Brian Wells, was a 46-year-old, unassuming white male that lived in Erie, Pennsylvania. He delivered pizzas for over 10 years for Mama Mia’s Pizzeria. But on August 28, 2003 while delivering a pizza, he would become a victim to his own crime that ultimately, would cost him his life. It was around 1:30 p.m. on that late summer day, when his pizzeria received a phone call for a takeout order to be delivered to 8631 Peach Street. Mr. Wells was the delivery driver for that order. Events that took place once Wells arrived at the delivery address have never been fully substantiated. According to Wells’ family, Brian was ambushed by 4 people: “Marge” Diehl-Armstrong, Kenneth Barnes, William Ansel “Bill” Rothstein and Floyd Arthur “Jay” Stockton Jr. All but 1 (Stockton)are deceased now. The four had devised an elaborate plan for a bank robbery and a scavenger hunt at Brian Wells expense. Or, so his family says.
After Wells attack, he was then ordered to rob the PNC bank in downtown Erie. Stockton, one of the four conspirators, placed a triple-banded metal collar that had several links attached to it that dangled from Brian’s neck. Affixed to the iron links was a bomb that was that was going to detonate at 3:18 p.m. Brain entered the PNC bank with aid from a cane that was in his right hand. It was later discovered that the cane was actually a shot-gun. He approached a teller at which time he proceeded to hand her a note that read “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000,”. Brian then displayed the bomb that was attached to his neck that he had been concealing behind his shirt. Wells then handed a bag to the teller then politely said “you have only 15 minutes”. The teller quick to reply, “it would be impossible to open the fault in 15 minutes”, so instead, she opened up her bank till and filled the bag up with just south of $9000. The bag was given back to Wells who walked calmly out of the back, got in his car and drove away.
Shortly after Brian left the PNC bank, he was apprehended by the Pennsylvania State Police. Once detained, he explained to the troopers that he had been attacked by four individuals that had strapped a bomb to his neck and ordered to rob the PNC bank. If he complied and did exactly what the perpetrators said, he would live. Otherwise, death was certain. With no time to waste, because the bomb was controlled be a visible timer, the bomb squad was called in. Mr. Wells was ordered to sit in the middle of the street, a half-block way from the police, fire department and all the press that had arrived to cover the possible explosion. With the area safely secured, everyone waited for the outcome. At 3:18 the timer stopped which detonated the bomb. Mr. Wells was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was discovered that Brian was in cahoots with the four perpetrators who allegedly accosted him earlier that day. But to what degree? The investigators found a handwritten note addressed to the “Bomb Hostage”. The note basically outlined map of Erie that had clues on it for the scavenger hunt. If Brian was able to find all the clues, he would be able to crake the code to the bomb and he would live. The most chilling piece of evidence was this portion of the note “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”. The FBI did concur that a scuffle did take place between Brain and the four individuals when he delivered the pizza. The FBI also stated “this is one of the most complicated and bizarre crimes in the annals of the FBI”
Conclusion It is rare that I find myself without a satisfying ending to an essay, but I don’t run across a case like Brain Wells either. For me, there are too many unanswered questions about this bank robbery. This crime reminds me of the Hollywood horror franchise, Saw. It’s a movie where the main character is a sadistic killer named “Jigsaw” that captures innocent people, usually bounds them with a triple- banded metal collar, similar to what is used on Brian Wells. Then the victim is forced to partake in a scavenger hunt while being timed. If you don’t successfully complete the hunt before the timer stops, you die. It really makes me wonder, is the Brian Wells bank robbery a case of art imitating life, or life imitating art? Incidentally, Saw debuted in 2003, the same year as the heist. Is it an astute point, or merely coincidence? You decide.