It’s time for another diatribe on a Netflix original series!
If you’re interested in other Commentaries I’ve published on other Netflix original series, here are the links:
“Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” explores the case of Brian Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells was the unfortunate pawn who was forced to rob a PNC Bank in Erie on August 28, 2003. He had extremely detailed notes for the bank employees, demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000.
The police spotted him standing outside his Geo Metro, in the parking lot of an Eyeglass World retail store near the bank, and placed him under arrest. As police were calling the bomb squad and assessing the situation, Wells indicated that he didn’t have much time, as a timer was beeping on the bomb.
The bomb was locked around his neck.
In this four-part series, documentary filmmakers interview almost all of the parties involved, from the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, friends of Wells, and several alleged co-conspirators.
Unfortunately, Brian Wells was not available to be interviewed.
As we started watching Part One, I looked at Al and I said that I remembered seeing the news coverage about this case. At the time, in August 2003, it was the last week or so of summer break, right before I started my freshman year of high school.
I remember the “pizza bomber” case.
The reason why Brian Wells wasn’t available to be interviewed for this documentary, 15 years later? While handcuffed, sitting on the pavement in the Eyeglass World parking lot, police could only watch as the bomb around his neck exploded.
The documentary, in the span of about four hours, dives deep into the complicated world of mental illness, and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Once a striking woman in the town, Diehl-Armstrong was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, among other illnesses.
For years, Diehl-Armstrong professed her innocence. She vehemently denied she was involved in any bank robbery, or murder plot. She claimed she’d never met Brian Wells. She blamed Wells’ unfortunate demise on several others.
But, evidence doesn’t lie. In the middle of the Wells investigation, another party, William “Bill” Rothstein, called police and told them he found a body in the freezer, and Marjorie (or Marge, as the documentary filmmaker calls her) killed him.
Unlike Making A Murderer and The Keepers, I appreciated how concise Evil Genius was. I think dividing it into four episodes was the right choice. It was well-planned, and well-executed.
Along the way, the interviews conducted were well-done, accurate, and simply fascinating. This is one of those cases where it’s hard to delineate who is and should be involved, law enforcement wise, and how those jurisdictional arguments can hinder an investigation. It shows the need for constant communication between agencies, something that was sorely lacking in several areas with this particular case.
The series also heavily focuses on mental illness, hoarding, and narcissism. Diehl-Armstrong made me sick from the very beginning. To me, she is an evil individual, who is a true narcissist. She only cares about herself, and will place blame on someone else within seconds. She’s angry, combative, and definitely not a nice woman.
It’s sad, really. They interviewed her father, and showed photos of her when she was younger. Back then, she showed immense beauty and immense promise. She’s extremely intelligent, and that’s ultimately part of the issue. She was called a mastermind, and I believe it.
Personally, I believe Wells was an innocent victim. I believe he was simply delivering pizzas, doing his job, and was caught up in an unfortunate series of events that led to his murder that day in August 2003.
However, the documentary looks at both sides – Was Wells a true victim, or was he involved in the plot?
At the end of the series, I felt like all my questions had been answered. The right people, I believe, were arrested and prosecuted accordingly. The law enforcement agencies have learned, at least I hope they have learned, that constant communication and cooperation is key. Justice delayed is justice denied.
I thought it was a fascinating subject to explore and discover, especially since it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Wells was killed. I applaud the filmmakers for choosing to focus on this case, their research, their interviews, and being as unbiased as possible. It’s not easy to do, especially with a case like this, one that got more complicated and convoluted.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂