Netflix’s ‘Evil Genius’ Series Delves Into Infamous Pizza Bomber Heist

In 2003, a pizza delivery man with a bomb strapped to his neck robbed a bank. He later died when the bomb detonated, all as the police watched on. Was he a victim, as he claimed, or is there more to the story?

One of the most disturbing, complicated true crime cases is coming to your laptop this month, with the premiere of Netflix’s Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist.

Netflix’s latest true crime docu-series details the infamous 2003 “pizza bomber heist,” a complex series of events that involved a bank robbery, a scavenger hunt, and, ultimately, a public murder by way of bombing.

The recently released trailer that begins, aptly enough, with the sound of a ticking bomb, features sprawling shots of Erie, Pennsylvania, the small town that would later find itself thrust unexpectedly into the national spotlight. From there, bits and pieces of the endlessly captivating case: grainy footage of an apprehended bank robber and police responding to the scene, photos of the handwritten instructions the robber claimed he was forced to follow and, finally, an image of the blood-stained collar bomb at the center of it all. Once the two-minute trailer draws to a breathless close, it’s impossible not to wonder: What really happened, and why?

Pizza delivery man Brian Wells, 46, walked into a local bank in Erie, Pennsylvania on August 28, 2003. Carrying a homemade shotgun, he slipped the teller a note demanding $250,000. On the surface, it appeared to be a bank robbery like any other, and it might have been, were it not for the bomb affixed to Wells’ neck.

After being apprehended by police, Wells claimed that he’d been forced to commit the robbery under threat of the bomb around his neck being detonated by his captors, Wired reports. He maintained that he was the victim of a nefarious plot and those conspiring against him had forced him to go on a scavenger hunt — that included the bank robbery — in order to delay the bomb’s detonation. Police had no time to verify his story – before the bomb squad could arrive, the explosive collar affixed to Wells’ neck detonated, as police watched on.

The darkly iconic image of Wells sitting in the street in front of a police car, as officers watch him cautiously from a distance, is one that has long since stayed in the minds of those who watched the story unfold nearly 20 years ago. It was an event that captivated the nation, but what actually happened is still shrouded in mystery. Two people — Kenneth Barnes and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong — were sentenced in relation to the crime in 2008 and 2011, respectively, Inverse reports, but is there more to the story? Federal law enforcement officials described those suspected of being involved in the plot, many of whom escaped prosecution, as being “like a band of criminal misfits.” And what of Wells’ involvement? Though he claimed to be a victim prior to his death, the FBI concluded in 2011 that Wells had, in fact, been in on it.

The four-part documentary from producers/brothers Jay and Mark Duplass promises that “there’s more to the conspiracy and murders than was ever thought.”

Evil Genius is scheduled to premiere on May 11, and it seems as if true crime fans are more than ready to binge-watch this one. The trailer has already garnered over 450k views on YouTube since being posted earlier this week.

(Photo: Screenshot via Netflix)

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