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Man sought in alleged W.Va. murder-for-hire found dead

September 01, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY and PEPPER BALLARD

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

pepperb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Salisbury, Md. man wanted by police for allegedly offering money to have Debbie Bivens killed was found dead Wednesday, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Capt. K.C. Bohrer said this morning.

Benjamin Frank Brookman, 47, had killed himself, Bohrer said.

An arrest warrant had been issued charging Brookman with accessory before the fact of murder, after police learned he allegedly offered $5,000 to another man to kill Bivens.

Brookman had a personal and business relationship with Bivens, 46, who was found Aug. 24 in her Inwood home's bedroom, the victim of a shooting.

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"We were told last night that (Brookman) decided to take his life in the area of Ocean City, Md.," Bohrer said.

Bohrer said the department had been working with Maryland State Police to try to find Brookman. He said Brookman's body was found Wednesday night.

Bohrer would not say how Brookman killed himself or whether he left a note.

"We would have liked to have the opportunity to speak with him, but his death may provide us with the same information," he said.

On Wednesday, Maryland State Police troopers searched Brookman's home but did not find him. They were sorting through other evidence - mostly paperwork - seized from the house, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Brendan Hall said.

Bivens and Brookman were involved in a personal relationship and also had some shared investments. The relationship soured around three years ago, Hall said.

"I was able to determine during my investigation that the victim was scared of Brookman," Hall wrote in a two-page criminal complaint filed with the arrest warrant. "She had apparently been approached by an unknown male in recent weeks who warned her that Brookman was out to get her. She had motion-sensor lights put on her house as a result of that warning."

Police were called to Bivens' house at 11 Vivian Drive in Inwood last Wednesday after a neighbor noticed newspapers piling up outside her house. With a family member of Bivens present, police forced their way into the home and found Bivens dead in her bedroom, police said.

She was wearing a white nightgown and was found facedown on the floor against a closet door; a .40-caliber shell casing was found near her body, records state.

A bedroom window had been broken and police have said they believe Bivens was shot when she stood up after hearing the glass break.

She was shot once in the upper left chest, police said.

The next day, an employee of Variform, a house-siding plant on W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg, contacted police and said he might have information about the murder, police said.

That witness led police to Timothy Charles Odell, 25, of Martinsburg, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He was being held at Eastern Regional Jail without bail.

When deputies found Odell at Variform last week, he agreed to go to their office and give a statement, records state.

While talking to police, Odell pulled a business card from his wallet and said the man whose name appeared on the card was behind the murder. The card, for a home-improvement business, was for "Benny" Brookman, police said.

Odell said he met Brookman through a family member's auto body business in Inwood. That family member confirmed for police that the two were "associates," records state.

Odell said Brookman first talked to him about a year ago about finding someone to kill Bivens. A couple of years ago, Brookman paid Odell $1,000 to vandalize Bivens' car, records state.

About a week ago, when Brookman again discussed killing Bivens, Odell agreed to participate for $5,000, police said.

Odell said he met another man - not Brookman - early on Aug. 22 and went to Bivens' house. Odell said he used a hammer to break a window in Bivens' home, and that the other man stepped forward and fired one shot through the hole, records state.

Odell told police he does not know the shooter's name, police said.

Police have said Odell did not receive any money.

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