Official: Slain Pizzaman Was Involved in Robbery Plot - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Official: Slain Pizzaman Was Involved in Robbery Plot

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - A pizza deliveryman who robbed a bank and was killed when the bomb around his neck exploded wasn't a hostage - he was a conspirator in the plot, federal authorities said Wednesday.

The deliveryman, Brian Wells, 46, had told police before the bomb exploded in August 2003 that he was an innocent victim and had been forced by gunmen to rob the bank.

However, in the indictments unsealed Wednesday, Wells is named as a co-conspirator. Two other people, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and her friend Kenneth E. Barnes, are charged with bank robbery, conspiracy and a firearms count.

Authorities said the plot was concocted so Diehl-Armstrong, 58, could pay someone to kill her father.

Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes are accused of contriving a series of notes to make Wells appear to be "merely a hostage," according to the indictments.

Their plan was to get the money from Wells in a way that if he was caught, he could claim he was an unwilling participant, authorities said in court papers. According to the indictments, they locked a live bomb onto Well's neck to ensure he followed their instructions and turned over the money.

"If he died, he could not be a witness," authorities said in the indictment.

While he was inside the bank, Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes watched from across the street, and Diehl-Armstrong was later seen twice along a route that was described in Wells' notes, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Wednesday. She said the bomb that killed Wells was on a timer. She said she couldn't comment on what Wells' motive might have been.

Diehl-Armstrong is currently serving a state prison sentence for killing her boyfriend, James Roden. In the indictment, authorities say she killed Roden to keep him from disclosing details of the robbery plot.

Barnes, 53, is jailed in Erie County on unrelated drug charges. Authorities have described him as Diehl-Armstrong's fishing companion.

Diehl-Armstrong was notified Tuesday that she may face charges of bank robbery, conspiracy and a firearms count, lawyer Lawrence D'Ambrosio said. He says she is innocent.

Wells set out to deliver an order for two pizzas to a mysterious address that turned out to be the location of a TV tower on Aug. 28, 2003. He turned up about an hour later and roughly two miles away at a PNC Bank branch in Summit Township, with a note demanding money and saying he had a bomb.

Wells took $8,702 from a teller, got into his Geo Metro and was surrounded by police a short time later in a parking lot. State troopers pulled him out of the car and handcuffed him. Hanging from his neck under his T-shirt was a triple-banded metal collar and a device with a locking mechanism that kept it in place. Attached to the collar was a bomb.

"It's going to go off," Wells said. "I'm not lying."

He said someone had started a timer on the bomb and forced him to rob the bank.

While police waited for a bomb squad, the bomb exploded, killing Wells. Police found a gun resembling a cane in the car and a nine-page handwritten letter that included detailed instructions on what Wells was to do with the bank money and how he could unlock the collar by going through a kind of scavenger hunt, looking for clues and landmarks.

The note also included a list of rules and a threat that Wells would be "destroyed" if he failed to complete his mission.

Jim Sadowski, a former co-worker of Wells, said he doesn't believe his friend could have been involved.

"I worked with him and I knew him. I just don't see him doing anything like that. He was a nice person," Sadowski said.

Diehl-Armstrong has been linked to the Wells investigation because her boyfriend's body was found in the freezer of a home near the TV tower where Wells made his final delivery. She pleaded guilty but mentally ill to killing her boyfriend and is serving a sentence of seven to 20 years in state prison.

The man who owned the home, William Rothstein, was questioned in Wells' death but has since died of cancer.

D'Ambrosio, Diehl-Armstrong's attorney, has said he believes she had nothing to do with Wells' death but may have known the people behind the robbery.

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