Warning: This post contains spoilers for Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist on Netflix.
On August 28, 2003, a man named Brian Wells walked into the PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Wells, a local pizza delivery man, was wearing a collar bomb around his neck. He was also carrying a shotgun.
The 46-year-old demanded $250,000 from the bank teller, before grabbing the money – and a lollipop from a bowl on the counter – and fleeing the scene.
The police quickly tracked down Wells in the local neighbourhood and surrounded him.
They waited, their guns pointed at the suspect, for the bomb squad to arrive on scene.
Before the bomb squad could arrive and assess the situation, the device around Wells’ neck began ticking.
Evil Genius is the kind of documentary you have to see to believe. Post continues.
He became more and more agitated and then suddenly the bomb detonated, killing him within minutes.
What followed was one of the most bizarre police investigations of all time.
Now a new Netflix documentary, produced by Duplass Brothers Productions, may have just cracked the case.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist looks at the weird turn of events that unfolded in the weeks, months and years after Brian Wells walked into the bank that day.
The police soon discovered that on the day of the bank heist, Wells had delivered a pizza to an unknown person or unknown persons near the local TV tower.
Instead of returning to work, Wells walked into the bank with a bomb strapped around his neck.
Local authorities had no idea whether Wells acted alone, whether he was part of a plot, or whether he was an innocent victim in someone else’s crime.
With no real leads, the case quickly grew cold.
Then, on September 20, 2003, a man named William “Bill” Rothstein called the local police station.
Rothstein lived right near the TV tower. He was calling the police to tell them the body of a local man, James Roden, was hidden in the freezer in his garage.
Rothstein claimed his ex-girlfriend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, had murdered Roden and asked him to help her dispose of the body.
The police immediately went to the scene and discovered that there was, in fact, a body in the freezer.
Both Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong were taken into custody for questioning.
The local authorities very quickly suspected they might have a connection to the Wells case, given their proximity to the TV tower and their bizarre behaviour.
After hours of questioning, Diehl-Armstrong was arrested for the murder of Roden. She pleaded guilty in January 2005 and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.
In July 2004, Rothstein died of lymphoma. He was 60 years old.
Then, in 2005, Diehl-Armstrong told a state trooper she “had knowledge” of the heist and had provided the two kitchen timers which were used in the explosive device.
After being transferred from Muncy State Penitentiary to a minimum-security prison in Cambridge Springs, Diehl-Armstrong said Rothstein was the mastermind behind the plot and that Wells was in on it. She said she didn’t know anything about the heist until after it happened.
A man named Kenneth Barnes was also turned in by his brother-in-law for the crime.
In 2007, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan announced the investigation was over. She said both Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes had been charged with the crime. The police also believed Rothstein and Wells were directly involved in the plan.
Diehl-Armstrong continued to deny any involvement in the crime up until her death in April 2017.
However, at the end of the documentary a new witness came forward with a stunning confession.
Jessica Hoopsick, who was a local sex worker at the time of heist, told Barbara Schroeder and Trey Borzillieri, the creators of Evil Genius, she had set up Wells in exchange for money and drugs.
She told the documentary the co-conspirators asked her to find a “gopher” who they could pressure into robbing the bank. She suggested Wells and gave them his work schedule.
“It hurts me that I could do this to somebody who I cared about,” Hoopsick, who had become friends with Wells after he solicited her for sex on a regular basis, told the documentary.
“I want people to know he was innocent.”
“I have a lot of remorse for a lot of the stuff I did and a lot of shame and guilt,” she says. “I definitely want justice for Brian’s memory. He wasn’t out to hurt nobody. He had no parts in the planning. He had no idea what was going to happen to him.”
The police don’t necessarily believe her story.
With most of the co-conspirators dead, we may never really know what lead Brian Wells to walk into the bank that day, with a bomb strapped to his collar.
You can watch the four-part docu-series on Netflix now.