Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. This is certainly the case in the murder of Brian Wells, more commonly known as – the pizza bomber case.
American, Brian Douglas wells was a 61 year old pizza delivery driver. For close to 30 years Wells had worked the same job with ease, at the Mama Mia Pizzeria in Pennsylvania. However, he was soon complicit to a crime of which Jigsaw would be proud.
Wells was tricked, or bullied, by a small gang of criminal conspirators, to commit armed bank robberies. Police believe he was tricked into wearing a collar bomb, similar to the contraption seen in the saw franchise. It is thought, that he believed it was a fake bomb, which he found out in gruesome detail not to be the case. He was also equipped with a gun expertly disguised as a walking stick.
Mr Wells was given handwritten instructions addressed to the bomb hostage. The main goal was to steal $250, 000, but the letters also included cryptic instructions for him to complete. In order to release the collar bomb, he would have to find various codes, and keys marked on maps around the city.
A sampling of the letters reads:
“This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”
The victim would have to weave his way through this cryptic maze to save his own life.
On August 28th 2003 Wells serenely strolled into PNC Bank in Erie Pennslyvania. He handed a bank teller a note, which read:
“Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000,”
He then showed the teller the bomb. However as the vault could not be accessed he left with a meagre $8,702.
Showing incredible calm Wells sauntered out of the bank sucking on a lollypop taken from the counter.
Roughly 15 minutes later, he found himself thrown to the pavement and surrounded by armed state troopers. Brian Wells told police that he had forced to wear the bomb, and rob the bank by a group of black men. But, the reality was infinitely more complex. Wells pleaded with the cops at first nonchalantly, to help him remove the collar. It seems he began to suspect that the bomb may be real after all, as panic started to set in. A series of beeps rang out from the collar before the bomb exploded, leaving Brian Wells a gruesome heap on the pavement.
Enter Bill Rothstein and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein a former husband to Diehl-Armstrong, had called police to say he had a dead body in a freezer in his home. As it transpires he was helping his ex-wife dispose of the body of her new boyfriend that she had killed. The mentally ill woman was shown some leniency in a 20 year sentence for murder. This was among a string of mysterious black-widow esq deaths of ex boyfriends.
It soon became evident to federal investigators that Diehl-Armstrong was also linked to the Collar bomb murder. She admitted to supplying the kitchen timers for the bomb. and stated Wells was in on the plan. She asserted that the mastermind of the whole plan was Bill Rothstein who had since died from lymphoma. However, the police had the suspicion that she was the real mastermind. Another man named Kenneth Barnes was then found to be involved. In order to reduce his sentence for the crime, he took a deal to testify against Diehl-Armstrong.
Barnes stated that the plan was to raise funds, to pay him, to execute her father. She wanted to claim her inheritance from her wealthy father, as he had recently been giving away his money.
In 2007 both Diehl Armstrong and Barnes were charged with the murder, with Rothstein, and Wells as accomplices. However many refuse to believe Wells knew about the plot, and many questions about the case remain unanswered. Diehl-Armstrong died in jail in 2017, whilst serving out her life sentence. Barnes had his sentence of 45 years slashed in half for testifying against Diehl Armstrong.
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