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Librarian at Truman State University in Missouri unknowingly helps solve murder mystery

Posted: 3:40 PM, Mar 29, 2024
Updated: 2024-03-29 22:13:57-04
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For more than two decades, an Idaho man spent time behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

It was a story closely profiled by Dateline and Keith Morrison, first airing in 2012.

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It was that national attention and the efforts of a determined mother that eventually got experts in false confessions and genetic genealogy involved.

But, it was help of a small town librarian in Kirksville, Missouri, who helped tie it all together.

We talked to that librarian, as well as the Dateline producer who's been connected to this case for 13 years about the twists and turns that were profiled in a Dateline episode late last month.

Learning more about Angie Dodge

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Angie Dodge

In June 1996, the body of Angie Dodge, an 18-year-old described as smart, fun, and loving was found in her Idaho Falls apartment.

She'd been strangled, and sexually assaulted.

An investigation lead police to Chris Tapp, a friend of Angie's.

Although he eventually confessed, his DNA didn't match what was collected at the scene, and during questioning he didn't seem to know much about the crime.

That prompted Angie's mother, Carol Dodge, to start her own investigation, eventually becoming convinced Chris Tapp was innocent.

"She was just never going to be stopped, never going to be stopped till she found the person who killed her daughter," Dateline Producer Shane Bishop said.

Carol sought help from an expert in false confessions who reviewed police interviews with

Chris and called it the worst case of "police contamination" and "fact feeding" he'd seen.

Carol also found a genetic genealogist and convinced her to examine the DNA found at the scene of her daughter's death to try to determine the identify of the real killer.

"I don't think I'd even heard of genetic geneaology in 2011. I mean that really started coming to the forefront in 2014, 2015," Bishop said. "I'm convinced almost anything can be solved by genetic genealogy now."

The genealogist Carol found, CeCe Moore, started searching for matches on popular ancestry sites.

She found one, a very distant relative, and started building family trees, looking for a possible connection.

There was one family with ties to Kirksville, Missouri, that looked promising, but they ran into a dead end.

CeCe's team reached out to the library at Truman State University to see if there were any records that could show a missing family member who wasn't showing up in the family history of a likely match.

Truman State University librarian gets involved

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Truman State University librarian Daniel Titus

"It was a pretty generic phone call five years ago. So, nothing that stood out to me," librarian Daniel Titus said.

At the time, Titus didn't know why he was searching for an obituary.

It wasn't until Dateline aired their latest episode a little over a month ago he realized the role he'd played in helping solve a two decades-old mystery.

"The fact that just a small portion of what we did was able to help with that, because you don't think anything you do on a day-to-day basis at the library is going to have a major effect like that," he said.

The obituary Titus found identified a man who was a part of the family tree the genealogist first identified. But, he didn't show up in the initial search because he used his step-dad's last name.

A DNA sample from a cigarette butt would later link that man, Brian Dripps, to the DNA found at the scene.

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Ultimately Chris Tapp was exonerated, with Dateline's Keith Morrison and Shane both in attendance.

"I've been to a few of these exonerations, we've helped a few people get out, and these are top 10 life moments," Bishop said. "When this happens, I always say, as a reporter or producer, when you stop crying it's time to get out of the business. And we were shedding a few tears that day."

As for the role Titus played, he's gained a new level of notoriety on Truman's campus.

"A lot of our students, of course, here at the library had to ask me a lot of questions. They were very impressed at the time," Titus said. "My wife is a huge fan of true crime as well as my mom, so both of them were very excited for me to be involved with something like this."

While it was somewhat of a happy ending for Carol, finally solving the mystery of her daughter's death, the same can't be said for Tapp.

As Dateline shared at the end of last month's episode, Tapp was badly injured in Las Vegas and died from blunt force trauma a week later. It was a homicide.

Since the most recent episode aired, Las Vegas police have since identified a suspect, a former Nevada Congressional candidate.