Pennsylvania

Man killed with bomb locked to his chest during elaborate robbery

August 28, 2003
Erie, Pennsylvania
Brian Wells is killed by a bomb strapped to his chest and locked around his neck during an elaborate robbery

Wells, a pizza delivery driver, arrived at a bank while wearing the bomb and carrying a modified shotgun which resembled a cane. He slid the teller a note, stating the bomb would detonate unless he was given $250,000 in 15 minutes. The teller, unable to open the vault within that small of a time window, gave Wells $8,702. Wells then left the bank.

Police approached Wells 15 minutes later, and were informed of the bomb, secured by three metal bands clamped around his neck, which he claimed was put on by three unnamed men. He also told them of a series of instructions to be completed within a set amount of time lest the bomb be detonated. The instructions, addressed to “bomb hostage,” also warned Wells he would be under constant surveillance and the device would be detonated should he seek assistance from authorities. While Wells was detained, the bomb detonated, leaving a five-inch hole in his chest. Three minutes later, the bomb squad arrived on the scene.

Less than a month after the murder, police received a call from Bill Rothstein confessing to a body in his freezer. Before police arrived, he wrote a suicide note stating he had nothing to do with Wells’ murder, though he did not attempt suicide.

Rothstein stated the body was of James Roden, allegedly killed by Rosen’s current (and Rothstein’s former) girlfriend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong following an argument over finances. Rothstein alleged he helped Diehl-Armstrong clean the crime scene and hide Roden’s body, and was confessing to the crime out of fear of Diehl-Armstrong, who had a track record of romantic partners dying under mysterious circumstances. Rothstein died of cancer in 2004.

Diehl-Armstrong confessed to making the bomb used to kill Wells in April 2005 in exchange for being transferred to a lighter-security prison while serving time for Roden’s murder. In late 2005, a prison inmate named Kenneth Barnes told investigators he would reveal the story behind Wells’ murder in exchange for a reduced sentence. Barnes implicated Diehl-Armstrong, claiming she set up the plan to get money to hire Barnes to kill her father for his inheritance. Barnes also claimed Rothstein and Wells were in on the plan. After investigations, it was suspected that Wells knew the bomb would be placed around his neck to provide an alibi, but resisted when he discovered the bomb was real. He was forced into wearing the bomb, it was speculated, after one of the conspirators threatened him with a gun.

Barnes was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2008 while Diehl-Armstrong was sentenced to life in prison in 2011. She died of breast cancer in 2017.

The plot of the 2011 action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less — a pizza delivery driver is forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped around his chest — is strikingly similar to Wells’ murder and was criticized by Wells’ family. Sony Pictures Media Group claimed the events of the movie were not inspired by Wells’ murder, and were only “vaguely familiar” with the case.


Police examine Wells’ body for additional explosives


The cane-like shotgun Wells carried


The metal collar which locked the bomb on place

Horrific history from today:
1926: Man dies of wounds following gun attack (2017)
1929: Explosion kills family (2017)
1933: 2 dead after mob hit (2017)
1955: Emmett Till, face of 1950s racism (2017)
1963: Career Girl Murders (2017)
1997: While he lived he was alive (grave)
2006: Man stabbed to death under false allegations of child molestation (2017)

Horror-related anniversaries:
Today in Horror History: August 28

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