. i did fruit flies. nobody invited me to talk on television. >> this is the expert, dr. greg
hampikian, a fruit fly geneticist who now spreads his infectious enthusiasm at boise state university. his work is not all done in the classroom. in fact, his own path changed back in 2004 when he was asked to test some dna that eventually led to an innocent man being freed from prison in georgia. the doctor wrote a book and just like that the doctor found a new calling. he is 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 is founder and director of idaho's innocence project. >> it's an unfortunate thing that our name is innocence. because honestly, i've worked on 13 exonerations now. four of the ones in georgia, they found the actual perpetrator, to those four guys i'm the guilty project.
>> so now the coincidence you just couldn't make up. the very week carol left a phone message for dr. hampikian 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, i just want to know what happened to my daughter. and, you know, it still brings the hair up on the back of my neck. the curious at first 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. >> 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 her's or they're not. just as you had thought? >> he said, well where are the hairs? i said i assume that they're still in evidence.
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. well, after carol's calls those pubic hairs were sent off the to the crime lab where state of the art dna 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 only one person who did this in terms of the dna. >> 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 hampikian. >> to imagine that there is 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 cleaned up all their own dna? >> as you might well imagine, that conclusion that chris tapp had to be innocent, 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 is wrong. >> so what did you do? >> i met with the chief and i asked for copies of all of the video tapes. >> those video tapes, the ones in which chris tapp had confessed to taking part in the murder, on 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. now she did watch every minute, and when she was done, carol dodge was a changed woman looking at a brand new case. >> coming up. >> there's times that i wanted to put my fist through the tv. >> the tale of the tapes, what exactly had she found? when "the confession" continues. when "the confession" continues.
. welcome back to dateline extra. in the eyes of dr. greg hampikian of the idaho innocence project, the dna evidence in the murder of angie dodge spoke loud and clear. there was just one killer, and it was not christopher tapp. why then would chris confess to the crime? police had no doubt he told the truth, but did the interrogation tapes tell a different story? here again is keith morrison.
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 relentlessly prodded the idaho falls police to find her daughter's kill er 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 was that he confessed, carol, he confessed. >> reporter: but, was it a real confession? carol asked for and got a complete set of tapp's video tape 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 furhman 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 have to trust me. you know, we go way back, chris. and i think he was taught to respect adults and he was a follower. >> she watched as chris insisted he knew nothing and then she saw detectives, as they're trained make tapp an active participant. >> hypothetically, chris, how do you think it happened? >> i remember chris saying, you mean like a tv show? >> next she saw police administering polygraph after polygraph, almost always with the same result. they would tell him he's 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. >> 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. >> did she live on the corner? >> police, carol noticed, kept correcting him. for a guy who had taken part in a murder, tapp also seemed not to know much about the layout of angie's apartment. >> why don't you try to draw it out. >> when they asked him to draw it, he couldn't do it. detectives even perhaps inadvertently showed him where the murder occurred. bathroom here, and bedroom right back here. >> reporter: oh, yes, and there was more. police had always told carol that chris tapp knew things only the killer would know, the location and position of angie's body, the clothes she was wearing. well, 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. >> is that how you remember it? is that how you don't remember it? just going to jog your memory for you and we'll go from there. >> there's times 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. >> by the time you had gone through all of 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 he's not there? >> 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's 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 detective 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 "the confession" continues. ession" c. the kenya tea development agency is an organization that is owned by tea farmers. every week we sell this tea, we get paid in multiple accounts. we were looking for a bank to provide a safe and efficient technology platform to pay our farmers. citi was the only one that was able to ensure that this was done seamlessly.
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here's what's happening, this morning president trump said the government will not reopen until he gets money for a quote, very substantial barrier along the border. when asked about the thousands of federal workers impacted by the shutdown, the president claimed they support his decision. and the national christmas tree reopened monday after a funding lapse due to a government shtdown. the national park foundation stepped in to pay for repairs to
the tree after it was dajmaged y a man who climbed it friday. now back to "dateline." welcome back to dateline extra. i'm craig melvin. it had been more than a dozen years since angie dodge was murdered. in that time her mother carol had come to believe christopher tapp was innocent. she had pored over his interrogation tapes and was stunned to see a confused young man grasping for details. carol now believed chris's confession was coerce ded, not true the investigators told us. why were they so certain? listen for yourself. here again is keith morrison. 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 dr. greg
hampiki hampikian, it was a miscarriage of justice and a cause. >> if there's dna, for god sakes believe the science. people are not that accurate. the dna is very precise. >> and now, 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 innocence project. >> the city of idaho falls has got it wrong. >> you want somebody to take you seriously? >> yes. in the years since the murder, finding angie's killer had become carol's reason of living, through three heart attacks the death of an estranged husband, off and on battles with the idaho falls police, now she was going to have to fight that power in a whole new way because remember jared fuhriman, the detective who befriended chris tapp in a previous position of school resources officer?
>> the fellow got that confession has gone on to become the mayor of town. >> true. >> did that have anything to do with it as far as people can tell? >> people have to protect their story without looking any deeper and saying, is this really accurate? >> so the idaho falls police had taken a false confession, put the wrong man in prison, and failed to find the real killer? >> when we spoke to the former detective and then mayor jared fuhriman, he said, no, not true, and how did he know? it was fuhriman who took tapp to visit the crime scene during one of those many interviews 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. you could see it on his face, he was reliving it. >> 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 video tape chris tapp. but --
>> i have no doubts in my mind that chris tapp is a part of that homicide itself. >> right. >> you can't -- well, you can because what is it, 25% of all dna resolved cases where somebody's released from prison, it turns out there was 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 but 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's no pobltd anything could have happened, we can't say things like that. we can say we have reviewed those tapes over and over. we had a jury who reviewed those tapes. >> the two guys who interviewed
this person over and over again and found that in the first interview, the third interview, the fourth interview, the fifth interview he lied like a sidewalk, then you finally get to the 7th interview and that's the gospel truth? >> no, absolutely not. during each of those interviews he was bringing out information that he absolutely knew. the color of clothes she was wearing, the position of the clothes, how many times he 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, just saw a lot of blood. >> do you remember if she was clothed, unclothed? >> i don't know. >> 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. >> comfy t-shirts and sweats. >> and although he's wrong about the color of her clothes, after being asked many times if her clothes were half on or half off or pulled up or pushed down, he does correctly say this about her pants. >> also said the detectives, 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 disagreed with their theory and was supporting chris tapp, the only man in prison for the murder? >> what's it like to know that
carol is now actively campai campaigning for his release, believes 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? tackling the biggest mystery of all when the confession continues. continues. i knew about the tremors.
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welcome back, chris tapp's supporters insisted dna evidence proved he wasn't involved in the murder of angie dodge, but police were just as convinced that chris was the killer. according to detectives, he'd shared grisly details of the crime that only the killer could know, but what did chris have to say about that confession so many years ago? you're about to hear his side of the story. here again is keith morrison. there comes a time in every tale to meet the man at the center of the story, and here he is. christopher tapp. no longer the aimless pothead you saw on those videotapes in 1997. when we met him, he was a man who'd 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. >> on that point, withere is little dispute, of course, but how did chris tapp get here? it'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 do 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. >> 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. >> didn't connect it with the angie thing at all? >> no, i thought honestly 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, well, 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. >> why would you say you cut her? >> during that time, mr. fuhriman he said hypothetically even if you did cut her, it still doesn't matter. we'll be able to get you another deal, you just need to help us. >> indeed here it is on tape with then detective 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, or if chris
tapp took part in the knife in any way, shape, or form in cutting her, okay. >> but i didn't. >> would you listen? >> i'm sorry. >> okay. hypothetically i said. >> okay. >> 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 possible -- >> do you believe that story? >> hook, line, and sinker. >> try and 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 wanted 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 a knife, it's okay. we'll help you. so like an idiot, i believed them. >> and then they charged you with murder? >> yeah. >> by now, of course, chris tapp was fighting to clear his name with the support not only of 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 understa 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. >> a high stakes hearing with carol dodge front and center when the confession continues. when the confession continues.
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♪ welcome back. chris tapp had spent more than a decade behind bars, convicted of a murder he now said that he did not commit. he was scared and he said that he only admitted to killing angie dodge, because he was scared. now, all of these years later, he is headed back to court to have the confession thrown out. if successful, it meant the trial could be thrown out, but there was another path of freedom and one with a steep price. here with the conclusion of the st story is keith morrison. more than 15 years after angie dodge was murdered, on a quiet street in idaho falls, something was about to change in the confessed killer chris tapp. for the first time in his trial a hearing on evidence was about to be held before a judge. and as chris tapp entered the courtroom, he and his supporters finally had 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 video taped 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 ben thomas. >> what's the best result from this? >> new trial or exoneration. >> if this confession goes, the state has almost no evidence. >> i think they would 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 wrd of the detective who later became mayor of idaho falls, jared furman. he was then a detective and 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 had been arrested twice and watched as the door was actually barred during some of his interviews -- how could that young man, who had been questioned on and off for nearly a month who spent more than 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 that he could leave when ever he wanted. >> did you think that you would be able to go home if you did not talk to the police?
>> no. i would not have been allowed to go home. >> tapp acknowledged he had, indeed, lied over the years, many times. including in sworn affidavits used in past appeals. >> you admitted, in 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. >> the truth will set me free some day.
>> you're pretty convinced of that? >> as the years go on, yeah. >> tapp's lawyers have vowed to continue that fight, long as they had to, and for the first time since that appeal, the two mothers at the center of the case can agree. >> you come home everyday and you think, i had a son. sooner or later something's got to break. >> let him go. if the only thing his mother has is her only child, let him enjoy his mother, let his mother enjoy him. there's just two of them. that's all they have. >> chris' case was far from over. more motions and hearings and always the same result. and then two decades after his conviction in march of 2017, a stunning twist.
pros prosecutors offered him a plea deal to downgrade his case. he would have to admit and this is not an exoneration, and he would still be a killer, but he would be a free man. he would be remanded in time served and no probation or parole. so after 20 years behind bars he left a free man. >> completely and totally overwhelmed. >> as for ben hobbs, he still denies any involvement in angie's murder, and he declined "dateline's" request for an interview. but of the innocence project, they say that the answer lies not in the machinery of law but in science. that dna left at the scene point fos the simplest explanation, not to a third man or the second one, but just one.
>> what are chances that a man could keep a secret for that long with three people involved? and secrets can be sent, but science are reveals the secrets. somebody went in to commit a e violent rape murder and left typical evidence there. is no other person there by dna, and where is he? >> where indeed? and carol dodge is still tortured, still pondering that last message from her angie. that she had done something stupid. sounds to me like you believe that she had crossed or double crossed somebody dangerous. >> she had crossed the line and didn't have a clue of what she had gotten herself into. >> and neither did she, carol admits, when she set out on a quest to find a killer, not finished. not yet. >> i will never stop looking. one day i will look that man in
the eye. one day, he will be found. he will be found. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. a gorgeous evening, girls night out. >> she loved to have fun. >> yes. >> kenya was bright and pretty and adored by frn. >> i adored her. she was my friend. >> she said, are you with kenya, and i said, no, i thought that she was with you.