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Charge changed in fatal Inwood shooting

September 23, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A charge of conspiracy to commit murder that was filed against a man in the shooting of an Inwood, W.Va., woman last month was dismissed Thursday morning, with police charging him instead with accessory before the fact of murder.

Timothy C. Odell, 25, of 427 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, was in Berkeley County Magistrate Court for a preliminary hearing on the conspiracy charge. The hearing was postponed after Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Henline announced the change in charges.

Both charges carry the same penalty as a conviction of first-degree murder - up to life in prison, Henline said.

To obtain a conviction on a charge of accessory before the fact of murder, the state must prove only that a person assisted in some way with another person's death, Henline said.

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"It's the best option," he said.

Odell, who appeared in court shackled and with a black eye, was arraigned by Magistrate Sandra Miller on the new charge after the hearing. He is being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail.

Police allege Odell agreed to participate in the Aug. 22 murder of Debbie Bivens, 46, of Inwood, W.Va., in exchange for $5,000. He said a man named Benny Brookman offered him the money, according to court records.

Odell told police that he used a hammer to break a window in Bivens' bedroom, but that another man - whose name Odell said he did not know - fired the gunshot through the broken window, police said.

Bivens was found slumped against a closet door in her bedroom, with blood on the floor and her bed. A bedroom window was broken, and investigators have said they believe she was shot in her upper chest when she stood up after hearing the glass break.

An arrest warrant was issued last month charging Benjamin Frank Brookman, 47, of Salisbury, Md., with accessory before the fact of murder.

Brookman, with whom Bivens had a personal and business relationship, committed suicide a week after Bivens' body was found, police have said.

Brookman left behind what investigators called a 13-page suicide letter, which Henline said he reviewed before filing the new charge against Odell.

Police and Henline have declined to say whether they believe another person was involved in the shooting.

The case remains under investigation by Cpl. Brendan Hall with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

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