Whatever story you’re conjuring up in your mind to go with “pizza bomber," the reality is likely crazier. The infamous pizza bomber narrative is as explosive as it sounds--although filled with more twists and turns than actual pizza. The crime went down in 2003, when a pizza delivery man was jumped, fitted with a collar that he was told was a bomb, and sent on a bizarre scavenger hunt that involved robbing a bank. But before he could make it back to the puppet master, he was apprehended by police, and died when the bomb exploded.
Behind the murder was a woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong who suffered from multiple mental illnesses and personality disorders. Her co-conspirators were her then-boyfriend James Roden, who she murdered in the course of the crime, her ex-fiance Bill Rothstein, and another friend, Ken Barnes. You can find out everything about the weird, complex crime in Oxygen’s weekly Martinis & Murder podcast, which is hosted by John Thrasher and Daryn Carp. Subscribe at iTunes or Google Play.
Meanwhile, here are some truly mind-blowing facts about the case to whet your whistle.
1. The walking stick Brian Wells was carrying was actually a homemade gun
Brian Wells is the pizza man who walked into a PNC bank in Erie, Pennsylvania, and handed the teller a note demanding $250,000 (pictured above). He had a bomb locked around his neck like a handcuff, resulting in a giant protrusion out the front of his t-shirt. He was also walking with a cane, which police later found out was an expertly crafted, hand-made handgun.
2. Brian Wells didn’t leave the bank without picking up a lollipop from the counter first
A weird move for a guy who had a bomb unwillingly around his neck, forcing him to do the bidding of the people who forcibly put it there.
3. The movie 30 Minutes Or Less basically has the same plot as this crime
Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride, 30 Minutes Or Less, is about a pizza delivery guy who is kidnapped by some criminals who strap a bomb around his neck and force him to rob a bank. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is.
4. A new Black Mirror episode called “Shut Up And Dance” also eerily dramatises a similar crime
If you’re a fan of the Netflix show Black Mirror, the latest season has an episode where the plot revolves around an unseen person controlling others to do their bidding. However, instead of bombs, information is the explosive motivator.
5. Marjorie’s first boyfriend was named Rob Thomas
In 1984, Marjorie (pizza bomber “mastermind”) had a boyfriend, Robert Thomas. Or Rob Thomas, for Matchbox 20 fans. Rob Thomas happened to die when Marjorie was 38--because she shot him SIX TIMES while he slept. She was ultimately found not guilty on the grounds that he was allegedly violent and abusive towards her. So smooth.
6. There was a lot of rotting cheese
In the course of investigating Rob Thomas’ death, police found 400 pounds of butter and more than 700 pounds of cheese, nearly all of it rotting, inside Marjorie’s trash-strewn house.
7. Bill Rothstein couldn’t bring himself to chop up James Roden’s body
James Roden was Marjorie’s boyfriend at the time of the pizza bomb plot, and he had allegedly threatened to rat Marjorie out to the police--which was apparently when she shot him dead. Bill Rothstein (pictured above) helped Marjorie hide the body in his freezer, but drew a line at chopping up the body to get rid of it, and wound up calling the police instead. It’s a weird line to draw when you’re already ass-deep in a murder, and one that would ultimately put Marjorie in prison.
8. Marjorie’s hoarding took police days to clean up
After Roden’s murder, police cleared out Marjorie’s house (pictured above), looking for clues. It took eight police a whopping four days to get rid of the mess she’d collected, and they filled up at least six dumpsters with trash.
9. There was some conjecture that Brian Wells knew about the bomb plot
There’s no evidence to suggest Wells was a willing participant, but there has been limited suggestion that he might have known about the plot, and opted out--that’s why he wound up with the collar forced upon him. Philly.com says prosecutors had a witness, a prostitute who alleged that Brian often paid $15 to 20 to have sex with her at Bill’s house, but it’s only an allegation.
10. Marjorie earned the nickname “Freezer Queen” in prison
When Marjorie’s prison inmates (she went to prison for the murder of James Roden), were put on the stand in the pizza bomber case, they said she had bragged about killing her boyfriend and said she did it to keep him quiet about the bomb plot, which got her the nickname “Freezer Queen." Is it a coincidence that Roden's body had been stored in Bill's freezer (pictured above)? Probably not.
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