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Becoming an informant can be risky, enticing

Charleston Gazette photo by Chris Dorst Charleston police found the body of Branda Basham, 22, of Charleston, on West Side railroad tracks on July 12. Lt. Steve Cooper called the death an “obvious homicide.”
Charleston Gazette photo by Chris Dorst
Charleston police found the body of Branda Basham, 22, of Charleston, on West Side railroad tracks on July 12. Lt. Steve Cooper called the death an “obvious homicide.”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For someone addicted to drugs or facing criminal charges, becoming a confidential informant can be pretty tempting.

For Branda Basham, it may have gotten her killed.

Confidential informants, or CIs, are mainly used to provide information on drug crimes or conduct controlled buys for law enforcement.

Local police rely on them for their insider knowledge of the drug scene in Kanawha County.

In return, CIs are often rewarded with cash, or dismissed charges or lighter sentences.

Several local police officers interviewed agreed that, most of the time, confidential informants are safe.

That wasn’t the case for Basham, who was gunned down on Charleston’s West Side on July 12.

Police say Marlon Dewayne “Ice” Dixon shot her to death because she was working as a CI on drug investigations.

Charleston Police Bureau Chief of Investigative Services Lt. Chad Napier said the police department relies on information from informants to determine if they are in any danger.

“We feel bad,” he said. “We feel sorry for the family. We would have done all we could had we known she was in danger, but we didn’t know she was in any danger.”

Hundreds of confidential informants are in a database that local police have compiled over the years, although many are inactive, Napier said.

While there are risks to becoming an informant, there are incentives as well.

“We have a lot of people, unfortunately, that use drugs that are informants,” Napier said. “They [become CIs] for the monetary reasons.”

Many confidential informants are paid, based on the case.

Pay can range anywhere from $20 to thousands of dollars…

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