Who Is the Pizza Bomber? Netflix's 'Evil Genius' Explores Erie Murder

It's a stranger-than-fiction true crime series.

by Catie Keck

On August 28, 2003, a pizza delivery man with a bomb affixed to his body via a metal collar sat on the pavement in an Erie, Pennsylvania parking lot surrounded by police. Brian Wells, who would later come to be known as the pizza bomber, told police that the bomb was detonated and asked why no one was attempting to remove the collar device. He was right. It detonated before the bomb squad arrived, leaving Wells dead.

The stranger-than-fiction details of the case — which involve a bank robbery, scavenger hunt, and an apparent murder plot — are chronicled in the upcoming Netflix docuseries Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist. The four-part documentary from producer-brother duo Jay and Mark Duplass (who also produced Wild Wild Country precedes the 15th anniversary of the event and aims to examine the ongoing mysteries surrounding the Wells heist.

Before his death, Wells, 46, maintained that he’d been implicated in a plot that forced him to rob a bank using a cane-shaped shotgun and the collar device strapped to his body. Kenneth Barnes and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong were also sentenced for the crime in 2008 and 2011, respectively. However, the true nature of the event and the masterminds behind it remain somewhat murky.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Erie claimed in 2007 that through interviews, it determined Wells was an “an unwilling participant” in the crime — that he had been involved in the conspiracy but had instead become its victim. But the FBI concluded in 2011 that Wells was a willing participant in the crime, according to CNN, though questions about the nature of his involvement remain unanswered. His family has long questioned Wells’ involvement in the plot.

These and other perplexing details about the case will likely be explored in Netflix’s forthcoming four-part series, which will premiere Friday, May 11.

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