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Man wanted in murder is dead of suspected suicide

September 02, 2005|By CANDICE BOSLEY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A Maryland man wanted in connection with the alleged murder-for-hire of an Inwood, W.Va., woman last week was found dead Wednesday night, apparently of a suicide, police said.

Benjamin Brookman, 47, of Salisbury, Md., was found dead in a wooded area near Powellville, Md., police said.

"He had apparently hung himself," said Cpl. Brendan Hall of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department. "He left a 13-page suicide letter and it did make some mention of the murder of Ms. (Debbie) Bivens."

Investigators believe Brookman left his home Sunday. His body was sent to a medical examiner's office in Maryland in hopes of determining an approximate time of death, Hall said.

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Hall said he is not sure who found Brookman, but said the wooded area was not close to Brookman's home. Maps indicate that Powellville is a small town about 13 miles east of Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday charging Brookman with accessory before the fact of murder. Police wrote in the warrant that Brookman had agreed to pay a Martinsburg man $5,000 to participate in the killing of Bivens, with whom he had had a personal and business relationship.

That relationship ended in 2003, Hall said.

Hall said he had not yet had a chance to read the suicide note, but was given a synopsis of its contents by Maryland investigators.

"Hopefully, it'll shed some light on what happened," he said.

He said the note could be used as evidence against Timothy Charles Odell, 25, of Martinsburg, who is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Odell told police he used a hammer to break a window in Bivens' bedroom, but claimed another man stepped forward and fired a shot through the broken glass, police have said.

Police have said they believe Bivens was shot once in her upper left chest when she stood up from her bed after hearing the glass break.

Odell told police he did not know the shooter's name, and that he met him shortly before the shooting early last Monday to drive to Bivens' house at 11 Vivian Drive in Inwood.

Bivens was found facedown last Wednesday on the floor against a closet door in her bedroom and a .40-caliber shell casing was found near her body, records state.

Odell previously had shown a friend a .40-caliber handgun, records allege. That friend provided information to police that led investigators to Odell, records state.

Odell was being held without bail in Eastern Regional Jail.

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