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Woman Serving Life In Collar Bomb Robbery Dies In Prison

Janet B. Campbell
The Erie Times-News via AP

A woman convicted in a bizarre bank robbery plot that left a pizza delivery driver dead when a bomb strapped to his neck exploded has died in prison.

Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong died Tuesday of natural causes, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said. Her last location in the federal prison system was the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, bureau spokesman Justin Long said.

Diehl-Armstrong, 68, was serving a life sentence plus 30 years for the suburban Erie bank robbery plot, which ended in the death of Brian Wells when a bomb locked to his neck exploded following the robbery. A federal appeals court last year rejected her bid for a new trial.

Wells, later identified as an unindicted co-conspirator although his family maintains he was a hostage, told state troopers he was forced to wear the collar at gunpoint shortly before robbing the bank in 2003. Wells was sitting down, handcuffed and waiting for a bomb squad to arrive, when the device exploded.

The case remained a mystery until Diehl-Armstrong and her fishing buddy Kenneth Barnes were indicted in 2007 on charges they concocted the plot along with her ex-boyfriend William Rothstein.

Barnes later pleaded guilty and testified against Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein died of cancer before the grand jury indictment was returned.

Investigators said Rothstein made the time bomb collar using two egg timers provided by Diehl-Armstrong. They said he even ordered the pizzas that lured Wells to a dead-end road where Wells was forced to wear the device before he was given handwritten instructions about how to rob the bank and disarm the bomb.

Prosecutors said they believe Wells was in on the plot but was fooled into believing the collar bomb would be a decoy.

By the time Diehl-Armstrong was indicted, she was serving seven to 20 years in state prison in the death of another ex-boyfriend, William Roden, two weeks before Wells died. Prosecutors said she killed Roden with a shotgun to keep him from going to authorities about the bomb plot, but she insisted it was a crime of passion prompted by his abuse.

Prosecutors argued that Diehl-Armstrong instigated the plot to raise $250,000 to hire Barnes to kill her father in a dispute over her future inheritance. The defense called that outlandish, noting, among other things, that Wells took only $8,701 from the bank.

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