Is Marj just crazy or crazy like a fox?
Following the Erie Collar Bomb case is like watching a Lady Gaga video: you see it and yet you don't really believe it. “Crazy” Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong spent most of her testimony recounting a Memorial Day 2003 robbery in her Erie home and explaining how and why two months later she killed her long-time boyfriend James Roden. U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin interrupted her rambling answers 16 times, attempting repeatedly to get her back on track and answer her attorney's questions. Like Gaga, there is no stopping Marj when she is on a roll. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10300/1098403-100.stm#ixzz13ZpQZBO8
Marj's meanderings call into question her alleged "evil genius" the prosecution has cited in the case. Marj‘s brilliant planning and execution of the bank robbery stumped law enforcement. But is Marj, who stuffed the body of her boyfriend in a freezer, capable of planning anything?
Motive Makes Strange Bedfellows: The prosecution has said Marj needed the money to pay another man to kill her father, who she claimed was wasting her inheritance. But Marj apparently was living well. Marj described to the jury what she called a "home invasion" in which a man broke through her living room window, landed on top of her on a sofa bed, held a butcher knife to her heart, and stole $133,000 (or was it $2300) she had hidden under the bed cushion. She believed that Kenneth Barnes, a co-conspirator charged with helping to plan and carry out the collar-bomb robbery, was in on the home invasion. Over the summer of 2003 Ms. Diehl-Armstrong sent Mr. Roden out into the community to find out who robbed her but she said he never got any good information and by Aug. 9 she was starting to become paranoid that maybe he was involved in the crime with Mr. Barnes. She killed Mr. Roden with a shotgun in her house about 2 a.m. Aug. 10.
I can’t stands no more: As Ms. Diehl-Armstrong was led from the stand she started shouting profanity at the spectators. "These (expletives) are trying to say I tried to kill my father. You (expletive) prosecutors. "Then she yelled at her attorney, "You better get to it Doug [Sughrue]. You better get to it."
Yes, Doug, why don’t you get to it? Here’s some questions for the defense:
How does Brian Wells, a quiet, law abiding man who never exhibited any previous behavior suggesting a criminal lifestyle, turn into a stone cold bank robber overnight?
How does fellow pizza delivery guy, Robert Pinetti, a “regular” guy become a thug overnight and assaults Brian to force him to wear the bomb?
How does an over-the-hill gang that couldn’t shoot straight concoct a ten-page plan to execute a brazen robbery in broad daylight, stump a multi-agency taskforce, but also show incredible lapses – e,g. call from a pay phone near a conspirator’s house , and then blow it all by talking out-of-box to prison snitches?
Walkie-Talkies: Bad News Barnes says Rothstein and the gang communicated with walkie-talkies but the gang had to wait to return to Rothstein's house to change cars. One would expect the evil genius to be yelling over the walkie-talkies to tell them to get the hell of out Erie. What's the rush? According to the prosecution, when investigators arrived at the exit of I-79, they retrieved a note that instructed the reader to travel back onto I-79 south to the McKean Township sign and again walk into the woods for further instructions. At that location investigators found an empty jar without a note in it, with marker tape attached. The tape appeared to have been broken and was attached at the other end to a tree in the vicinity. The evidence would show that somebody removed that note from the time of the robbery to the time investigators arrived. Given the small window from the time Wells was apprehended until the police arrived at the woods it is likely there was a person waiting for the money at the I-79 Exit. Perhaps the young man that witnesses saw running frantically from the woods across a busy highway to the Millcreek Mall parking lot?
Why would Marj risk going back to the woods, if , according to the prosecution, the plan was for Rothstein to take the money from Brian when he left the bank? And if the plan was to remove "something" from the scene at the woods, then why the last minute dash to Rothstein’s house to change cars? Time was also running out on the perps too.
What about William? The prosecution says Barnes fingered William Rothstein as the one who allegedly helped plan the bank robbery and built the collar bomb. Press reports described William as quirky, eccentric, and brilliant.
Where is the evidence the “evil genius” William Rothstein was an experienced bomb maker? The collar bomb that killed Brian was not a first effort. According to the prosecution, the device that killed Brian was rigged to the collar assembly in such a way as to make it appear that attempts to remove the device would have detonated it. Portions of the device were meant to appear to be “booby traps” but were not. Moreover, the device was armed in such a way that contact with the device through any attempted manual entry would likely have detonated it. The bomb maker designed the device in such a way that attempts to deactivate the device in the time allotted would have failed. Although Barnes says Rothstein built the collar bomb, there have been no reports the police found any evidence or witnesses who knew Rothstein liked to experiment with explosives.So how did William, the “evil genius”, get caught?
Answer: He basically turned himself into the police. William first came to investigators' attention about a month after Brian Wells' murder when he phoned police to tell them he had a body in the basement of his abandoned house. Rothstein told police that the body of James Roden was in a freezer. He told them that his former fiancée, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, had shot Roden with a shotgun, then gave him $2,000 to help get rid of the body and weapon and to clean up the crime scene.
If William was the evil genius, why would he: Draw police attention to himself by admitting to helping cover-up the murder that was committed by the same woman the prosecution says was the ringleader of the bank robbery? Arrange for the plan to be staged near his house, only a couple feet from the dirt road leading back to the television tower? Use a pay phone near his house to call Mama Mia’s for the pizza delivery?
According to Barnes, the day of the incident he was with the others at the tower site where the device was affixed to Wells. Barnes said that when Wells realized that the device was real, Wells didn't want to wear it. Barnes claimed that one shot was fired from a gun and the device was then placed on Wells’ neck
Here’s a question: How would Wells know the bomb was real? Would an "evil genius" tell him before he locked it around Wells’ neck?
Barnes said the gun that “someone” used to stop Wells from running away was a small caliber revolver. Investigators reportedly discovered a small caliber revolver in Rothstein’s vehicle, loaded, with one bullet having been fired from it..
Here’s another question: Was a ballistics test ever done to compare the bullet in Wells’ leg with the revolver?
And another: Why did the “evil genius” keep the revolver when it was used in the crime? Why didn’t the “evil genius” ditch the revolver in the landfill with the rest of the incriminating evidence?
All good questions. But Rothstein can’t answer them because he died of leukemia in 2004. Until his death he maintained complete innocence in the case of Brian Wells, even going so far as to leave a written statement to that claim in his house.
So, William, who is terminally ill, admits to covering up the murder of Rhoden but insists to his grave that he had nothing to do with the murder of Brian. Why would he lie? What would he fear? The death penalty? His lawyer relates that Rothstein passed a polygraph test, and wasn't considered a suspect in the Wells murder.
Barnes’ story would be more credible if he could pass a polygraph test. Why would he lie? What would he fear? Hmmmm....the death penalty?
The gang heads South after the bank robbery does too. According to Barnes, after the bank robbery went South – Wells never made it out of the parking lot - he and Diehl Armstrong drove South to Rothstein’s residence. They then switched cars and drove Rothstein’s large yellowish car to Interstate 79.
Why would they do that, you ask? Good question. Perhaps so no one would connect their car to the Erie bank robbery? But then why would evil genius Rothstein think that would be a good idea? Good question. Perhaps he was not the evil genius the prosecution would have US think?
Pitch and a Miss: If I wrote a fictional crime script and tried to sell it using the following pitch, it wouldn’t sell because nobody would believe it: "Crazy female ringleader, who killed former boyfriend, convinces three guys, one who is a pizza delivery guy and a total stranger, to join her bank robbery scheme so she can get the money to pay a drug dealer, who is also one of her co-conspirators, to kill her father so she can get her inheritance."
1. Why would the drug dealer/hitman-for-hire not just settle for a piece of the inheritance pie?
2. Why didn’t the two-time murderess just cut out the middleman/hitman-for-hire and do it herself?
Why is the drug dealer/hitman-for-hire story too good to be true? Motive: Knowing the Erie community is looking for someone's head to pay for this heinous crime and that a jury would believe the Gov's word over a drug dealer's, Kenneth Barnes pleads guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and using and carrying a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Wells, what’s wrong with this picture? Brian Wells is forced to rob a bank with a bomb locked around his neck, dies a gruesome death and Kenneth Barnes, a self-confessed co-conspirator, is not charged with his MURDER? The Barnes' plea bargain smells worse than a pizza with rancid anchovies. How many “Law and Order” cases have been thrown out because the prosecution has to rely upon the “good word” of a criminal to make its case in court? Of course, in the movies the defense attorney successfully challenges the "truthiness" of the prosecution’s criminal witness when it is revealed the prosecution has given the “witness” a plea deal in order to avoid a murder charge. But when the alleged ringleader is never charged competent to stand trial, the prosecution will not have the "good word" of the government’s witness challenged in court.
Plot Hole: Cleaning up the scene of the crime
The prosecution said that Brian was instructed to give the notes to the bank teller. But the prosecution said the map and instructions were a hoax on Brian: the collar bomb was never meant to be removed, ensuring Brian’s death and tying up a loose end. But Brian is now alive and talking to the police. Surely Crazy Marge would know Brian would be yelling by now at the top of his lungs that Crazy Marge, the “Hitman” Barnes and the “Evil Genius” Rothman were trying to kill him. Yes, Marge and Barnes would be on the highway driving like Madmen…but for Mexico.
Before Barnes got his plea deal he told anyone who would listen that he had nothing to do with the death of Brian Wells and did not know anyone who was involved in the botched bank robbery. But then he changed his story: Barnes now says Diehl-Armstrong had asked him a few months prior to the bank robbery if he knew anyone that could make a bomb, specifically, one with a timer that counted down.
Plot Hole: Why would Diehl-Armstrong ask Barnes if he knew anyone that could make a bomb when she already knew the alleged “technical genius/bomb maker” William Rothstein?
Barnes told investigators that on August 27, 2003, the day before the bank robbery, he, Diehl Armstrong, Rothstein, Stockton, and Wells met at Rothstein’s house and discussed the plans for the bank robbery the next day.
Plot Hole: In contrast to the exacting detail of the instructions Brian had to follow to find the keys to unlock the collar bomb, the amount of planning that went into the rest of the bank robbery scheme was alarmingly inexact. They only discussed the plans the day before? Why not on other days? Perhaps because Barnes would have to account for Brian's whereabouts and those of the other "conspirators" on other days and the story would, if possible, be less credible. Unless Brian and the rest of over-the-hill gang had previous experience in bank robbery, one would think a little more practice time was needed.
Barnes said Wells was to give the notes to the teller, and after leaving the bank, give the money to Rothstein. This way, if Wells was stopped by authorities, he would not have any money with him, demonstrating to authorities that he was not willingly involved.
Plot Hole: According to the prosecution, the over-the-hill gang had to shoot Brian in the leg to stop him from running away. Perhaps that would have been sufficient to convince the authorities that Brian was not a willing participant? Barnes said sometime after 10:00 a.m. on August 28, 2003, Diehl Armstrong picked him up at his residence at 617 Perry Street, for the purpose of the bank robbery and they drove to Peach Street. Barnes admitted that he and Diehl Armstrong then drove to the Shell gas station, that he purchased gasoline for Diehl Armstrong’s vehicle while Diehl Armstrong and Rothstein were standing near the pay phone. (How stupid do we think they were? Oh yeah.) The phone booth was reportedly the closest one to Rothstein’s house. Perhaps Rothstein and the others never thought the cops would trace the call to the location? And good move too buying the gas there too.
Plot hole: It doesn't add up. The prosecution’s case against Brian Wells rests entirely on the testimony of a heroin dealer, whose family says is a pathological liar, that a female, bi-polar ringleader, who shot and killed her former boyfriend and stuffed him in a freezer, recruited 3 or 4 people to rob a bank of $200,000 so she could pay him to murder her father so she could inherit a small amount (perhaps $50K or perhaps much less) money. At best, if she cut three of her co-conspirators in for a slice of the pizza pie dough, she would have $50 K left over to get the deed done. So she pays $50 K to make $50 K?
Mama Mia: The Wells family thinks the government’s case is as thin as the crust of a New York pizza. According to the Wells’ family, the government has not presented any evidence other than the “good word” of a heroin dealer/pathological liar. They assert, to the contrary, that Brian did not have a criminal record and never exhibited any indications of criminal behavior. They frankly do not buy the government’s pizza pie-in-the-sky idea that Brian would ever get involved with a mixed bag of nuts or put his neck on the line to rob a bank for strangers.
But then they don't want to just close the case. They want justice. They want to know why the FBI doesn't mention the Dark Skin Guys:
The Colombia Connection: If William Rothstein told the truth that he was not involved in the collar bomb attack and if the family and friends of Brian Wells knew Brian would not get involved in a bank robbery, then who did it? Brian says the guys who did it had dark skin. (NB: FBI Agent Ken McCabe said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the explosive used in the device that killed Brian Wells was of a kind that he had only seen once – in Colombia.) On May 15, 2000, Elvia del Carmen Cortes was attacked by four young men wearing hoods in La Palestina, Colombia. They placed a collar packed with explosives around her neck and demanded she get them $7500. Elvia died before police could disarm the collar bomb. A bomb technician was also killed trying to disarm it. The heinous murder caused a national outrage and the usual suspects – the FARC – were immediately accused of the crime. The FARC disavowed any connection with her murder. Police later concluded that indeed the FARC was not responsible for the murder. The La Palestina crime remains unsolved.
And so does the Erie crime.
Please, sir, may I have more?
What to make of this? Deliberations continued as the Erie jury reviewed what “crazy” Marj Diehl told federal investigators in the "pizza bomber" case, according to two questions the jury asked today. The jurors asked U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin if they could see the FBI's handwritten notes or typewritten summaries of interviews with Diehl, who the FBI said implicated her during the talks. And the jury asked if the FBI had recorded any of the interviews with Diehl. (Source: GoErie.com)
Perhaps the Erie jury has an appetite for clear-and-convincing evidence that Marj Diehl is a criminal mastermind or just plain crazy. Perhaps some jurors think Marj is prone to fantasy and fabricated her story in prison that she was involved in the murder of Brian Wells.
You want more?
But McLaughlin denied the request that the jury see the FBI notes and interview summaries, known as Form 302s. Citing the law, he reminded the jurors that the FBI agent who interviewed Diehl-Armstrong had testified at her trial.
This is the second time the jury has asked McLaughlin questions since deliberations started Friday. The jury on Friday asked for and received permission to watch a video that Erie police and state police took of Rothstein as he toured his and Diehl-Armstrong's houses after Sept. 21, 2003, when the body of Diehl-Armstrong's boyfriend James Roden was found in a freezer in Rothstein's garage.
If the jury decides Marj was too crazy to concoct the bank robbery, it will add suspicion that heroin dealer/pathological liar Kenneth Barnes made a false confession to the FBI. But why would any sane person do that, you ask? Exactly.