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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  September 28, 2019 12:00am-2:00am PDT

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that is our broadcast for tonight and for me for this week. brian will be back on monday. thank you for being with us and good night from san diego. she has a magnetic quality, dark raven hair, the intense brooding look to her. you're on the edge of your seat because this speaks danger. it was just mayhem. >> it's the story binge watched around the world. the netflix series "evil genius." >> one of the most diabolical cases in criminal history. >> a bank robbery and bomb plot. >> hovrrifying. >> turned deadly mystery. >> the notes say "we are following you". >> it seems like someone playing a game. >> the whole plan was designed for him to die. >> interviews heard here first.
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>> he was murdered. >> i held my silence for 15 years. >> inside the riveting story "dateline's" covers from the start. >> there's a frozen body. it's in the freezer in the garage. >> we have three different deaths. how this rerelated? >> i'm thinking she could be the mastermind of this. evil and death and greed -- it's not a script. it's not make-believe. >> how horrible can you be? may they burn in hell. ♪ what a pretty late summer afternoon it had been along the great lake. august 28th, 2003, a day the people of erie, pennsylvania, will long remember, not for its pleasant breezes but for that spasm of unexpected violence. "dateline" was there.
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>> it all started with a pizza delivery. it ended two hours later in one of the most bizarre crimes police have ever witnessed. >> maybe you remember bits of it. a pizza delivery guy robbing a bank, claiming he had a ticking time bomb locked around his neck. the images are hard to forget and still painful to watch. >> horrific, bizarre. almost like the mother of all, you know, whodunits. >> strange indeed. but on that day we didn't have a clue about all that still lay ahead. a few weeks after the bank heist, this happened. >> there's a frozen body. it's in the freezer in the garage. >> a 911 caller said there was a man dead in a freezer in his garage, and a woman in his living room very much alive. >> who is she to you, sir? >> uh, i helped her do some stuff that i shouldn't have. >> that call was made by a huge guy in bib overalls who looked like an extra from the old show "heehaw." but he was no dumb hay seed.
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>> he was the smartest guy in the room. he'll tell you himself. >> he would become one of the leads, maybe the mastermind in a colorful cast of characters, people on the fringes of society. let's just call them unconventional. >> all the broken toys show up in one story. >> it's amazing. >> at the center of it all was marjorie diehl armstrong. >> she had danger written all over her. >> she did. she has a magnetic quality about her. you know, some people have described it as magnetically revolting. >> amazing part for me is that these people all found each other with the same like-mindedness of evil and death and greed. >> it started on a thursday, 1:30 in the afternoon. an order came in to mama mia's pizzeria. two sausage and pepperoni pies for delivery. driver brian wells scribbled
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down the address. it wasn't a home or even a business. the caller wanted the pizzas delivered to a cluster of tv station antennas and satellite dishes nestled in the woods. deliveryman wells headed out. about an hour after that, another call came in. this one to 911. >> this is an emergency. we have a bank robbery at pnc bank. >> fbi special agent jerry clark was in his office looking forward to a long labor day weekend. >> i was downtown and got notified that there was a bank robbery at 7200 peach street. >> fbi, that's what you guys do. >> that's what i do. i had been to hundreds in my career. so this one sounded different, though. >> security cameras showed just how different. the robber was brian wells, the delivery guy from mama mia's. >> he handed the teller a note saying "this is a bank robbery. i have a bomb, and i need $250,000 in cash." he had something underneath his shirt, but you really couldn't see exactly what it was. >> whatever the device was, it
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was attached around wells' neck with something that looked like a giant handcuff. he was holding a bag in one hand, a cane in the other. at least it looked like a cane. >> demeanor was calm, and that was the sort of bizarre thing for us. sort of swinging the cane and then walking with the money very casually. >> grabs a lollipop which they have on the counter? >> to feel comfortable enough to reach into the basket and pull out a lollipop actually surprised me. >> wells strolled out with a bag of money, but he might not have been so calm if he knew just how fast law enforcement was responding. >> the guy just walked out with a -- i don't know how much cash in a bag. he had a bomb or something. he's sitting in the parking lot of mcdonald's. i'm watching him out my rearview mirror right now. >> state troopers were closing in. >> i got called. there was a bank robbery in progress. >> pennsylvania state police crime unit supervisor lamont king rolled out. jerry clark of the fbi was on his way. so was the erie p.d. bomb squad.
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tv news live vans weren't far behind. the pizza guy-turned bank robber drove out of the mcdonald's parking lot next to the bank but didn't get far. wells was intercepted just up the hill by troopers, only a few hundred yards from the bank itself. >> i had him get out of the vehicle, at which time they noticed the collar around his neck. >> the robber told them he was wearing a bomb. they weren't about to doubt him. >> the troopers took precaution, handcuffed the individual, kneeled him down, and then they proceeded to take cover. >> fbi man jerry clark arrived moments later. >> i came screaming up peach, and i pulled exactly to the end of the lot and thought, oh, man, that's too close. so i immediately reversed, came around, and got into this parking lot. >> and he's talking to the officers? >> he is. >> wells identified himself, said he was a pizza deliveryman.
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sitting on the pavement cross legged and handcuffed, wells seemed more desperate than desperado. he pleaded for a cigarette and help. >> can you at least take these freakin' handcuffs off? >> and then he told his story, his words. some black men had accosted him, locked the fiendish collar around his neck, and activated the bomb. >> he pulled the key out and started a timer. it's gonna go off. >> the conversation's back and forth and went on for quite a while. >> police didn't know what to make of the man with the bomb, but they knew he was dangerous and kept a safe distance. it was a stalemate with no easy way out. wells sat on the pavement for ten minutes, then 20, all the while tick, tick. the bomb squad was getting close, but traffic by now was hopelessly snarled. they'd be there in a few minutes. nobody knew if that would be
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time enough. coming up -- >> it's gonna go off. i'm not lying. >> he's pleading, can you get this thing off me? >> a race against the clock. >> had you ever seen anything like it? >> like that, no. >> and what they would see as the case unfolded would be darker than any of them imagined. >> i just was overwhelmed by this dark feeling. >> everybody was lying and framing me, okay? >> if she's at the center of this, what does this mean? >> when "dateline" continues. kim is now demonstrating her congestion.
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. wicu 12 interrupts this program. >> suspected bank robber who had been cornered by police. >> 46-year-old brian wells started the day as a pizza delivery driver. then he robbed a bank. now he was a ticking time bomb. >> well, maybe if you get the keys, we can undo this thing. >> the device was locked around his neck like a handcuff, but
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wells didn't have a key, and he said the bomb's timer was ticking down. wells was on the ground, hands cuffed hundred his back and surrounded. police were guns drawn. tv news crews getting it all. >> how close can you zoom in with that? >> we're live. >> fbi agent jerry clark was just 20 feet from wells. the man people described as calm when he robbed the bank seemed increasingly anxious. >> he's pleading, can you get this thing off me? >> it's gonna go off. i'm not lying. >> no one dared approach. the standoff lasted 30 excruciating minutes, and then something happened. >> you hear a count down beep almost like a bond movie. >> very faintly, a beep, beep, beep, a digital count down timer. >> lamont king heard the beeping too. he grabbed a pair of binoculars and zoomed in on wells. >> i'm listening to him, and i
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got him pretty much zoomed in. then i hear another beep. once i heard the second beep, he got agitated. >> the standoff had now lasted 31 minutes. the clock hit 3:18. the device locked around brian wells' neck exploded. >> i'll never forget it. mr. wells fell back, and i watched his chest, and the air went out but never came back. and i thought, this is a fatal situation. >> and debris is sailing through the air, huh? >> you could feel the percussion from the device. >> i felt a couple pieces hit right down around here. the basic image that sticks in my mind is his eyes going into the back of his head. then he just went down. >> brian wells died moments after the explosion. the bomb crushed his chest and lacerated his heart. it was a horrifying scene, all of it captured by news cameras. later that night, brian's sister, jean hite, was relaxing
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at home, completely unaware. >> i turned on the news. somebody robbed a bank. and i looked, and i was like, there's my brother, brian. what's he doing there, sitting there? >> sitting on the road. >> sitting on the road. then i said to the kids, does that look like brian, uncle brian? and they said, yeah. >> it seemed impossible, couldn't be true. jean turned to her husband. >> he says, jean, your brother's not a bank robber. i said, i know my brother's not a bank robber, but it looks like brian. >> and as she watched the standoff play out on tv, she saw exactly how he died. >> you'd been watching the last moments of brian's life? >> right. my brothers was sitting there, you know, handcuffs. police officers were pointing guns at him, you know, like he's a criminal. >> what did he need at that moment, jean? >> brian needed assistance. brian needed compassion. brian needed to be heard, but none of that happened. >> maybe what brian needed most was for bomb techs to defuse the
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bomb around his neck. they arrived just two minutes after the explosion. the commander suited up into his bomb gear. >> what did you make of it? >> the collar still remained on his neck, so you could see that, and we couldn't tell whether there was still any explosive devices inside what remained of that collar. >> had you ever seen anything like it? >> not like that, no. really nobody in the united states had seen anything like that. >> that included jerry clark, with 20 years of law enforcement experience under his belt. he was joined at the scene by his fbi supervisor. >> after both of us initially said, oh, my god, i can't believe what we saw. and i said, i got to have this case. and he said, it's yours. let's go. >> from the first moments, every move agent clark made would be under intense scrutiny. >> it was a media frenzy. i mean live satellite dishes, local, national, international news.
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it was a big event. >> one of the people watching the coverage was trey borzorlary. on the day brian wells died, trey was in buffalo, settling his mother's estate. >> i was wrapped up, done, and reached out to some friends. let's all meet, have a drink to say good-bye. >> trey was saying good-bye to his hometown and heading back to his new life in new york city, where he was trying to become a documentary filmmaker. all he needed was a good story. >> what do you think the ingredients are for the kind of thing you want to see and want to make? >> well, you know, it had to be something that was shocking, that really pulled you in. >> while raising a farewell glass with friends, trey noticed the coverage of the bank robbery in erie. >> the newscast came over the tv in the corner of the bar, and i was hooked. it seemed like it had all the pieces right from the start. >> had you found your white whale? >> absolutely. i thought, wow, how desperate
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did that man have to be? >> back in erie, brian wells' big sister, barbara, was also thinking about how desperate her brother looked in his last moments. that fit her belief that brian was a victim. nothing else made sense for the brother she loved. >> brian was a fun person, a quiet person, a humble person. >> brian was one of eight children, an easy-going guy. he liked puzzles and scavenger hunts, watched action movies with his mom. it was a simple life, and it suited him just fine. >> he never wanted to be in the spotlight. if he could even imagine what had happened to him the last several minutes of his life, he'd say, no, no. that's not me. >> younger sister jean says brian's last hour was not spent as a criminal but as a hostage of the real bank robbers, the people who accosted him, locked the collar around his neck, and activated the bomb. >> it was exactly as brian said. >> he delivered pizzas, and these guys strapped this thing on him. >> yes.
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>> jerry clark heard brian wells say that with his own ears. >> i'm not lying. >> it sounded like a declaration of innocence by a man who seemed to know he was about to die. but clark wasn't ruling anything in or out. for him, it was just one piece in an already strange and complicated puzzle. coming up -- could someone have unlocked the bomb in time? a scavenger hunt to find the key. >> each site was to have notes on where to go next. >> and another hunt begins for a suspect. >> they ran up on me like -- just like gangbusters, like i was charles manson or somebody. >> when "dateline" continues. -guys, i want you to meet someone. this is jamie. you're going to be seeing a lot more of him now.
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it was a grotesque scene and maybe still potentially lethal. when the bomb squad gave the all-clear, fbi agent jerry clark headed for brian wells' car, a chevy geo. when you look at the car, i guess that's an important thing, right? >> yes, absolutely. >> the car held one peculiar thing. the cane brian wells twirled inside the bank was there. but it wasn't a simple cane. it was a shotgun that had been fabricated to look like a cane, and it was loaded. clark kept looking. you find the money? >> find the money. >> in the bank, wells demanded $250,000 from the teller.
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the bag found in the car had way less than that. it turned out brian wells lost his life over $8,702. investigators also recovered handwritten notes with detailed, complicated instructions apparently written for wells on how to carry out the robbery. >> the notes involved in this case were voluminous. there were nine total pages of notes. >> the notes referred to welds wells as a hostage and they were peppered with notes like bomb has trip wires. forcing or tampering will detonate. and we are following you. if you delay, disobey or alert anyone, you will die. the collar bomb locked around wells' neck had four keyholes. the notes also included maps and instructions directing wells to a location where he'd find a key and more instructions on where to find another key and then another, until finally he'd be free of the bomb. an illustrated manuscript of
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tre treachery. >> i get the sense there's a scavenger hunt going on, and if he follows the notes in a timely manner, he can go from point a to b to c to d and come up with the holy grail, which is the key to unlock this thing. >> that's basically what it was. this was a scavenger hunt, and each site was to have notes on where to go next and a key to one of the four keyholes that held the device around his neck. >> jerry clark had never seen anything like it. no one had. investigators decided to retrace wells' steps. it looked as though he was following the instructions to the letter. >> jerry, i'm looking over here. i see an urgent care business. but in 2003, that was the bank, huh? >> yes. that was the pnc bank. mr. wells robbed the bank and proceeds down keystone drive here, turns right into where we're standing. >> and this is the start of
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the -- >> makes entry here, does a felony car stop and basically placed mr. wells under arrest right here. >> so is this the standoff, the famous picture we see? >> this is it right here. >> wells' scavenger hunt and his life ended here. less than an hour after the explosion, lamont king of the state police took the notes and followed the rest of the directions exactly as written. >> we went down to the first site on interchange road. he was supposed to find a coffee jar and a couple other things, which we found. you know, everything we found, we bagged for evidence. >> king made all the stops while another trooper timed the trip. it took well over an hour, and that was a crucial point because the bomb's timing device turned out to be a common 60-minute kitchen timer. would you have had enough time to make all of these rounds on
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the scavenger hunt and recover the key and save your life? >> you would have never had the time. so that indicated to us that that device was never meant to come off. plus there were no keys found at any of the sites. >> there never was a key? >> so there never was a key. >> that whole plan was not designed for him to live. it was a very cruel death. very cruel death. >> the thought was chilling. brian wells appeared to be the victim of a diabolical plot, a wrong time, wrong place patsy. a search of his home supported the theory. did you find anyhow to make a bomb things from the internet? >> nothing of the kind. >> but agents did discover a list of names and phone numbers handwritten by wells. they started making calls. a woman on the list had an african-american boyfriend. the fbi tracked him down. >> he had a history of knowing explosives. he was in the military and actually had spent some time working with explosives. >> and your victim is saying, his words, black guys did this
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to me. >> it looked really good. and his girlfriend's name is in mr. wells' handwriting in his apartment. >> the man was known by his initials, j.j. agents found him at work and then went to his home. >> we do a search warrant at his residence. >> how did that go down? >> well, he was upset. >> "dateline" talked to j.j. back in 2003, not long after that search warrant was executed. he was still upset. >> i voluntarily let them search my house the first time, which i did. i had no problem with it. the second time, they ran up on me just like gangbusters, like i was charles manson or somebody. >> the search of j.j.'s home was exhaustive, but it turned up nothing. >> none of the evidence pointed that j.j. had any involvement in this at all. >> so he wasn't going anywhere? he's dropping off your list? >> he's coming off the list. >> an early lead had fizzled. j.j. was clear, but a new suspect, a woman with a macabre history, was about to turn a difficult investigation, an fbi
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major case, into something that looked more like a horror movie than a whodunit. coming up -- another deadly discovery. body number two. >> did not seem coincidental to us. >> and then body number three. >> there's a frozen body. it's in the freezer in the garage. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ (baby laughing) ♪ pampers is here to help every parent love the changes a baby brings. ♪ i wanted more that's why i've got the power of 1 2 3 medicines with trelegy. the only fda-approved 3-in-1 copd treatment. ♪ trelegy. the power of 1-2-3.
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hello. i'm dara brown. here's what's happening. house democrats issued the first subpoena of their impeachment inquiry into president trump. the secretary of state mike pompeo. he was ordered to turn over documents related to that july phone call between trump and the president of ukraine by october 4th. and the cdc says a significant number of the reported cases of severe lung illness from vaping come from e-cigarettes containing the marijuana compound thc. a lab test of bootlegged thc cartridges found contaminants that could produce hydrogen cyanide. now back to "dateline."
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everything about this crime was different. a middle-aged pizza deliveryman with goggly glasses made for an unlikely bank robber. investigators had never seen anything remotely like the scavenger hunt that turned out to be a death march. and weirdest of all was this peculiar bomb with the locking collar. erie p.d. bomb squad commander at the time needed to find clues in the shrapnel from the exploded bomb to understand the bomb maker's skills and mentality. >> the pieces of the device are blown 15, 20 yards around the shopping area. >> the farthest piece was about 300 feet away. so the farthest piece went all the way across the street into the parking lot of another business. most of them scattered within about 60 feet. you need to know where in that scene every single piece landed. that's very important in putting that device back together. >> in trying to preserve the pieces for evidence, there was a
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terrible problem. the handcuff-like metal collar was still locked around brian wells' neck. warnings in the scavenger hunt notes said wells was being watched and labels on the device itself said the bomb was filled with booby traps that could set it off. >> from what was contained in the note, it was very threatening. >> he had seen a lot in his career as the erie county coroner. but when he went to collect wells' body at the crime scene, he was jittery. >> after i read this letter, it was disconcerting in whoever did this was watching, keeping an eye on the scene, and they would harm anybody who they observed doing something they didn't agree with. i was scared. >> you don't want to be collateral damage. >> i do not. >> the coroner asked the bomb experts if it would be safe to move the body. would maybe a secondary booby trap device explode? ominous wires were still threaded through the collar.
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tom stan kay vich, the bomb squad commander, had examined it carefully, even x-rayed it. he said it was safe, probably. >> it's hard to hide things from an x ray machine, and we thoroughly x-rayed that device. but i still can't -- i'm not inside of it. i can't see inside of it with my own eyes. >> and i was scared when we took mr. wells to the coroner's office because we -- it was just myself and our livery driver, and we were unprotected. it was just the two of us. >> don't hit me potholes. >> no, exactly. yeah. >> the collar was still potentially dangerous, and it was also important evidence. so the question was how to remove it safely and still keep it intact. there was no easy answer. commander stan kay vich wasn't making any guarantees. >> he was 90%, 95% sure that we could drill through the back of it and take it off without it exploding. >> that's a very poor result if you're on the 10% side of it. >> yeah. and so i needed 100%.
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>> so what was the decision that was made? >> we decided to do, i guess, for lack of a better description, a surgical decapitation so we could get the collar off safely and intact. >> so you took the victim's head off? >> yes. it was one of the hardest decisions i've ever had to make both professionally and personally. >> after completing that grim procedure, coroner tieman met with brian wells' family and told them about it. they felt brian was being victimized again, even in death. how painful was that for you? >> that was very painful. i think it was most painful for my mom because, like, she wanted to have an open casket. they were more concerned with the integrity of the collar than they were of his person. >> pain on pain on pain on pain, jean, huh? >> he was decapitated like john the baptist. >> with the pieces of the device recovered, tom stan kay vich was able to go into his shop and
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craft an exact replica of the bomb, 340 parts in all. it is a frightening model. can i lift this thing up? >> sure. >> how much does it weigh? oh, man. >> it's 15 pounds. >> this is heavy. i can't imagine this around your neck. so open up the inside, tom. take me through what the components are here. >> yeah, so on the inside you've got a lot of wires. you've got a standard device. pipe bombs, mechanical timers. >> pipe bombs are over here. >> and mechanical timers that are the device. then you have the distractions that are laid in there. >> the device was filled with things that were meant to confuse. this cell phone is a toy connected to nothing. and some of the warning labels were phony, but it was lethal with compressed black powder sifted from shotgun shells. the model was built to the exact specifications of the original, down to the make and model of the household items used. this digital timer was designed to sound a warning beep beep in
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the seconds before the bomb exploded. >> that's what you're hearing right there. >> the bomb was the work of someone with machine shop skills and clearly a devious mind. the original bomb parts were sent to the fbi lab in quantico, virginia. the scavenger hunt notes, meanwhile, were delivered to fbi behavioral profilers. think the hannibal lecter unit. >> you bring your case, and you talk and discuss your case with the profilers. and together you come up with a profile. >> agent jerry clark was hoping a psychological profile would help crack a tough case. but just three days after brian wells died, there was a strange and alarming development. get this. robert pa nettie, another deliveryman and mamma mia's pizzeria, was found dead inside his house. the coroner ruled it an overdose. >> whether it's accidental or not at the time, we're not sure. but we know it was a combination of drugs that were lethal. the fact that two pizza delivery
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drivers from the same shop are deceased within three days did not seem coincidental to us. >> then incredibly, another body was discovered, this one inside a house just a few hundred yards from where brian wells was supposed to make his last delivery. >> there's a frozen body. it's in the freezer in the garage. >> that was one of those moments where i'm sure the 911 caller said, can you repeat that and do it slowly? >> coming up, a body wrapped in the freezer and a woman wrapped in mystery. >> she's had many men in her life fall victim to bizarre deaths. she is the epitome of a black widow. >> when "dateline" continues. lye a safe sleep aid and the 12-hour pain-relieving strength of aleve. that dares to last into the morning. so you feel refreshed. aleve pm. there's a better choice.
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september 21st, 2003. jerry clark was leading the fbi's investigation of the pizza bombing case when the local erie police got a bizarre call. >> wow, another one of these this can't get any crazier moments. >> the 911 call came from a big guy in bib overalls, who was driving the streets of erie. calling from his van, he decided it was time to share a secret with the police. >> at 8645 peach street, in the garage, there is a frozen body. it's in the freezer in the
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garage. there is a woman there that you might want to pick up and question. >> how do you know that, sir? >> i'm the guy who lives there. >> what is her name? >> marjorie diehl. >> what is your name, sir? >> bill rothstein. >> bill rothstein, it turned out, was a 59-year-old lifelong erie, pennsylvania, resident, who was telling a 911 operator he would turn himself in, but only after marjorie was apprehended. >> okay. and marjorie diehl is at that residence now? >> yes. >> who is she to you, sir? >> uh, i helped her do some stuff that i shouldn't do, but i never killed anybody. so i just want that known. i'll straighten -- i'll give you guys my story later on. >> trooper lamont king, who had witnessed brian wells' death in the parking lot, was now dispatched to find that freezer in the rothstein home. >> when you arrived at
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rothstein's house, went inside the house, heard somebody in the back room. marjorie was sitting on the bed, and she had started ranting and raving. >> as trooper king left other officers to guard her, he made his way to the home's garage. rothstein was a hoarder, and the place was a stye. >> it's a real long garage, and it's cluttered on both sides. there's just nothing but clutter. i don't see a freezer. but what i did see was a plastic tarp coming from the ceiling all the way down to the floor. and when i got to the tarp, i pulled it, and there was the freezer. and at that time i opened the freezer and saw the body in there wrapped like a side of beef, at which time i closed the freezer and had everybody leave the garage and declared it a crime scene. >> the trooper went back inside the house to find marjorie. >> i just placed my hand on her shoulder, and i told her, i'm placing you under arrest.
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>> so step back a second. in the span of less than a month, there were three bizarre incidents that baffled the people and authorities of erie, pa. first was the pizza bombing death, then the sudden death of the second pizza deliveryman, and now there was an unexplained frozen body. marjorie diehl-armstrong told police she had nothing to do with the body in the freezer and didn't have much else to say. bill rothstein, on the other hand, was ready to talk, and what he had to say would make headlines. >> this is one of the biggest but clearly the strangest story i ever covered in all the years i've been in erie. >> paul wagner of nbc affiliate wicu tv has covered local erie news since 1979. >> he was a very smart man. he spoke a couple foreign languages, and he said he had a mensa level iq. you taught drafting. he was a substitute teacher in the erie schools. >> rothstein taught classes including industrial arts and
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sciences. he'd advised the high school robotics team. he's come from a prominent family. his parents were known as the bottlers of a local soda pop,. o now he was in a police interrogation room where he agreed to a videotaped interview. rothstein seemed calm and collected. his attorney was also there. >> when bill was asked to sign his waiver of his miranda rights, there was a misspelling in there. >> there should be a "d" after that word. >> it was like a chess game to him. he liked to let them know he was as smart as they were, and i think he enjoyed it. >> how long have you known marjorie armstrong? >> i've known her roughly 30, 35 years. >> okay. and briefly what was your relationship with her? >> we went together, i think, and then we got engaged like the first year. >> they never married, but she and bill rothstein remained
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friends in a complicated relationship. a romance that was just a small part of marjorie diehl-armstrong's long and troubled history. do you want to take a track, trey, at explaining who marjorie is? >> marjorie diehl-armstrong, she is a very famous -- or i should say infamous resident of erie, pennsylvania. >> trey borzillieri, the would-be documentarian had come to erie after the frozen body was found, trying to find out everything he could about two very strange crimes and two unique individuals, bill rothstein and marjorie diehl-armstrong. what he was discovering about marjorie was troubling to say the least. some publications, you might find the epithet black widow next to her name. >> she is the epitome of a black widow. she's had many men in her life fall victim to bizarre deaths by her hand and also by odd
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circumstances. >> it was a much different story when marjorie was younger. a near straight-a student in high school, she seemed destined for a bright future. >> marjorie diehl-armstrong was a very, very bright young lady. she's got a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, looked like she was on the road to a very successful life. >> it turned out marjorie's latest boyfriend was the body stuffed in the freezer. rothstein was telling police that marjorie shot that boyfriend after an argument in her house, and then he took the body and stored it in his garage freezer. >> i said, how the hell did you kill him? where did you shoot him from? she said she shot him from the -- foot of the bed is here, and she shot him like this side, this direction. >> and in this case, the phrase "dead men tell no tales" wasn't necessarily true, especially when that dead man is found in a freezer that just happens to be
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next door to that tv tower where brian wells made his last pizza delivery. coming up -- >> this is where i cut up the rifle. >> a lesson in how to hide a murder weapon. takes all the investigators out to the house and does a show and tell on camera. >> he was the instructor. >> and a clue from out of the blue. >> he brings up the pizza bomber case. >> i knew that somehow these were related. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ thousands of women with metastatic breast cancer are living in the moment and taking ibrance. ibrance with an aromatase inhibitor is for postmenopausal women or for men with hr+/her2- breast cancer
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a frozen body had been found in an erie, pennsylvania, garage. it led the local coroner's office to hold a grim news conference. >> we are not able to proceed with an autopsy, which will be in at least another day or two after the person has had an
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opportunity to thaw out. he is frozen solid at this time. >> erie's deputy coroner back then had the most unenviable job in northwestern pennsylvania again. >> we tried to remove him from the freezer, and we couldn't because he was frozen to the side and bottom of the freezer. >> so you couldn't pull the body out of the freezer? >> well, we wanted to preserve evidence too. so we moved the entire freezer from the home. >> meanwhile back in a police interview room, bill rothstein, the man in the overalls, was telling the cops how he'd become a ghoul on behalf of his friend, marjorie diehl-armstrong, who he said in fact had shot to death the man jackknifed into the freezer. >> she had a body in her house that she wanted removed. i helped her with it. i put it basically in my garage, and at that -- and that saturday she wanted it completely
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destroyed. >> not only was he willing to sit down and talk to detectives -- >> she's shoes were the sneakers were the one i used when i put the body in the freezer. >> -- he was eager to be a crime scene tour guide as well. he takes all the investigators out to the house and does a show and tell on camera on how he's moving the body out, huh? >> he sure does. he's walking people through, and he was the instructor. >> rothstein, the former substitute teacher, was all but in charge of the gaggle of cops in his wake. he confidently did a walk-through at both crime scenes, marjorie's house where she'd allegedly shot her boyfriend, and his house where he later stored the body in his freezer. >> this is where i cut up the rifle, the metal portion of the rifle. >> in his kitchen, he explained how he destroyed the gun used in the killing. >> i brought in the acetylene torch in here, and i used the acetylene torch to reduce it to
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slag. >> rothstein said he gathered up the metal gun parts and scattered them all over erie in hopes that investigators never would find them. and they never did. back in his garage, rothstein shared grisly details on how he and marjorie originally planned to chop up the frozen body. >> the grinder, i see a box there for it and the grinder is here. >> then the story was -- >> they had come up with a plan to dispose of mr. rhoden's body, and their goal was to use a chainsaw, cut up his body after it was frozen, and then put it in the ice chipper to get rid of the pieces throughout the county. >> where does this kind of thinking come from? >> that's about as diabolical and maniacal as you can get, i think. >> rothstein's how to cover up a murder continued. cleanup chores. >> now, the steps, i replaced most of the steps, partially
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because they had blood on them. >> then he told investigators about some razor blades left in a bag. he told them he had attempted to take his own life. >> stupid attempt at suicide. you guys got my note? somebody -- nobody got the note? >> they had discovered his suicide note. rothstein changed his mind obviously, but investigators found the note intriguing. point number one was, this has nothing to do with the wells case, meaning brian wells, the man who died from the collar bomb. why in the world did he have the so-called pizza bombing on his mind as he's supposed to be contemplating suicide? >> why did you think to ask or put in there about it wasn't related to wells? >> so you wouldn't go off hog wild saying, oh, this has to do with the wells [ bleep ] and there would be more [ bleep ] in the newspaper and everything else. i wanted you guys to know so you don't have to waste your time
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trying to figure out is this part of the wells situation or not? >> rothstein's attorney also wondered about the -- >> typical bill, he brings up out of the blue the pizza bomber case, and it was almost like he was drawing attention to himself because he wanted to. >> if that weren't enough to make investigators suspicious, there was something else that began to draw attention to rothstein like a neon sign -- the location of the crime. the frozen body was found in rothstein's garage located here, right up a gravel road a couple of hundred yards away was the tv tower site where investigators knew brian wells made his last pizza delivery. it wasn't a home or a business but a dirt parking lot. it was too strange of a coincidence. because of that, fbi agent clark became convinced the cases were related and was determined to learn how rothstein may have been involved with the pizza bombing. so his next move was to talk with rothstein. >> i interviewed him, and i knew
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that somehow these were related. and i just felt it from the minute i sat with him. >> what did he tell you? >> he looked at me and he said, well, i'll talk to you, but i need to tell you that i'm the smartest guy in this room. and i looked around, and i said, well, my wife tells me that every night. let's get started. >> but rothstein gave up nothing. so while he was still facing charges in the frozen body case, without other evidence, he was in the clear on the pizza bombing investigation. months passed. then the fbi's behavioral analysis unit came back with a preliminary profile on the unknown bomb maker, detailing his most likely traits. >> that he'd be a manipulator, that he'd be really good with his hands, that he probably had a workshop, that he probably did some teaching or instruction in the past. everything that was in there fit perfectly to bill rothstein.
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>> coming up, the investigation pivots to marjorie and the many men in her life. >> she decides to buy a gun and she kills him. >> the many dead men. >> she's as complex and interesting as anybody you'll ever meet. >> when "dateline" continues. great news! the no added hormones in land o' frost premium sliced meats have moms buying in. in bulk. boom! what a beefsteak. gotta love it. land o' frost premium. a slice above.
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♪ there has been a strange string of deaths in erie, pennsylvania. >> god, i can't believe what we saw. >> first pizza delivery man, brian wells, a bomb locked around his neck. >> he's pleading can you get this thing around me. >> whoever did this was watching. i was scared. >> then another delivery man dropped dead and later -- >> there is a frozen body. >> -- a body in a freezer. >> wow, another one of these. this can't get any crazier moments. >> was there a link to it all? the darkest secrets are still to
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come. >> she manipulated everybody around her. >> without a doubt i knew she would kill again. >> i was like, oh, my god, was this possible? ♪ >> the fbi had put together a profile of the unknown bomb maker who constructed the device placed on brian wells and agents believed that profile matched bill rothstein to a t. rothstein, a former high school shop teacher, was smart and sly, with a garage full of metalworking tools at his disposal. the big guy in the bib overalls was now a prime suspect in the pizza bombing case, yet investigators had no physical evidence tying him to the crime. bill rothstein was out on bond accused only of the minorest charge of abusing a corpse, the one found in his home freezer. he seemed to be relishing his
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moment in the spotlight, responding to a reporter's question in french. rough translation, too bad. but when would be documentary filmmaker went to rothstein's house he wouldn't talk to him in any language. >> the garage is open, this is where the frozen body was held, and classical music is blasting out of there. so instantly it's jarring, and i look at him and i say, listen, i'm making a documentary on the brian wells case and i know it's affected your life and i'd like to hear your side of the story. he turned to me and he said no. >> what were the hairs on the back of your neck telling you? >> they were telling me to get out of there. >> this guy is creepy? >> absolutely. >> and fbi agent clark's instincts were telling him that rothstein constructed the collar bomb, but clark didn't have evidence to connect him to the pizza case.
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then in july 2004, less than a year after the bombing, clark got some unwelcomed news, his prime suspect was dying on him. >> i see bill in the hospital bed and i said, he looks much more sick than they're telling me so i may have one crack at this. >> rothstein had terminal cancer. the fbi man crossed his fingers for a death bed confession. >> i said, bill, don't take this with you. you've got to tell me, are these cases related? and he lifted his arm out of the bed and he spelled out no and four days later he is deceased. >> bill rothstein was 60 and whatever involvement, if any, he had with the pizza bombing case he took to his grave without saying a word. with rothstein dead, character's attention turned to marjorie diehl-armstrong who it turned out knew her way around sudden deaths. >> who is this person?
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you can use as many words and as many minutes to describe her because it takes that long. >> she is as complex and interesting as any person you will ever meet in your life. >> there are people who have a past and then there is marjorie diehl-armstrong. >> marjorie had a tremendous magnetism. we were just drawn to each other. >> in the 1960s susan and marjorie were students together at erie's academy high school. >> she just walked up to me and said hello and i had the funniest feeling that i had met somebody that was going to be with me as a friend for a long time. >> susan also knew big bill rothstein who she says was in and out of marjorie's life for decades. >> i think the first person she dated seriously was bill rothstein and he worshipped her. that's heady stuff. i said what was the attraction and she said there was intellectual compatibility, i really liked that about him because he was so smart. >> but susan says marjorie started acting strangely,
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eventually turning to astrology to help guide her life. >> she drew up her astrological charts herself, she looked at the charts and they did not serve her well for the most part. there is a pattern which i saw only years later because the people she was associating with got sketchier and sketchier. >> things got worse. marjorie became erratic, a stream of consciousness talker, profane, mental illness began to take over. >> she suffered from bipolar disorder, other mental illnesses and her life spiraled down. >> down and finally out of control. back in 1984 marjorie was 35 when she killed a man for the first time. >> bob thomas was a man that she met, she was in an abusive relationship with him, she decides to buy a gun and she kills him. she shoots him six times with a .38 special. >> she was charged with murder. her attorney realized just how
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difficult a defense case he had. >> after the shooting she went out with a bag filled of $18,000 in cash and was soliciting individuals to help her with a chain saw cut up the body and bury it. >> you're kidding. >> which started the whole thing going. >> part of ambrose's defense consisted of having marjorie committed three times while she awaited trial. to illustrate how truly ill she was ambrose pointed to authorities to what he found in her house. marjorie was a hoarder in the extreme. >> she had 400 pounds of cheese in the attic, she had hundreds of dozens of eggs in the freezers. i mean, who would put 400 pounds of cheese in your attic in july. she just was really, really disturbed and she was never going to get better. >> but the courts ultimately declared her competent to stand trial. ambrose produced witnesses who testified that the boyfriend had physically abused marjorie in public. the lawyer made his case so
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compelling that the jury found her not guilty. >> i thank god and i thank the jury and everybody that has always believed in helping me get through this. >> marjorie eventually met another man, richard armstrong, and married him. his life came to an unfortunate end, too. >> he fell and hit his head on a coffee table. she took him into the emergency room, he was seen, he claimed that they thought he had the flu or something like that, and he was okay to go home. she went to get the car to take him home and he collapsed on the floor and died. >> police investigated the death and cleared marjorie. marjorie then sued the hospital for malpractice. >> he died and she won a large settlement. >> so when marjorie deal armstrong's name flashes on the 11:00 news people with pretty good memories in erie recognize that, right? >> marjorie is back. so when her name came up as related to the death of james
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rhoden, there was not a surprised person in town. >> rhoden, her third dead partner, was the one shot and frozen. but once again marjorie was institutionalized because of her mental illness and agent clark was prohibited from talking with her. but that was about to change. g h her. but that was about to change >> coming up, marjorie points the finger at someone new. >> i've never killed a person in my life and never would. hell, i hate to kill bugs. >> and a dangerous close encounter. >> i pulled my gun out and i was very close to squeezing off a round. >> when "dateline" continues. e"s
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♪ january 2005 and the new year would bring big news. marjorie diehl-armstrong was,
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again, found competent to stand trial, but this time instead of fighting the murder charges in court she pleaded guilty in the shooting death of jim roden. >> she is going down for the death of roden, the boyfriend in the freezer. >> right. >> she has pleaded guilty. >> she has pleaded guilty and sentenced to 7 to 20 years for that death. >> it was big news for trey, too. with the frozen body case finally resolved he thought the timing was right to try to make contact with marjorie so he wrote her. >> with rothstein dead i felt i had no where else to turn but her for information. >> she becomes your pen pal. >> she does. it was last resort for information. >> clark was more direct. he went to visit marjorie in prison. >> i'm here to talk to you about the brian wells case. she said i'm not telling you anything about that case unless you move me closer to erie. >> so it's let's make a deal. >> let's make a deal. it's manipulation marge.
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>> marjorie didn't like the prison she was in which was four hours away from erie and wanted to be moved. clark agreed to try to get her transferred. >> you do me a favor, i will talk to you, but going out the door she said, you better check out a guy named ken barnes. >> did you put more weight on that? did you flesh that out? >> absolutely. >> ken barnes a new name. clark had no idea how he might fit into his investigation, but he did know of barnes. >> as soon as we heard the name, investigators, state police definitely knew, erie police definitely knew. ken barnes was a crack dealer in town. >> marjorie and ken barnes it turned out had been friends for many years, they were fishing buds at a local pier. clark started tailing barnes. >> you go after him? >> we did. and there were several times where we would have to sort of track ken down and say, hey, ken, get in the car, let's chat. >> but that's all it was, a chat. barnes gave him nothing so clark
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did a deep dive on the guy's contact with the authorities and, ta da, there it was a video. >> kenneth eugene barnes. >> a police interrogation of ken barnes had been conducted by the erie police almost two years before, at the time they were investigating the frozen body case. >> marjorie diehl, you've known her how long? >> almost nine years, yeah. >> barnes had a grand slam revelation and it concerned marjorie. he told investigators she was obsessed with her inheritance. her wealthy mother had already died and she was upset her dad was squandering money she felt should go to her. >> there was a lot more money in the estate that was supposed to be willed to her when he dies and she said that he is a recovering alcoholic and that he had been giving sums of $100,000 donated to the church and giving it away to all his friends and is it you have. >> hundreds of thousands of dollars? >> yeah, and she said that he's giving away her inheritance and
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she was to damn obsessed with it. >> so obsessed that marjorie asked barnes to kill her father so she could get his money. he told the cops he had no intention of bumping off her dad but acted along. >> i'm 49 years old, i have never killed a person in my life and never would. hell, i hate to kill bugs. i can't -- i don't like to kill bugs, you know. hell, i cry when people shoot deers, you know. >> and what was his fee for the hit. >> i said, marjorie, i said, that would cost you. she said how much? i said a quarter of a million. >> $250,000. interesting. that was the same amount of money demanded on the bank robbery note. now, finally armed with that two-year-old information clark decided it was time to put a bigger squeeze on ken barnes to clark and another agent picked him up and put him in their car. >> he got in the front seat and the special agent was driving and i was right directly behind ken. while we're driving down to our
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office to have a chat, ken reaches in his pocket and pulls out a knife. >> clark had to make a split-second decision does he shoot barnes to save his partner. >> i will never forget i pulled my fun out and put it to the back of the seat and i was very close to squeezing off a round right through the seat. >> instead he got barnes to hand over the knife. with everyone taking a deep breath barnes got out of the car still insisting he knew nothing about the pizza bombing case, but there was someone else who was eager to talk to investigators. >> coming up -- >> this is amazing because marjorie has never talked about these things to anybody. >> a pizza bombing bombshell straight from marjorie's mouth. >> marge is like it's not like we didn't measure his neck for the collar. >> when "dateline" continues. e >> when "dateline" continues oh wow! [ sniffing ] never smelled lavender this fresh before.
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hello. here is what's happening. secretary of state mike pompeo has been subpoenaed by three house committees. pompeo was ordered friday to turn over documents related to the president's july phone call with ukraine that is at the center of the house impeachment inquiry. prince harry visited a demining sight in angela friday, tracing the footsteps of his late mother who launched a campaign to bring attention to the issue of land mines 22 years earlier. that's what's happening. now back to "dateline." w back t. ♪ go back in time a little before pleading guilty in the frozen body case, marjorie diehl-armstrong sat in the erie county prison trying to figure out how to get away with that murder. she didn't like talking to cops, but she had no problem sharing with inmates.
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>> i met marjorie in the erie county prison, she was brought in september 21st of 2003. >> kelly was in the prison for assault and gun charges, but before that she trained at a police academy. she knew cops, how they thought, what questions they asked. marjorie thought kelly had expertise that could help her in her upcoming trial. >> marge became my best friend. my mom also came to visit marge, that's how close we were. when i first met her she was sitting there at the table all by herself. i felt very, very, very sorry for her. >> like the new kid in school. >> yes. everybody was staying away from her. i offered her a cup of coffee. little did i know how important that "up" can of coffee would be. >> cement your friendship. >> yes, it did. >> sitting side-by-side kelly kept scrupulous notes for what she said was thousands of hours of conversations with marjorie, often telling the chatter box to slow down. marnl ri thought she was talking
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to someone who would help her beat the rap for killing her boyfriend, but kelly would also try to use their conversations to steer her new friend to talk about a different case, the pizza bombing. >> we talked of her past relationships, the murder of roden, of course, and then slowly into the pizza bomber. >> how does that subject get introduced, the brian wells pizza case? >> through rothstein. >> bill rothstein, marjorie's one time fiancée who turned her in for killing roden and hid the body in his freezer. >> what did she tell you about rothstein? >> that he built the bomb, it was his toy. >> and there it was, the first time anyone said what investigators suspected. bill rothstein was in on the pizza bombing and now marjorie began to describe a wider plot that seemed to involve every lost soul who had come into her orbit. >> who are the players in this thing?
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rothstein, who else? >> ken barnes, floyd stockton, james roden, pinetti and of course brian wells. >> these are just names to you. >> i have no clue. >> you don't know who these players are? >> none. >> but kelly did know one of the names, brian wells, the pizza delivery man who had been blown up and kelly said marjorie told her that wells was no innocent victim, but rather part of the conspiracy. that is, if you can believe a snitch. as for the others ken barnes of course, was the crack dealer who was marjorie's fishing body. floyd stockton was rothstein's old friend and was living in rothstein's house at the time of the bombing. marjorie said jim roden her boyfriend was in on the plot, too, but she killed him when he got cold feet and ended up ironically in a freezer. >> he was going to turn her in and he didn't want to be the get away driver, he didn't want any part of it. he wanted out. >> and that's marjorie telling you that. >> yes. >> so roden is dead because --
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>> yes. >> -- he didn't want to be in this thing. >> without a doubt. without a doubt. >> and then there was the other pizza delivery guy, robert pinetti. >> pinetti you may recall was found dead of a drug overdose before the cops could question him about the bank robbery. >> what about pinetti's death, was that a natural overdose? >> no, she said that they gave him an overdose. yeah, they killed him so he wouldn't talk. >> the bodies pile up like firewood in this thing, kelly. >> somebody joked with me once that i was safe because she only killed men. >> and the motive for the plot, marjorie told kelly she needed $250,000 from the bank to pay ken barnes who would then kill her father so she could get her inheritance. rothstein got involved, said marjorie, because he knew he was dying and wanted to go out with a wang. >> so rothstein and marjorie put it together? >> yes. >> this is amazing because marjorie has never talked about these things to anybody.
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>> i know. >> and you are taking the notes. >> yeah. there was one moment when i was taking the notes and marge was like, it's not like we didn't measure his neck for the -- for the bomb, for the collar, and we did so in rothstein's kitchen. >> you knew exactly what she meant? >> yes. yes. >> which law enforcement would love to have that quote, maybe the most important words from their point of view that you never wrote down. >> yeah. >> because that connected marjorie to the case they could never make. >> yes. >> putting the brian wells case on her. >> when i realized everything she was telling me was the honest to god's truth i had to turn it over. i knew she would get out and kill again without a doubt. >> with her attorney kelly handed the notes over to the prosecutor in the roden case, but inexplicably the explosive notes weren't turned over to investigators in the pizza bombing case for two years. >> i put everything together and wrapped it up in a nice little bow and the fbi, why it wasn't
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turned over to the fbi is beyond me. >> when fbi agent jerry clark finally got the notes he thought they confirmed much of what he long suspected, but they were the notes of a prison snitch, of limited value unless they were corroborated. clark knew just who to go to for that. >> coming up, a new witness with something to reveal. >> that solidifies any question. it doesn't get any more important than that. >> when "dateline" continues. t. >> when "dateline" continues you wouldn't accept an incomplete job from anyone else. why accept it from your allergy pills? flonase sensimist. nothing stronger. nothing gentler. nothing lasts longer. flonase sensimist. 24 hour non-drowsy allergy relief
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♪ august 2005, two years after the pizza bombing fbi agent jerry clark had jailhouse notes implicating marjorie, but it wasn't enough. he needed a corroborating witness. then a break. ken barnes was arrested on drug charges, now he had nowhere to
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hide, so clark turned up the pressure. and when he told barnes he had information that he was in on the plot, barnes caved, and he began to tell a story that would break the case wide open. >> he just decided, do you know what, i'm going to tell the truth. >> barnes admitted he was part of the crazy conspiracy that led to the killing of brian wells the pizza delivery man, a fact he laid out in all its sorted detail. >> he relived the whole thing from the minute he was picked up that day by marjorie diehl-armstrong to every location that they went through and what his role was, what everybody else's role was, and how the whole thing was to go down. >> barnes said floyd stockton was also part of the conspiracy. stockton, remember, was rothstein's old friend who once lived in his house. when stockton found out he had been ratted out, he decided to talk, too, but only in exchange for immunity, a deal barnes never asked for.
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>> so independently they were saying the same things and then the inmate witnesses that were being talked to by marjorie diehl-armstrong, their information independently corroborated. so everything started to come together. >> after years of frustration and struggle to solve the pizza bombing, clark was putting all the bizarre pieces of this deadly scheme together and he finally knew where the call that set it all in motion came from and who made it. >> here is the shell station on the right-hand side, august 28, 2003, 1:30 a phone call goes to the pizza shop ordering two pizzas and it comes from that pay phone that's in the parking lot that's no longer there. >> and that sets everything in motion? >> and that sets everything in motion. >> a new witness, a ups driver, came forward to say he saw two people making the call. >> ordering the pizzas and sees bill rothstein and marjorie diehl-armstrong at the pay phone. to me it doesn't get any more
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important than that. that solidifies any question on who made the call. >> sometime before 2:00 p.m. brian wells left mama mia's pizza and 15 minutes later drove down this long deserted road to a clearing near this tv tower. clark now knew that waiting for wells were all the conspirators, marjorie, rothstein, barnes, stockton and the second pizza delivery man, robert pinetti. >> so here comes wells with the pizzas. >> right. >> where is rothstein? >> his van is parked here, back door open, towel on the back of the van with the device sitting right on it. >> wells started the device and started to run. >> he's starting to move this direction, as he's trying to get away that's when bill rothstein fires a shot in the air, the single shot. >> and you know that there was a shot fired from his weapon. >> from the weapon that we recovered, and he got to about right here and that's when mr. barnes tackles and punches mr.
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wells and says, you're going to cooperate. >> when is the device armed? is it right here? >> it's right here. pulled the key out, started the timer. >> tick, tick, tick. >> 57 minutes to live from there. >> according to barnes and stockton's accounts, the conspirators followed wells as it all went down. at the bank marjorie and barnes were in a car across the street. >> and they had bcould look dows alley to the bank to see what happened. >> and rothstein was hovering in his van ready to collect the money, but the transfer never happened once wells got caught. >> so they are off his script right from the get-go. >> right from the get-go this thing went totally sideways. >> the scavenger hunt turned out to be a deadly hoax, there was no key waiting for wells at the last stop even if he got there. on the ground handcuffed wells stuck with the script telling cops three african-american men put the bomb around his neck. >> is he said i'm in the jam of
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my lifetime, you guys have got to help me it might have played out differently. >> it would have been done that day. he could have said it's bill rothste rothstein, marjorie diehl-armstrong, ken barnes. >> none of that came out. >> one of in a came out that day. >> marjorie diehl and kenneth barnes and unindicted co-conspirators -- >> in july 2007 the u.s. attorney announced indictments against marjorie diehl-armstrong and ken barnes for armed bank robbery and using a destructive device. also name two unindicted co-con spear stores both dead, bill rothstein and brian wells, the pizza delivery man. the wells family was outraged, liar they shouted from the back of the room. barbara white is brian wells' sister. >> it's through his own ms. adventure he brings about his death because he's in on it, that's what they're saying. >>est that not true. absolutely not true. >> i do know my brother is an
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innocent person. >> brian's other sister. >> my brother had no motive, my brother had no mindset to do that. my brother was not involved. >> but wells was involved with prostitutes and investigators discovered that one of them, a woman named jessica hoopsick was key. wells drove her to get groceries and took her mom to the doctor. hoopsick also knew ken barnes and one day she heard barnes say he needed a guy to rob the bank so hoopsick produced him to wells and barnes later told clark wells was with him at the planning meeting a day before the robbery. >> he died, he is a victim. i feel like he is a victim. he really didn't believe it was real. that's why he's cavalier in the bank. that's why he's walking, that's why he gets the lollipop, he doesn't think it's real and i feel horrible for the family,
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but if you look really at the evidence and the fact that those prostitutes are in his notebook, in his handwriting, and that he knew them and that they introduced him to these other people, it's really undeniable according to the evidence. >> there is plenty of evidence that says brian is an unwilling participant. >> and you would cite what, jean, when you say that? >> i would cite if you're a willing participant and supposedly you were there the day before then there's no reason when you came a pizza order to write down directions of where you're going because you know where you're going because you've been there the day before. >> >> and he did that. >> and brian did that. so that's number one. and number two, he was lured into a wooded area by criminals and they forced this live bomb on him and shoved notes on him. >> said here you go. >> and if you don't do exactly what we say, boom.
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>> ken barnes pleaded guilty to using a destructive device during a crime of violence and to conspiracy to commit bank robbery. he was sentenced to 45 years. he agreed to be the star witness against marjorie diehl-armstrong who pleaded not guilty. it would be one of erie pa's most sensational trials. but with a long history of killing men, marjorie's conviction would hardly be a slam dunk. >> coming up -- >> there could be other people, other co-conspirators out and about that she could send my way. >> master manipulator, maybe, but mastermind -- >> everybody was lying. okay? >> marjorie tells her story. would a jury believe her again? >> oh, my god, if he's acquitted i think the sun and the moon are going to reverse positions. i'm like, is this possible? >> when "dateline" continues. els these are real people,
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♪ marjorie diehl-armstrong,
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erie's resident black widow and master manipulator was going on trial for the infamous pizza bombing. as her trial approached marjorie began to call filmmaker trey from prison. schts he could trey measured her for details. >> necessity is the mother of invention. i needed information to get to, you know, get to deeper truths in this case and she clearly seemed like the last resort for me. >> hello, trey. i've got some interesting news for you. >> in dozens of recorded calls marjorie spewed out her version of the truth and relentlessly attacked ken barnes, the prosecution's star witness in her upcoming trial. >> ken barnes is a pathological liar and i said this from day one. you know, i may lie a little at this time bit to protect myself because everybody was lying and framing me, okay, but i'm not a pathological liar. >> marjorie insisted she had nothing to do with the pizza
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bombing. bombastic as ever, she told the filmmaker it was she who solved the case by pointing authorities to rothstein and barnes. >> for somebody like me who is not a drug addict or alcoholic or who are re or anybody else. want to embarrass these people, show what greed will do but it was not me who was the one. >> as frightening and fascinating a killer as she appeared to be, trey wasn't -- >> i was overwhelmed by this dark feeling of, oh, my god, what am i doing? honestly if she's at the center of this, what does this mean? there could be other co-conspirators out and about if she could send my way if i was sniffing my nose in a direction she didn't like. >> because she had danger written all over her? >> she did. she did, for sure. >> is there anything you'd like to say, marjorie? >> i'm innocent.
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>> now it would be up to a jury finally to sort it all out and in the fall of 2010 marjorie wept on trial. >> they say you are the mastermind of the collar bombing. what do you say? >> absolutely not. >> in his opening statement the prosecutor put marjorie at the center of the conspiracy to rob the bank and place a live bomb around brian wells' in he can. >> where were you the day that brian wells was killed? >> i certainly wasn't doing anything connected with the crime. >> a trusted scheme the prosecutor called it, a group of dysfunctional highly intelligent individuals completely outsmarted themselves. local reporter paul wagner covered the trial. >> if brian wells had followed all the instructions to the letter he would have died. there is no question about t the note was a sham. it was too complicated, too complex, too much to do to get keys to unblock the particular bomb. it was a joke. he was a dead man. >> the case against marjorie came down to an array of compromised witnesses, a crack
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dealer and four jailhouse snitches. one by one they took the stand, including kelly with her detailed notes testifying that marjorie's own words implicated her in the plot. testimony that sent marjorie into a tirade. >> at times she acted like a cat on a hot tin roof, she was yelling liar and everything else, but i kept my cool. >> just rolled off you, huh? >> yeah. i'd look at her, you know, and she was having a fit. i mean, those notes were very, very important. >> the star witness for the government was ken barnes, he was a co-conspirator, he said that diehl-armstrong approached him, wanted him to kill her father, that was the who motive for the collar bombing. >> the mastermind of this money making scheme barnes suggested was marjorie who was the key link to all the other co-conspirators. >> he kind of put it all together and marjorie diehl-armstrong despised him during the trial. >> in the courtroom marjorie's
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impulsive behavior was on full display, a perfect mesmerizing subject for trey's documentary. >> when you see her, i mean, it almost looks like a cartoon character. you know, she has the dark, you know, raven hair and the big blue eyes and the intense brooding look to her. >> and marjorie held center court when the judge and jury were out there was no question who was in charge. >> i walked into the courtroom and she looked back and said, hey, trey, what are you doing over there? you are on the prosecution side. get over here. and she called me out. so i stood up and moved pews. moved over. >> when the prosecution rested there was little doubt marjorie would testify, whether her attorney wanted her to or not, she was going to tell her story. >> one of the biggest challenges in this case for me was to deal with her mental illness. >> doug was marjorie's defense attorney. >> marjorie with her personality
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disorders and narcissism was always going to testify. you could not keep her quiet. >> who did the jurors meet when marjorie showed up. >> when she was on the stand it was in essence standing room only. they met somebody that, you know, had such attitude. you are on the edge of your seat because, you know, this speaks danger. wow. you know, is this -- is this a real life witch? >> she called barnes the devil himself, she called rothstein an idiot. >> marjorie had told trey that she was going to tell the jury how much she disliked her father, not a winning strategy he thought. >> i said, marjorie, that's the government's motive in this case is that you wanted to kill your father. she said i just want it to be real and i would never want to kill my father. >> on the stand marjorie cried, yelled and unleashed a tornado of words and insults, insisting she was not involved in the scheme. she admitted she was near the tv tower, but too far away to know
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what was going on. >> she claimed that she was there and that she had seen floyd stockton, had seen bill rothstein and ken barnes and had seen them go back to the tower site and that brian wells was there. >> marjorie felt that the federal government was accusing her of a crime that she was not involved in and she would never have not only been involved in a crime that was so cruel to brian wells. >> but when the prosecutor went one-on-one with marjorie her defense crumbled. >> the cross-examination did not go good for her. the prosecutor is a skilled prosecutor and he was able to show dis krepsees in her testimony and i think he won some big points with the jury. >> and when marjorie stepped down from the stand the defense rested. >> how long was the jury out? >> a day and a half. >> long enough to raise doubt. long enough to remember that marjorie had killed and been acquitted before. >> i was like, oh, my god, if he is she's acquitted i think the sun and the moon are going to reverse positions. i'm like, is this possible?
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>> coming up, in a case that's had twist after twist after twist, there's one more. >> she set him up. she fed him to the wolves. it's like right out of a horror movie. >> when "dateline" continues. h movie. >> when "dateline" continues (classical music playing throughout)
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♪ seven years after the infamous pizza bombing the stage was set to bring this absurd but deadly scheme to a close. on november 1st, 2010, the jury concluded marjorie diehl-armstrong was all sound and fury with no defense. the verdict, guilty on all counts. and marjorie being marjorie, she let her attorney have it. >> after the verdict came in she turned to doug and said, you failed me miserably and looked at the jury and said, i will be back, we're going to appeal this, and then she was led out of the courtroom and everyone
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assumed she would receive a life sentence which she did just a few months later. >> for agent clark the end of a long quest to solve this wicked scheme had finally arrived. >> who is your mastermind in the pizza case? >> number one marjorie diehl-armstrong wanted her dad dead and in order to do that she needed money to hire ken barnes to kill him. that's why she wanted to rob the bank. but the scheme and how they robbed the bank and the scavenger hunt and the notes and all the involvement in the case related to the bank robbery itself was bill rothstein. >> so both their thumbs are on the scale but his is pushing down a little heavier? >> i really believe so. and bill rothstein really wanted to leave this earth with a perfect crime. >> but for many the question of whether brian wells was a willing participant or an innocent victim in his demise wouldn't go away. >> the evidence clearly shows that he had some knowledge of the people, had met them the day
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before, had participated in at least some fashion and knew about the event. again, he was tricked, he was duped and he was killed by a group of people who turned on him, but unfortunately he did know. >> but to this day the wells family insists brian was only a pizza delivery man, pulled into a diabolical plot by a group of misfits. >> he was never in trouble with the law. the people that are involved in his murder, they have -- they have a history. rothstein does, marjorie diehl, ken barnes, these people are criminals. >> if brian is innocent you have a murder case. >> it is murder. i don't say the word killed, he didn't passed away, he was murdered. >> meanwhile the filmmaker kept working, he had a documentary to make, and he scored two big interviews, one was with marjorie. she spoke via skype to trey and
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an attorney. still denying as only marjorie could that she had anything to do with the bank robbery. she said the prosecution's motive was laughable. >> here i am i killed two boyfriends it was self-defense but i killed two boyfriends, right. would i have to kill ken barnes to kill my father or would i do it for free myself? come on, be reasonable. >> it's on my resumé. >> i can i will men. >> trey decided to tecall his movie evil genius. >> i don't believe he was involved. i believe he was an innocent victim who was targeted for reasons and that was on display in the crime. >> wells, innocent or not. trey's other big get was with jessica hoopsick, the prostitute who testified that she introduced brian wells to
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co-conspirator ken barnes. >> one night she was able to do this interview for us in the back of a van. >> and she becomes the punctuation point of your film. >> yeah. >> this is the reveal. jessica speaks and do you know what she's going to say that brian wells was just a pawn. >> when she spoke to trey hoopsick changed her story. wells, she claimed, couldn't be part of the plot because the pizza delivery man was with her the day before the robbery and not at some planning meeting with the other conspirators. could it be? did wells really have an alibi. >> i want you to know that he was innocent. and he was a good guy. >> hoopsick was racked with guilt, but was she telling the truth? she admitted she wasn't with wells the entire day before the robbery and three of the conspirators put wells at that preplanning meeting. >> after hearing her tell her story, i believe her. i mean, i understand that
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obviously from her background and, you know, what she does that she is the epitome of an unreliable witness. >> tells you the sun is going to come up in the east, get a second opinion, right? >> and so -- but she had everything to lose. >> hoopsick was never charged in the pizza bombing case but by her own admission she set wells up with the conspirators. >> she fed him to the wolves. dennis, it's like right out of a more record movie, this death trap was locked around his neck, such a horrific way to die. >> and wells would die again and again once trey's documentary "evil genius" began to stream on netflix. the twisted ending creating sensational headlines around the world, but some say this entire evil fiasco could have been avoided long ago if only the system hadn't failed during marjorie's first murder trial. >> she should have been committed to a mental institution and that's where she should have remained for the rest of her life.
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because that didn't happen we can see this deadly wake that she left. >> marjorie diehl-armstrong died in 2017 in prison from cancer. she was 68 years old. >> she was an evil person and she did very, very bad things to many men in her life. >> do you put the two pizza guys' deaths on her? >> i certainly do. >> the boyfriend in the freezer. >> boyfriend in the freezer. the first boyfriend she shot and the second boyfriend which was her husband that she took to the hospital. so maybe five dead men around her. >> does that make her a serial killer? >> it does. >> a serial killer who held sway over a mystifying cast of supporting characters. >> who are these people who have just hay fred in their heart that could do this to somebody. nobody deserves to die this way. >> maybe that's the hardest part about the whole sorted affair, trying to understand marjorie,
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rothstein, barnes and the rest, fractured intellectuals, broken souls who lost their humanity on a dissent into evil. ♪ ♪ ♪ . i'm craig melvin. and i'm natalie morales. broken souls who lost their humanity on a descent into evil. humanity on a descent into evil. . i'm craig melvin. >> andsthumaniou weir i'm nata >> and this is "dateline." in the pit of my s is "datel" in the pit of my . >> in the pit of my stomach i knew something is not right here. i felt something bad must have happened. >> he must have been so, so scared. >> they were so happy at first. >> kevin just felt morgan was very, very charming. >> but when the marriage went bad he went missing. >> he just disappeared. >> was this a husband who didn't want to be found? was this a wife who had something to hide? >> they're getting in the truck. they're leaving. >> what happened behind close


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