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Informant’s name was released before her slaying

By David Gutman, Staff writer
CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
After searching the Kanawha River for a gun reportedly used in a recent killing, Charleston Police Cpl. Dana Rowsey takes his diving gear off with the help of Kanawha Sheriff’s Cpl. Jonathan Vernon (left) and Charleston Police Sgt. Kevin Smailes. Rowsey searched in front of Magic Island for more than an hour Friday afternoon for the gun police believe Marlon “Ice” Dixon used to kill Branda Basham last weekend. Rowsey did not find the gun.

A confidential police informant killed in Charleston last week had her name disclosed in court filings about a week before she was killed, although that is not how her alleged killer found out she was an informant, police said.

Police say Marlon Dewayne “Ice” Dixon shot and killed Branda Basham, 22, last Saturday because she was working as an informant for police on drug investigations.

Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives for the Charleston Police Department, said recent court filings from the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office in two drug cases had named Basham as an informant.

Basham’s name was released as part of the pretrial discovery process, in which prosecutors give defendants or their attorneys information about the charges against them, including witness lists, Cooper said.

Cooper stressed that Dixon did not find out about Basham’s police cooperation through these “discovery packets.” He would not say how Dixon discovered that Basham was working with police, citing the ongoing investigation.

“He may have heard rumor of her being someone else’s informant, but he did not know that she had been the informant that got him until he found out through different means,” Cooper said.

Dixon, 37, was charged in May with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

A Charleston police dive team spent more than an hour Friday in the Kanawha River near Magic Island searching for the gun allegedly used by Dixon.

Basham was shot three times, including at least once in the neck, and her body was found near railroad tracks on the West Side, according to the criminal complaint filed against Dixon.

Phone records show that Basham and Dixon exchanged several calls and text messages very early on the morning she was killed, according to the complaint.

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants said he is unsure in what cases Basham’s name might have been released.

“Whether her information was turned over in the multiple times that she was used as a confidential informant, I don’t know,” Plants said. “If police say she was, then I have no reason to dispute that.”

Plants said his office will turn over documents with information on confidential informants only when prosecutors are ordered to by a judge, and then, they will do it as close to the trial date as possible.

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said his officers never want to give up the name of a confidential informant.

“We do all we can to preserve that confidentiality,” Webster said. “At the same time, I know enough about the Constitution that it’s pretty clear there that every accused has the right to face who’s accusing you.”

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.


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