It’s been 17 years since a bomb was strapped to pizza delivery driver Brian Wells. The pizza bomber case quickly grew to become one of Erie’s most notorious cases.
Samiar Nefzi was in the studio this morning after speaking with members close to the case.
Samiar had a chance to catch up with Jerry Clark, who now works at Gannon University. On August 28, 2003 he worked for the FBI and would become the lead agent for FBI Major Case 203, also known as the Pizza Bomber Case.
Clark says it’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since the case, further explaining it seems like just yesterday.
Former FBI Special Agent Jerry Clark remembers the notorious day. Over his career he investigated hundreds of cases, but this one had a different feeling than the rest.
“Where a live device detonates during the course of a bank robbery resulting in death, that just had never happened. So, immediately it’s a horrific event,” said Jerry Clark, lead FBI Special Agent in Pizza Bomber case.
The events that took place on upper Peach Street claimed the life of 46-year-old pizza delivery man Brian Wells, a moment that would leave a scar on everyone involved.
Investigators started to link two main suspects to the crime Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Bill Rothstein. This happened after Rothstein called police about a body in his freezer.
From there the dominoes started to fall. When former special agent Jerry Clark looks back on the case he remembers being intrigued by the woman the world would grow to know as the “evil genius” behind the case, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong.
“I was totally anticipating this intensity and it was immediately there. She was so unique,” said Clark.
“There isn’t a moment that I don’t look at different parts of scenes and think this happened here or that happened there. It will probably follow me the rest of my life,” said Clark.
Outside of mental illness she had two components that would make her dangerous, she was extremely intelligent and manipulative.
“Marjorie gets credit as the mastermind, but Bill Rothstein was the one who put this all together,” said Clark.
The FBI released a profile with characteristic traits the suspect or suspects would have, and it did not fit either of them.
“When you put the two of them together it really was very accurate. The combination of those two people working together fit that profile,” said Scott Bremner, Erie reporter.
Both Diehl-Armstrong and Rothstein claimed they had no involvement in the case, something investigators called bogus, adding there were connections between Wells, Diehl-Armstrong and Rothstein.
“What they had intended for him was to die, and that’s the sad part in this. He had no idea,” said Clark.
An unsettling aspect of the case for Clark is when he asked Rothstein on his death bed to confess.
“He lifted his big arm out of the bed and said ‘no’ and four days later he was dead. He brought it with him. It was the ultimate ‘see ya later. I’m much smarter than you. You’re never gonna figure this out,'” said Clark.
“This was a gang that in a lot of ways couldn’t shoot straight. For all their knowledge, for all their book smarts, they came up with a plan that was extraordinarily inefficient,” said Bremner.
Former WJET reporter and Anchor Brian Sheridan was live from the scene.
“Immediately we knew something was amiss when we couldn’t get down Peach Street. And we kind of snaked around to find a back way in,” said Brian Sheridan, former WJET reporter.
Sheridan says he didn’t want to add drama to the story, rather to keep the public away from the scene.
The case would soar back into main stream media again in 2018 when it was spotlighted in Netflix’s Evil Genius.
“It’s entertaining in a way, but the reality in the end for Netflix I don’t think was quite as accurate as it could have been,” said Clark.
Sheridan has since become a professor for Mercyhurst University, adding he has incorporated some of the coverage into his teaching, but many of his students are unaware of the events that took place.
“I’ve covered a lot of stories. That was probably the strangest, but it isn’t something I routinely think about,” said Sheridan.
Clark added that to this day he still thinks about the impact this had on the Erie community and the Wells family.
Diehl-Armstrong went on to develop cancer and died at the age of 68 in a state prison.
To this day, the pizza bomber case remains one of the most bizarre cases in the history of American justice. Some of the cases biggest questions are still unanswered and may never be.