Bill Rothstein was a handyman with the skills to fabricate an elaborate explosive device. Over the next two days, rothstein explained to police how a dead man came to be in his freezer. In mid-August, he said, he'd received a phone call from an ex-girlfriend, marjorie diehl-Armstrong, whom he had dated in the 1960s and early 1970s. Diehl-Armstrong told him she had shot her live-in boyfriend, james Roden, in the back with a remington 12-gauge shotgun, in a dispute over money. Now she needed help removing the body and cleaning up the scene inside her Erie home, about 10 miles from Rothstein's place. Rothstein did what she asked. He kept the corpse in a chest freezer in his garage for five weeks.
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They headed into the thick brush but still couldn't see much. After spending about 15 minutes at Rothstein's place, they took off. Bill Rothstein may have appeared to be just a man who owned a house next to a tv tower. But he turned out to be hiding a dark secret. On September 20, less than a month after the bomb killed Wells, rothstein called 911. "At 8645 peach Street, in the garage, there is a frozen body he told the police dispatcher, referring to his own address. "It's in the freezer.". Within hours of making the call, rothstein was in custody. He told the cops that he had been in agony for weeks. He had considered killing himself, he told them, and had gone so far as to write a suicide note, which investigators found inside a desk at his home. Writing in black marker, rothstein expressed his apologies "to those who cared for or about me identified the body in his freezer as that of Jim Roden, and noted that he "did not kill him, nor participate in his death." The note opened with.
The next day, a reporter and a photographer for the. Erie times-News headed to the tower. The dirt road leading there was cordoned off parts by authorities, but the journalists spotted a tall, heavyset man in denim Carhartt overalls pacing in front of a home that sat right next. His backyard extended almost to the transmission tower. The man identified himself. Rothstein, 59, was an unmarried handyman and a lifelong resident of the area. He spoke elegantly, like someone who takes great pride in his mastery of the English language. (He was also fluent in French and Hebrew.) Rothstein seemed oblivious to the investigation unfolding beyond his backyard. The journalists, eager to get a view of the scene, asked Rothstein if he could lead them through his yard.
That's where wells was working at 1:30 pm on the day of the robbery, when an order came in for two small sausage-and-pepperoni pies to be delivered to a location on the outskirts of the city. Wells was a loyal employee—in 10 years, the only time he had called in late for work was when his cat died. Even though he was at the end of his shift, he agreed to deliver the order. He walked out of the shop, two pies in hand, at about. Wells entered the bank with this ingenious handmade gun disguised as a cane. Photo: Michael Schmeling, the delivery location, reachable only by a dirt road, was a tv transmission tower site in a wooded area off of busy peach Street. When investigators combed the vicinity, they discovered shoe prints consistent with Wells' footwear and tire tracks matching the treads on his geo metro. But the site offered no clues as to who may have lured him there or what happened once he arrived.
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What, for instance, was the purpose of the scavenger hunt? Why send a hostage hopping around Erie in broad daylight? Why scatter clues in public locations where they might be discovered? How was Wells chosen to be the hostage? The bomb was rigged such that any attempt to remove it would set it off.
Photo: Erie federal courthouse; Erie bureau of Police; Newscom. The riddles transfixed the city of Erie and drew headlines in newspapers from. It also set in motion report a byzantine investigation, with federal agents sniffing out clues and hunting down leads in twisted pursuit of the shadowy criminal who came to be known as the. For seven years, the fbi was engaged in a scavenger hunt of its own, one that the collar Bomber seemed to have planned as intricately as the one that had ensnared Wells. The only question was whether the feds would get any further than Wells had. The hunt began at, mama mia's pizza-ria.
In the frantic hours after Wells was killed, the cops tried completing the hunt themselves. The first note was straightforward enough: "Exit the bank with the money and go to the McDonald's resturaunt sic it read. "Get out of the car and go to the small sign reading drive thru/open 24 hr in the flower bed. By the sign, there is a rock with a note taped to the bottom. It has your next instructions." Wells drove straight there after he left the bank with the bag of cash. He retrieved a two-page note from the flower bed, which directed him up peach Street to a wooded area several miles away, where a container with orange tape would hold the next set of instructions.
Wells was caught before he got to that clue, but the investigators picked up the thread, locating the container with the orange tape. In it, they found a note directing them 2 miles south to a small road sign, where the next clue would be waiting in a jar in the woods nearby. When they got there, they found the jar, but it was empty. Whoever had set this macabre ordeal in motion, it seemed, had called it off once the cops had appeared—and had probably been watching them every step of the way. Wells' clothing added another layer of intrigue. He died wearing two t-shirts, the outer one emblazoned with a guess clothing logo. Wells wasn't wearing the shirt at work that morning, and his relatives said it wasn't his. It appeared to be a taunt: Can you guess who is behind this? That was just one of the questions that perplexed investigators.
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Addressed to the "Bomb Hostage the notes instructed Wells to rob the bank of 250,000, then follow a set of complex instructions to find various keys and combination codes hidden throughout Erie. It contained drawings, threats, and detailed maps. If Wells did as he was told, the instructions promised, he'd wind up with the keys and the combination required to free him from the bomb. Failure or disobedience would result in entry certain death. "There is only one way you can survive and that is to cooperate completely the notes read in meticulous lettering that would later stymie handwriting analysis. "This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions. Act now, think later or you will die!" It seemed that whoever planned the robbery had also constructed a nightmarish scavenger hunt for Wells, in which the prize was his life.
The device consisted of two parts: a triple-banded metal collar with four keyholes and a three-digit combination lock, and an iron box containing two 6-inch pipe bombs loaded with double-base smokeless powder. The hinged collar locked around Wells' neck like a giant handcuff. Investigators could tell that it had been built using professional tools. The device also contained two sunbeam kitchen timers and one electronic countdown timer. It had wires running through it that connected to nothing—decoys to throw off would-be disablers—and stickers bearing deceptive warnings. The contraption was a puzzle in and of itself. The most perplexing and intriguing pieces of evidence, though, were the handwritten notes that investigators found inside wells' car.
5-inch gash in his chest. The pizza deliveryman took a few last gasps and died on the pavement. It was 3:18. The bomb squad arrived three minutes later. The police began sorting through a trove of physical evidence. In Wells' car, they discovered the 2-foot-long cane, which turned out to be an ingeniously crafted homemade gun. The bomb itself was likewise a marvel of diy design and construction.
He didn't get far. Some 15 minutes later, state troopers spotted Wells standing outside his geo metro in a nearby parking lot, surrounded him, and tossed him to the pavement, cuffing his hands behind his back. Wells told the troopers that while out on a delivery summary he had been accosted by a group of black men who chained the bomb around his neck at gunpoint and forced him to rob the bank. "It's gonna go off!" he told them in desperation. "I'm not lying." The officers called the bomb squad and took positions behind their cars, guns drawn. Tv camera crews arrived and began filming. For 25 minutes Wells remained seated on the pavement, his legs curled beneath him. "Did you call my boss?" Wells asked a trooper at one point, apparently concerned that his employer would think he was shirking his duties.
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At 2:28 pm on August 28, 2003, a middle-aged pizza deliveryman mini named, brian Wells walked into a pnc bank in Erie, pennsylvania. He had a short cane in his right hand and a strange bulge under the collar of his T-shirt. Wells, 46 and balding, passed the teller a note. "Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with 250,000 it said. "you have only 15 minutes." Then he lifted his shirt to reveal a heavy, boxlike device dangling from his neck. According to the note, it was a bomb. The teller, who told Wells there was no way to get into the vault at that time, filled a bag with cash—8,702—and handed it over. Wells walked out, sucking on a dum Dum lollipop he grabbed from the counter, hopped into his car, and drove off.