The eerie Erie collar bomb case had suddenly taken on new life, as federal authorities handed down a series of indictments, four years after the horrific, bizarre event. The argument is that two people, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth E. Barnes, created the collar-bomb hostage plot as a cover story. The truth was Diehl-Armstrong raising funds to pay for someone to kill her father.
Brian Wells, the poor fellow ordered on an odd crime spree, then blown up by the bomb attached to his neck, was apparently in on the case from the start. One prosecutor in this local news video claims that Wells had second thoughts at some point, which is why the bomb was locked onto him, but that he never truly broke from the plan.
[Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes] contrived a series of notes to make it appear pizza deliveryman Brian Wells was "merely a hostage," authorities said in court papers. Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes also planned to get the robbery money from Wells so that, if he were caught, he could claim he was a hostage and an unwilling participant, authorities said.
Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes are both already in jail, for other charges, murder and drugs, respectively.
Wells' family denies that he was a co-conspirator. What was supposed to happen to him on that day? Prosecutors are coy, opening up all sorts of possibilities:
We do not know the extent to which the others planned on him dying that day.
If the charges are correct, then we now have an explanation for one aspect of Wells' behavior:
"I talked to him...It was amazing," one law enforcement official later told Crime Library. "I just...didn't get any sense of urgency from him." Reading his face, a skill cops develop after years on the job, the law enforcement could find no sign "that he knew the thing was imminent." Wells was so calm, in fact, that authorities suspected that he didn't really believe that the device around his neck was a real bomb or that in the blink of an eye, he might be dead.
What an amazing, horrible, novelistic case. What networks of plotting. What levels of psychological twists and torments. If you want to catch up, we summarized the story in 2005.