“Do you know who killed my baby?”
That anguished question was wrested from the anguished soul of Carol Dodge as she spoke with a young girl named Destiny Osborne shortly after Carol’s 18-year-old daughter Angie was murdered in Idaho Falls in June, 1996.
With the police unable to identify any viable suspects, Carol – driven by an irrepressible maternal impulse to find and punish the person who had killed her daughter – pursued her own investigation. Over the past twenty years she has accumulated a library of evidence, most of which has been ignored by the police and the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office.
It is because of Carol’s indefatigable efforts that we know that Christopher Tapp, the man who was convicted of that murder in May, 1998, didn’t commit that crime.
Carol’s inquiry was only a few weeks old when one of her contacts arranged a meeting with Osborne. The high school-age girl, who was addicted to methamphetamine, had become acquainted with Tapp, a 20-year-old dropout who also had a drug problem. Osborne would later testify in court that she had attended a party where Tapp – along with two friends named Ben Hobbs and Jeremy Sargis – spoke openly about raping and killing Angie. At one point Tapp supposedly said, referring to Angie, “The bitch got blood all over my shirt.”
If Tapp had murdered Angie at such intimate range that his shirt was covered in the victim’s blood, his DNA would have been found on the clothes of the victim, and most likely under her fingernails. Tapp provided a DNA sample to the police, but the IFPD didn’t display any particular urgency in examining the physical evidence.
“They put Chris Tapp’s DNA sample in a refrigerator,” Carol told me. Following the arrest of Tapp’s friend Ben Hobbs on rape charges in Ely, Nevada, the IFPD brought in both Tapp and another friend named Jeremy Sargis in the hope of getting one or both of them to implicate Hobbs as the murderer.
“The police took Chris and Jeremy in separate rooms and interrogated them, and tried to play them off against each other,” Carol recalled. Sargis’s parents were people of means, and they arranged for their son to have adequate legal representation.
Tapp’s family was in more straitened circumstances financially. Tragically, Chris was also more psychologically vulnerable than his friend: During one interrogation, Sargis had the presence of mind not only to tell IFPD investigator Jared Fuhriman that he had nothing to do with the murder, but to ridicule his interrogation methods. This had the delightful effect of triggering a meltdown on Fuhriman’s part, which was captured on video (starting at about 35:29).
Fuhriman found Tapp to be more pliant than Sargis. After all, the officer had been grooming his potential victim for years: He was a school resource officer at Eagle Rock Junior High School when he met Tapp, and during Tapp’s abbreviated time at Skyline High School Fuhriman was his DARE instructor.
One measure of the effectiveness of that program is found in the fact that Tapp graduated from DARE – and wound up with a drug conviction that took him into a rehab program that he finished shortly after Angie Dodge was murdered. This was not an unusual outcome for DARE indoctrination. Former Idaho DARE Coordinator Larry McGhee saw his oldest daughter Tracy become a heroin addict, even as he was tutoring other peoples’ children about the dangers of drugs.
Jared Fuhriman, who went on to become Mayor of Idaho Falls, had a similar failure on the home front: About ten years ago, his then-19-year-old son Peyton was arrested in possession of marijuana paraphernalia he had found among his father’s effects. The mayor insisted that his collection of drug accessories was left over from his time as a DARE tutor.
The mayor’s son was spared the full impact of the carceral state: His charge was negotiated down to a trivial misdemeanor, and he was given 18 months of probation with 90 days of “discretionary” jail time (only to be imposed in the event of a subsequent arrest).
Educating children about the harmful effects of narcotics addiction is a worthy undertaking that is entirely peripheral to the purpose of DARE, which is to subvert parental authority, while cultivating in schoolchildren an unhealthy reverence for the State and its
representatives. It also allows uniformed predators like Jared Fuhriman to start grooming future victims.
“Christopher would just keep saying, `Fuhriman is my friend, mom – he wouldn’t put my life in jeopardy, he wouldn’t lead me astray,” Vera Tapp told Pro Libertate. “He was just such a `good old boy’ with Christopher…. You can see it in the videos – `Oh, Christopher, we’re friends, we’re buddies,’ you know, laughing and joking around. And that’s just what he did when [Tapp]was in junior high. He [was] learning people’s trust and how to manipulate people. And that’s what he did – he manipulated Christopher.”
By early January 1997, Fuhriman and his superior, Detective Ken Brown, were aware that Tapp, along with his friends Hobbs and Sargis, had been eliminated as suspects by the DNA evidence. Hobbs was in custody in Ely, Nevada. Sargis had obtained legal representation and was thus protected from Fuhriman’s predatory intentions. Tapp was the one left without a chair when the music stopped.
The police didn’t have the competence to solve the murder; their skill-set was better suited to bullying a naïve and insecure young man into a false confession.
Following a particularly harrowing mind-rape session on January 16, 1997, Tapp arrived at his home “white as a sheet” and trembling.
“I said, `Christopher, this is a murder case; you don’t go down there without a lawyer,” Vera Tapp related to me. Still under the influence of his school-administered programming, Tapp remained convinced of Fuhriman’s benign intentions.
“He kept saying, `I know Mr. Fuhriman’ … and he was secure with him, because he’d known him since junior high,” Vera continued. “And he said, `We’re friends, mom.’”
Understandably frantic over what the police were doing to her son, Vera adamantly insisted that Tapp refrain from speaking with them again without a lawyer in the room.
The following morning, a Saturday, Fuhriman knocked on the door and demanded to know why Christopher hadn’t gone to the police station.
“He gave me his word,” the predator complained, cultivated insincerity suppurating from every syllable. Vera explained that under no circumstances would Chris be speaking to them again without a lawyer at his side.
An hour later, Chief Kent Livesey pounded on Vera’s door to demand that Chris accompany him to the station.
Vera told that things weren’t “going the way they were supposed to go, so we’re going to get a lawyer and we’ll see you Monday morning.”
“But Christopher gave me his word!” Livesey protested, as if the young man were morally required to surrender his rights. He also told Vera that “Christopher is up to his eyeballs in this” – which the Chief almost certainly knew was untrue. Unintimidated, Vera reiterated that her son would fulfill his promise to cooperate in the investigation – but only with a lawyer present.
Within a matter of hours, Chris was arrested on what the police knew was a spurious charge of “harboring a felon.” He has been in a cage ever since. A little more than a year later, Chris was found guilty of murder on the basis of his own spurious confession, supplemented by perjured testimony by Fuhriman and Destiny Osborne.
No responsible official in Bonneville County still believes that Tapp’s confession was valid. A report commissioned by the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office has conceded as much.
During the September 20 hearing on Tapp’s most recent appeal, Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey contended that the defense had been unacceptably tardy in raising issues related to evidence that had been deliberately withheld from the defendant by his predecessors nearly twenty years ago. The most important omissions were excerpts of videotaped polygraph examinations of Tapp by Detective Steven Finn in which the officer threatens the victim with the death penalty, then manipulates him into a confession that doesn’t comport with the physical evidence.
According to Dewey, the tapes were probably “in a defense file somewhere, in the original defense file.” In support of that claim he offered several affidavits from IFPD officers solemnly attesting that it the department carefully logged and tracked critical evidence.
Presumably, this would include the confiscated drug paraphernalia that somehow wound up in a box in Jared Fuhriman’s home, and some of which was later found in the possession of his 19-year-old son.
By way of a riposte to Dewey’s claim, Tapp’s appellate attorney, John Thomas, offered “two words: Kimball Mason.”
At about the same time Peyton Fuhriman was playing with evidence that was improperly stored among his father’s effects, Mason, the former Idaho Falls city prosecutor, was being prosecuted for stealing 30 guns from the IFPD’s evidence room. Two of them materialized in the hands of former IFPD Officer Todd Ericsson, who had been a supervisor of detectives at the department prior to his retirement in 2003. He has since gone on to be a contractor for the State Department and Pentagon in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Balkans, helping to cultivate the next generation of future foreign adversaries.
The grotesque incompetence of the IFPD regarding the security of its evidence room prompted Chief Livesey to request an outside audit by Dan Bullock, a retired San Jose Police Chief. Contrary to the solemn assertions in the affidavits filed this week in the Chris Tapp case, Bullock found that Property Office Manager Zuella Nelson was not certified for her position, that the department did not have a complete manual on evidence handling, and was lackadaisical in conducting internal reviews and audits.
If the prosecution had turned over the critical video records to Chris Tapp’s defense team in 1998, this would be a matter of record in the court’s evidence registry. It isn’t. The argument offered by Deputy Prosecutor Dewey and the IFPD is self-nullifying. In essence, they are saying: “Why should we be held responsible for sloppy record-keeping? If the defense can’t prove we didn’t turn over the critical videotapes, that’s on them.”
The only reason those critical recordings were discovered was the tenacity of Carol Dodge, who forced herself to sit through the interrogations of the man she had once believed to be responsible for murdering her baby. After immersing herself in this relentlessly unpleasant task, she realized that Tapp had been coerced and manipulated into a false confession – and reached out to the Innocence Project, Judges for Justice, and the media to share what she had found.
From the beginning, the IFPD has treated Carol with disdain and hostility.
“They initially focused on our immediate family as suspects in the murder,” Carol told Pro Libertate. “Every time I talked to the police, the lead detective would tell me, `Carol, you better brace yourself, because when the DNA results come back it’s going to be very bad.’”
Angie’s relatives were quickly disqualified by the tests, which left the police with no suspects – or, at least, without any they were willing to pursue. Hobbs went on to serve a prison term in Nevada for raping a woman at knife-point – but he had nothing to do with Angie’s murder. So the IFPD weaponized the confidence Fuhriman had cultivated in Chris Tapp and “closed” the case by framing an innocent man.
As mothers who have lost children to acts of violence – rape and murder in one case, mind-rape, kidnapping, and decades of unjust incarceration in another -- Carol Dodge and Vera have become friends.
“She’s lost her daughter, and they won’t do [anything] about it,” Vera told me, referring to Carol and the contemptuous disregard to her displayed by the IFPD and Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office. “And they should bend over backwards for this lady because she’s done all the work for them. She’s beat the bushes.”
No glory accrues to the State or its agents when an innocent man is acquitted of a crime, or when an unjustly convicted man is set free. Everybody involved in the wrongful conviction of Chris Tapp knows he is innocent, and that they have committed a horrible – and ongoing – crime against the rule of law and human decency.
At present, the only way some semblance of justice can occur would be for Judge Stephens to decide that truth, honor, and the rights of a deeply wronged individual are worthier than the prestige of the State and the reputation of its servants. Given the pervasive and formidably entrenched corruption that prevails in Bonneville County, that outcome is profoundly unlikely.
Dum spiro, pugno!
Dum spiro, pugno!