Was Brian Wells a Victim?
Christopher Seymour Professor Ann Burgess Victimology November 19, 2012
Early on the morning of August 23, 2003, Brian Wells walked into the Erie Pennsylvania PNC bank and calmly handed over a note to the teller –‘Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000, you have 15 minutes.’ Wells picked up a dumdum lollypop and casually waited. He was armed with a shotgun disguised as a cane and had a large collar brace under his t-shirt that he claimed was a bomb. Quickly apprehended by Pennsylvania State Police, Wells claimed that three African American men forcibly attached the bomb to him, ...view middle of the document...
The teller handed over
$8,000 from the cash drawer, and Wells exited the bank, only to be apprehended ten minutes later. While fleeing, Brian Wells stopped the car and retrieved a note from underneath a rock near a McDonalds drive-through. The Pennsylvania State Police handcuffed him in the middle of the road, secured a perimeter, contacted the bomb squad, and began listening to Wells’ elaborate story from a distance. Special Agent Gerald Clark, a bank robbery expert, was called in to supervise. Wells claimed he was the victim of a sick game, and needed help. Though attached to a bomb, Wells stayed very calm, even asking an officer to call his boss so he would not be fired for missing work. Twenty minutes later, the device began to beep. For the first time, Wells’ attitude began to change. He began panicking and telling officers that the bomb was about to go off if no one helped him. Unsure of any bomb procedures, the police waited for the bomb squad to arrive before taking any action. Unfortunately, the squad arrived three minutes too late. The beeping increased rapidly before the bomb exploded, blowing a fist size hole through Brian’s chest. Though the disaster was over, the police were only at the beginning of uncovering the truth behind this bizarre case.
SUMMARY OF THE INVESTIGATION
In the days following the incident, Special Agent Mary Ellen O’Toole was called in to act as co-lead on the case. Many questions remained unanswered. “What, for instance, was the purpose of the scavenger hunt? Why send a hostage hopping around Erie in broad daylight? Why scatter clues in public locations where they might be discovered? How was Wells chosen to be the hostage?” (Schapiro). The authorities had very few leads to start. They began with the letters found in Wells’ car. Handwritten, addressed to ‘Bomb Hostage’, they supported the story detailed by Wells that he was sent on a wild scavenger hunt. Analyzing the scene at Peach Street, Wells’ tire tracks were found, and the initial call to the Pizza Place
was confirmed, originating from a payphone. Examining the bomb itself, analysis showed that it was made with many D.I.Y. at home pieces, including a combination lock, kitchen timers, shotgun powder and many wires. Bomb experts agreed that the device was never intended to be removed. The bomb’s creator sought to kill Brian Wells. Three weeks later, while the case began to run cold, a 911 call came in from Bill Rothstein, a resident of Peach Street. He claimed that he had been involved in a murder, and the body was in his freezer, a victim of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Police investigation found the body claimed by Rothstein, along with a note – “This has nothing to do with the Brian Wells case” (Schapiro). Shotgun shells of the same type as the bomb were also found in Rothstein’s house. The man in the freezer was Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong’s boyfriend, and she was arrested...