pen It's been two years, and there hasn't been a single lead in the Erie, Pennsylvania neck-bomb killing.
If you haven't heard of this, the case is one of the weirdest, most disturbing crimes in recent times. A man named Brian Wells, a quiet pizza delivery worker, showed up one day to rob a bank in Erie. Police nabbed him out in the parking lot, then found that the man had an enormous bomb attached to a metal collar on his neck and a timing device. Wells told police that he didn't want to rob the bank, but that some mysterious men had forced him to. They snapped the bomb around his neck, attached to a timer, and gave him a list of instructions concernng criminal activities to accomplish that day (see one page below) - or else the device would explode. Police didn't believe him, or didn't know what to make of it, and Wells pleaded with them, quietly, then... the bomb blew up, killing him instantly.
Since then, investigations have been stumped. No leads on who that group of criminals could be. No forensics help. No witnesses or tipsters have come forward. And trying to figure the thing out doesn't help - the list of crimes was too long, and too obvious, for the poor Wells not to get caught. Did he stage the thing himelf, or with help, and it simply fell apart in the process of execution? Or was he really innocent, and were the criminals clever weirdos but bad planners? Or was this just an attempt to torment and kill a perfect stranger? If so, why? Was there a connection between the group and Wells, or were they hired by a third party? Could this have been some morbid performance, an alternate reality game with teeth?
One recent tidbit: it looks like the poor guy didn't think it would really explode.
The bank surveillance photographs show Wells, 46, of Erie, sucking on a lollipop in the PNC Bank at Summit Towne Centre on August 28, 2003, the day of the robbery.
Wells' demeanor inside the bank "depicts a man who did not know he would soon die as a result of an explosive device strapped to his body," the FBI in Erie said in a statement released with the images.
There's something novelistic about this affair. The town's name, of course. The settings (post-industrial town, mysterious radio tower, chain stores in broad daylight) suggest David Lynch. The bizarre cane gun feels like something from a suspense novel, or pulp fiction, or a lost Batman tv episode. And notice the trademark on Wells' shirt, barely pictured above, like a dare to the police, or to viewers: Guess.