Wells had dropped out of high school in 1973. For nearly 30 years, he had worked as a pizza delivery man and was considered a valued and trusted employee of the Mama Mia Pizzeria in Erie, Pennsylvania. On the afternoon of August 28, 2003, Wells received a call to deliver two pizzas to an address a few miles from the pizzeria. It was later found that the address was that of WSEE-TV’s transmission tower at the end of a dirt road.
“Act now, think later or you will die!” they told him in hand-scrawled instructions. “If police or aircraft are involved, you will be destroyed. “A note found in Wells’ car was released months after the bombing. It details how to rob the bank and disarm the bomb. It is signed by “the Troubleshooters.”
A coroner’s report reveals Wells had 55 minutes to live once the bomb was strapped on.
According to law enforcement reports, Wells was meeting people he thought were his accomplices, including Barnes. Wells participated in the planning for the robbery; he had been told the bomb was going to be fake and he was to claim that three black men forced the bomb on him and he was to tell police he was a hostage.
As Wells, 46, was about to leave his lunchtime shift at Mama Mia’s, the pizza shop received a pay-phone call for two small pies. Wells drove his green Geo Metro to woods where construction workers often called in orders. John Wells of Phoenix, who said he received information from a source he would not disclose, said a group of armed people approached his brother. His brother stumbled and ran through the woods. Someone fired, his brother said, and Brian Wells stopped in horror. A nearby resident confirmed hearing a shot. Wells soon had a triple-banded metal collar around his neck, a walking cane twisted into a makeshift gun and detailed directions on how to rob a bank. “Go to the bank and `quietly’ enter with the weapon you were given,” the note said. “Give the demands to the receptionist or manager. Avoid panicking the tellers or customers.” About 2:30 p.m., Wells handed a bank officer a separate note: “No alarm, panic or police! … no possible way to disarm it.” The deliveryman followed scavenger-huntlike directions that pointed him to a McDonald’s. He had 55 minutes to rob the bank and follow the “elaborate” instructions that bounced him “from one location to another,” according to the coroner’s report. He made it past the drive-through window when Pennsylvania State Police stopped him. He was handcuffed and about to be placed in a squad car when Wells said he had a bomb. Police evacuated the busy street. Wells told officers he was threatened by a group of people, forced to wear the bomb and given the robbery instructions, the coroner’s report said. Officers were stunned. They left the deliveryman handcuffed and alone. Wells sat on the pavement and fidgeted as television cameras rolled and people gathered. And he wondered why police grabbed bulletproof vests and took cover but left him helpless. “Why isn’t nobody trying to come get this thing off me?” he yelled. “It’s going to go off. I’m not lying. Did you call my boss? I’m not doing this. This isn’t me.”
At 3:18 PM, the bomb detonated, blasting a fist-sized hole in Wells’ chest just three minutes before the bomb squad arrived. It is now believed that Wells was killed by Diehl-Armstrong and her conspirators to reduce witnesses against herself and others. The event was also broadcast on television and subsequently the footage found its way to video sharing sites.
A note found on Wells had instructions for him to carry out four tasks—the first of which was the bank robbery—in a set period of time before the bomb went off. Wells would gain extra time with the completion of each task. However, it was later determined that regardless of what had unfolded, Wells would never have had enough time to complete the tasks to get the bomb defused.
Wells was drawn into the plot through Barnes, whom he knew through a prostitute who often used Barnes’ home as a place to have sex with customers. The whole plot was hatched to get funds to pay Barnes enough money to kill Diehl-Armstrong’s father, so Diehl-Armstrong could get an inheritance, authorities said. However, Wells had stolen only $8,702, far from the $125,000 needed for the killing. Furthermore, the inheritance Diehl-Armstrong coveted was largely spent.