Explosive neck collars seem to be a popular device of horror stories, they instil an urgent obedience in the poor characters with them attached to their necks... Sadly, these contraptions and methods are not just an horrific device of fiction. The twisted games of the SAW films, the Fallout: Dead Money story of an elaborate robbery cartographer by a stranger; these events are closer to real life than most would realise.
On August 28th, 2003, what started as an average day, ended in one of the most bizarre criminal acts in history. Mama Mia's Pizzaria in Erie, Pennsylvania, USA got a standard order for two pizzas, to be delivered not far from the building. Filling this order was Brian Douglas Wells’, their pizza delivery man for nearly 30 years. Wells' set off with the pizzas to a featureless building, next to the abandoned WSEE-TV Transmitter tower. Nobody knows what happened next, but an hour later he was stood in a bank 2 miles away, with an improvised shotgun in his hands and an explosive device around his neck.
The unique explosive device was a complex triple-banded collar with a 3-digit combination dial and 4 locks, each lock having a key in a different location. Attached to the collar was a metal box containing pipebombs, controlled by an electrical detonator. Brian was tasked with following a 9 page list of hand written rules, to disarm his explosive collar before it killed him. At 14:20, Brian Wells attempted his first task.
Standing in the PNC Bank with a strange device attached to his body and instructions to get quarter of a million dollars from the bank teller, Brian handed the teller a note and a bag, who then filled the bag with $8,702. Brian realised he was short, but pressed for time he told the bank teller he would return for the rest of the money later. As Brian left in his car, a bank employee rang 911: "We just have been robbed. . . . We have a bank robbery at PNC Bank. The guy just walked out with - I don't know how much cash is in the bag. He had a bomb or something wrapped around his neck."
The police swiftly moved in and arrested Brian Wells, handcuffing him in a nearby car park. Once the police realised the collar housed explosives, they called in bomb squad. Sat on the floor with 20 minutes left to live, Brian pleaded to deaf ears as the bomb squad drove to the location.
"I don't have a lot of time."Sadly with heavy traffic and not much time left, the collar exploded, punching a fatal "post-card" sized hole in Brian's chest. The elaborate event had ended in tragedy.
"It's gonna go off."
"He pulled a key out and started a timer. I heard the thing ticking when he did it."
"Can you at least take these freakin handcuffs off so I can hold this thing up? It's killing my neck."
"I didn't do it."
No one knew what had lead to those events, who had put the device on Wells or even truly why they had done it. The investigation hit a dead end and the whole event remained an enigma. It wasn't until 2008 when the truth came crashing down, leading to the prosecution of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, 58, and Kenneth Barnes, 53. A third conspirator, Floyd Stockton, 60, was granted immunity in exchange for testifying against Marjorie and Kenneth.
It turned out that Brian Wells was in on the scheme. Brian had met Kenneth Barnes through Jessica Hoopsick, one of the prostitutes he visited, then was drawn into an elaborate scheme of robbery and murder.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong's father had left her as the inheritor of his fortunes, unwilling to wait for his death Marjorie decided to speed things up. Her plan was to gain $125,000 to hire a hitman to kill her father, to gain the money to do this she would rob a bank. To rob the bank she would build a complex bomb collar and a homemade shotgun, then attach it to a pizza delivery man and give him a bunch of tasks to disarm it... because you know, that's the shortest way to kill your father.
Sadly for Brian Wells, what he hadn't realised was that the bomb wasn't a fake as he was lead to believe. He was never meant to survive; killing Brian was all part of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong's plan to cut off all loose ends.
The story wasn't over though. After everything had gone wrong, Brian was dead and no money was received, Marjorie became determined not to go to jail for murder... so she hatched another brilliant plan. She went home, deciding the best way to eliminate the possibility of being traced to the crime was to kill off anyone that might talk. She stepped into her house, greeted her boyfriend, then proceeded to hack him to pieces and store the body in her refrigerator. Obviously it wasn't the best plan, as soon she was incarcerated for his murder.
The story didn't exactly end with the same levels of near evil-genius it started with. What had baffled the media and police was simply just the moronic, botched plan of an insane women.