COLLAR BOMB CASE
Charges in Bizarre '03 Bank Heist
Collar used in explosive device
years after a pizza delivery man in Erie,
Pennsylvania, robbed a bank with a time-bomb
secured to his neck and then died when it
detonated during a standoff with police, charges
have been filed against two people for their
alleged roles in the case.
prosecutors on Wednesday announced an indictment
against Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, 58, and
Kenneth Barnes, 53, for allegedly helping
to plot and carry out the botched scheme that
culminated on August 28, 2003, when Brian
Wells was stopped by police after robbing
an Erie bank. Wells warned police that he
was wearing a bomb and running out of time,
but as bomb technicians were summoned the
device exploded, killing Wells and leaving
behind an odd lot of clues and characters.
felony charges, announced during a press conference
by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, answer
some central questions about the case, foremost
whether Wells was a willing participant or
an innocent victim. Buchanan said Wells played
a "limited" role in the planning
phase of bank robbery. According to the indictment,
Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes contrived a plan
to make it look as though Wells was "merely
a hostage," which would give Wells an
alibi should he be captured. If the bomb detonated,
meanwhile, Wells couldn't be a witness against
them, Buchanan said.
may be that his role transitioned from that
of the planning stages to being an unwilling
participant in the scheme," Buchanan
and Barnes are currently serving unrelated
sentences in prisonDiehl-Armstrong for
killing her boyfriend in 2003 and Barnes for
a drug-related offense.
indictment alleges that Diehl-Armstrong solicited
Barnes in July 2003 to help rob a bank. She
would then use proceeds from the robbery to
pay Barnes to kill her father and collect
an inheritance, the indictment says. She is
alleged to have supplied two egg timers that
were used in the collar bomb. Prosecutors
believe the 2003 murder of her boyfriend was
intended to keep him from disclosing the emerging
bank robbery plot.
charges bring some clarity to a case that
challenged investigators, who ultimately pieced
together how Wells went from pizza delivery
guy to bank robber in the course of an afternoon.
According to the indictment, here's how it
Morrow, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's
Pittsburgh office, called the three-year,
10-month case "an outstanding, old-fashioned
investigation" and lauded the joint efforts
of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The case involved nearly 1,000 interviews
and as many leads, Buchanan said.
was a lengthy and complex investigation," Morrow said.
and Barnes both face initial appearances in
federal court this week. The three-count indictment,
returned on July 9, contains charges of conspiracy
to commit bank robbery, armed bank robbery,
and using and carrying a destructive device
in a crime of violence.
- Press Release