BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho man who experts say was coerced into a false murder confession was freed Wednesday after spending half of his life behind bars.

A judge released Christopher Tapp after vacating his rape conviction and resentencing him to time served for the 1996 killing of Angie Dodd.

The release came after years of work by Tapp’s attorney, public defender John Thomas, and advocates, including Judges for Justice, the Idaho Innocence Project and the victim’s mother, Carol Dodge.

Angie Dodge was 18 and living in an Idaho Falls apartment on June 13, 1996, when she was sexually assaulted and killed at her home.

Tapp was a 20-year-old high school dropout at the time. He was interrogated for hours and subjected to multiple lie detector tests by police before confessing, but DNA evidence taken from the scene didn’t match Tapp or any of other suspects in the case.

The release doesn’t exonerate Tapp – his murder conviction still stands under the plea agreement that transformed his 30-years-to-life sentence to time served. But the agreement allowed Tapp to leave the courtroom as a free man after 20 years in prison. He otherwise wouldn’t have been able to seek parole until 2027.

“Chris Tapp is innocent,” his attorney, Thomas, said. Still, Thomas said, the plea deal was the right decision because it came with the certainty of freedom.

In court Wednesday, Carol Dodge said she was overwhelmed and felt great sadness that Tapp had lost 20 years of his life to prison.

The Idaho Falls Police Department announced Wednesday that it has a sketch of a suspect, but didn’t release it.

Most of the recent developments in the case have focused on DNA at the scene.

Dodge’s body was found by co-workers. She had been raped and stabbed. Investigators were able to obtain DNA at the scene.

The initial investigation spanned months, and by the start of 1997, detectives began to suspect that Benjamin Hobbs and Tapp may have been involved. Hobbs was arrested in Ely, Nevada, in connection with a rape and accused of using a knife during the crime. Tapp, who was friends with Hobbs, was arrested in January and questioned about Hobbs’ suspected involvement in Dodge’s killing.

Over the next few weeks, Tapp was interrogated nine times and subjected to seven polygraph tests. At various times, police suggested he could face the death penalty, told him that he was failing the lie detector tests, suggested he may have repressed memories of the killing and offered him immunity if he implicated Hobbs and another suspect. He eventually confessed to being involved in the death.

But none of the DNA matched any suspect..

Under the deal, Tapp can’t continue efforts to get his conviction overturned and must pay into Idaho’s victim compensation fund.

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