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Man charged in death of W.Va. woman

August 26, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION and CANDICE BOSELY

charlestown@herald-mail.com

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

INWOOD, W.Va. - A Martinsburg, W.Va., man has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Debbie K. Bivens, who was found dead of a single gunshot wound Wednesday inside her Inwood-area home, police said.

Timothy C. Odell, 25, of 427 Winchester Ave., was taken into police custody around 3 p.m. Thursday as he entered his workplace, Variform, a house siding plant on W.Va. 9, Capt. K.C. Bohrer of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said. Odell was taken to Eastern Regional Jail around 8:30 p.m. and is expected to be formally arraigned today, Bohrer said.

A tip led investigators to Odell, who told police he was offered money to take part in Bivens' murder, Bohrer said.

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Bohrer declined to elaborate.

Bivens, 45, suffered a severe gunshot wound to her upper torso. Her decomposing body was found in a bedroom in her house in the Camelot subdivision off W.Va. 51, police said.

Bohrer said Bivens likely was killed in the predawn hours Monday.

Deputies forced their way into Bivens' house about 5 p.m. Wednesday after meeting with a family member. The family member had been alerted by a neighbor who saw newspapers piling up outside Bivens' house, Bohrer said.

Investigators said they believe Bivens was shot from outside her bedroom window.

"Someone broke the window and fired through the hole," Bohrer said.

The investigation was continuing, police said.

Bivens had problems with vandalism and told a neighbor that she believed there might have been prowlers around her house, police and neighbors said.

Bivens had deadbolt locks put on her doors and installed outside motion lights, said Erma Evans, who lives across from Bivens' house.

Evans said she believed Bivens installed security cameras.

Cpl. Brendan Hall of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said he has received information about Bivens' belief that a prowler had been around her house.

"That's something we're looking into. That certainly concerns us if she had problems with a prowler," Hall said Thursday.

Hall said the tires of Bivens' car were slashed, which also has happened to other homeowners in the subdivision. Investigators were looking into the tire-slashings, he said.

Hall and Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith said they have been receiving tips regarding Bivens' death and were sifting through them.

"But we have no concrete leads on anything at this time," Smith said.

Hall emphasized that the shooting does not appear to be random.

"We don't want the residents to believe there is a random gunman running around here," Hall said.

Bivens lived in a one-story house at the intersection of Vivian Way and Three Runs Road. The intersection is a short distance from W.Va. 51, east of Inwood.

Evans said she last saw Bivens on Saturday, when the two exchanged "small talk" while Bivens was standing in the doorway of her home.

Evans said she and Bivens talked a lot, went to each other's churches and attended gospel concerts together.

"We agreed on a lot. We both agreed on God and the church," Evans said.

Evans said Bivens was supposed to go to Bible class with her Monday night and she called Bivens on the telephone Monday afternoon to remind her. Nobody answered, Evans said.

Evans said she went to Bivens' house and knocked on the door, but received no response.

Evans said she had a key to one of the doors at Bivens' house, and often would use the key to get into the house to walk Bivens' dog for her if Bivens was working late. Evans said a storm door at the entrance was always unlocked.

When Evans went to the door, the storm door was locked.

"When the storm door was locked, I became suspicious," Evans said.

When Evans continued to notice newspapers piling up at Bivens' house Wednesday, she called a neighbor, who contacted Bivens' son.

"It's just really a shock to everybody. It's scary to believe this would happen to a nice lady," Evans said.

Other neighbors talked about problems in the subdivision, such as sugar being dumped in car gas tanks, break-ins to houses and neighbors quarreling with each other.

Like her neighbors, Tiffany Roberts was taken aback by what happened to Bivens.

"It's a shock. We don't know what's going on or whether we should be scared," Roberts said.

Bivens worked at two different facilities that specialize in caring for disabled and elderly people, neighbors said.

Smith said he knew Bivens for years and said she used to have her own furniture store in Bunker Hill, W.Va.

"She worked every day, just trying to make a living," Smith said.

Anyone with information may call the sheriff's department at 304-267-7000 or leave an anonymous tip at 304-267-4999.

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