I just watched the Netflix Documentary Evil Genius, the story of the Brian Wells Murder back in 2003. I highly recommend that you watch Trey Borzillieri's obsessive analysis of the case. He does a great job of weaving a tapestry of deceit, betrayal, and murder from all angles.
If you don't want to watch the movie Evil Genius, you can also read a very thorough article on the same topic from the geeks at WIRED Magazine from the year 2010.
Today I'm going to provide some *spoilers* to the movie and explain why Brian Wells was murdered twice. I'm not going to harp on all of the Criminal Scumbags that populate Evil Genius, I'm going to focus on Wells.
By all accounts, Brian Wells was an exemplary employee at the Mama Mia's Pizzeria in Erie, Pennsylvania. It's important to note that he worked for a little Mom and Pop Pizza joint. He didn't work for Pizza Hut or Domino's, meaning there was probably no corporate mandated raise structure. It is feasible that he was very loyal to Mama Mia's with their limited hours, yet still only earned around a minimum wage salary, if that. A pizza delivery man for 30 years....let's dwell on that fact for a few minutes.
Every town in America has a guy, you know the guy, who delivers pizza in his car that's 30 years old and is grateful just to have a job. The local middle school kids all know him and make fun of him as he wanders around the neighborhood. He isn't slow, but....
Right at the -2 Standard Deviation level, guys fall between the cracks, too smart to be "special," yet not smart enough to exceed. You have to tiptoe around terms to describe the guy because there is nothing really wrong with him. You just tell your kids to "be nice."
Back in my hometown, when I was 13, I knew a guy who worked at the corner Pizza Place. He was 40 and lived in an apartment right across the street. He drank, a lot, but he was the nicest guy in the world. Made pizzas, drank, and watched porn. That was basically his whole life. In hindsight, I'm positive he was right at that -2 Standard Deviation Level.
Today, my kids know "Bicycle Bob," he rides around town on a 1950's bicycle and greets everyone he meets with a fist bump. Nicest guy in the world, but to my knowledge he doesn't have a job and rents a house across the street from the drive-thru beverage store. You see him riding that bike every single day, winter summer spring and fall with his faded Reflector Vest on. I don't really know "Bob," because he has nothing to say but he says hello to everyone.
Which circles us back to Brian Wells. The day of the Collar Bombing, he was getting off work at 2 pm when the fateful call came. A 46 year old man working the 11-2 shift delivering pizzas as his only source of income? Since he dropped out of High School? To me, it sounds like Brian Wells was sufficient enough not to be a burden to his family, yet not capable of thriving.
So when all the facts of the Collar Bombing came out, average Americans punched holes in the story and pointed out what they would have done differently. Let me be blunt, I don't think Brian Wells was an average American. You can't look at the case though your point of view, but I believe you have to look at the case through Wells' Prism.
After the Collar Bombing, the FBI and the local police tried to rope Wells into the co-conspirator category. Wells' family was vehement that he was an innocent victim, and the videos I've seen have the family focusing on the fact that Wells wasn't "capable" of the crime. The FBI and the local police, though thorough, were guilty of treating Wells as average.
Even in the documentary, the narrator painted Wells as a man who did drugs and frequented prostitutes. Fine, I hate to say it, but I know a lot of people in the low intelligence range that do the same thing. They're even more at risk than the general population because they don't understand the consequences of their actions.
After thinking about Evil Genius in the terms of Brian Wells' Limited Mental Capacity, I was angry. Despite a meticulously thorough presentation of the facts, the movie focused on Masterminds Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Bill Rothstein. After my viewing, I wanted to know even more about the case, specifically Brian Wells' past. The family cooperated with the authorities and got screwed, I can understand why they wouldn't trust a documentary crew. I searched and tried to see if anyone used the term "special" in relation to Wells. During my research, I read an article called "What 'Evil Genius' Leaves Out About Brian Wells Involvement."
I am going to stick up for Brian Wells point-by-point, in a way that the family really can't do without being hurtful to his memory.
-Foremost is the fact that Evil Genius did not place that much emphasis on the fact that Wells told police officers that three black men strapped a bomb around his neck.
This is an easy question to field. Brian Wells was roughed up a bit and was told to say Black Men strapped a bomb on his neck. People can say they would have told the truth here, but Brian Wells had that bomb on him and was probably worried that the people who put it on him were going to set it off. You would argue to trust the police or think things through. I guarantee you that a simple man would just do what he was told out of fear, not calculate his options.
-Wells also had a history of at least some violence.
Yes, he did drugs and drank alcohol. The level of Wells' violence in the past pales in comparison to armed robbery of a bank. At this point, Pajiba is victim-blaming.
-What the documentary doesn’t relay, however, is that Wells also had motive: He was indebted to the crack dealer with whom he secured drugs.
So Wells owed a drug dealer a couple hundred bucks? Half the population of America would have motive to rob a bank if vague debt counted as motive. Bill Rothstein, on the other hand...
-Evil Genius sometimes seems to want to suggest that Wells has little or no connection to the conspirators. However, he knew — and spent time with — at least one of the conspirators, Ken Barnes
Brian Wells was an acquaintance of Ken Barnes.
We're talking about downtown Erie Pennsylvania, population under 100,000, not New York City. There's a good chance that all of the local drug addicts and prostitution frequenters had a vague knowledge of one another.
-A major detail left out of the documentary is the fact that, according to Floyd Stockton — the co-conspirator given immunity in exchange for his confession — there was a rehearsal the day before the robbery, in which Brian Wells was fitted with a fake bomb.
And, if you paid attention to the documentary, all of the co-conspirators were liars. Why would Floyd Stockton lie? Because Brian Wells was dead and couldn't defend himself. Stockton said Wells was part of the conspiracy to try to lesson his own involvement. Just like Diehl-Armstrong lied saying Wells was involved, because if Wells wasn't involved, then Diehl-Armstrong would have been eligible for the death penalty. When all the chips were down, the easiest person to blame is the dead guy who can't defend himself.
I believe there was a rehearsal. I can't imagine, even if Wells was there, that he had 1 sentence worth of input. Why would he be there? For all I know, they ordered pizza or made a drug deal there.
Brian Wells was not you and Brian Wells was not me. He was a clearly a victim. He is being murdered all over again by those who want to tie him into a crime that... that... it would be inexplicable for him to be involved if you factor in his limited mental capabilities....
What really got me thinking about my theory was Jessica Hoopstick's interview. She spoke of Wells in glowing terms, a real light a ray of light in a shadowy underworld, but she really had trouble finding the right words to describe their relationship. She was fond of him and appreciated him and said he was the nicest guy in the world. If you go by what she didn't say, Wells loved her, and she used him and felt guilty.
Why would a drug addict feel guilty? Because she took advantage of a low intelligence individual and she knew it.
Borzillieri dropped a bombshell at the end of the documentary that Wells may be the Father of Hoopstick's child. I don't believe that for a second. The Father of that child would probably be a felon behind bars. Why would she say Wells was the Father? Same reason as everyone else, she is using him in death like she used him in life. What guy takes his prostitute to the doctor's office to help her out. The relationship between, Hoopstick and Wells was not like the movie Pretty Woman, it was more like Forrest Gump. If Wells is ever officially cleared of any involvement of conspiracy to rob that bank, she can sue someone for wrongful death on behalf of her child. Could she sue the government? Possibly, anyone can sue anyone in America.
But a simple DNA Test would sort that mess out real quick.
Just using plain ol' logic should have ruled out Wells right from the start of the investigation. If Wells is in on it, you only need a fake bomb for your plan.
You need a real bomb to show that you mean business. A real bomb is a show of force to coerce an unwilling participant. A real bomb installs the element of fear.
Where did the plan go wrong? If you view the Diehl-Armstrong/Rothstein Plan in a vacuum, it was actually an interesting criminal endeavor.
Diehl-Armstrong/Rothstein made 2 critical errors:
Too Many Co-conspirators: If Diehl-Armstrong didn't kill James Roden, I don't think Rothstein would have went to the cops. He only went to the cops when they didn't get the money and when Rothstein feared that Diehl-Armstrong would kill him next. If it was Diehl-Armstrong and Rothstein only, and they used a fake bomb. They would have been able sneak away when the police detained Brian Wells. Which leads us to....
The Erie Police Department: They easily apprehended Brian Wells, which re-inforces the theory that he wasn't involved. Once the Erie Police had Wells, they waited on the bomb squad to arrive. The police had no urgency to set Wells free. They basically called the criminals' bluff, believing they had a counterfeit device. Every minute wasted was another nail in Wells' coffin. I believe that Diehl-Armstrong/Rothstein thought that the police would allow Wells to finish his scavenger hunt, the Erie PD wouldn't let an innocent man die while local TV cameras were rolling, would they?
Once that Collar Bomb was on, Wells was a dead man.
After the fact, police determined that the co-conspirators didn't allow Wells enough time to finish finding keys before the timer went off. So he would have been dead on the road.
Even if Wells finished the scavenger hunt, when the co-conspirators found that he only had $8,000 and not $250,000, they would have killed him.
And, even if Wells finished the scavenger hunt AND handed over the right amount, he knew what the co-conspirators looked like (and it wasn't 3 black men), so you know that Diehl-Armstrong would have killed him in that scenario also. So once the Collar Bomb was on he was murdered once. Then his name was murdered by getting his memory dragged through the mud and being accused of being a nefarious mastermind. The documentary showed the news footage over and over and you can watch his murder on the internet.
I believe Brian Wells was an innocent victim. But let's just say you disagree with me, (you'd be wrong, but for arguments' sake) and you're convinced that Brian Wells was somehow involved in the planning phase.
"Fred Hunt, Brian Wells tricked you and he got what he deserved."
Really? Bottom line, a man stole $8,000 from a bank, no workers were harmed, and then was publicly executed.
No civil society accepts that punishment.