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FBI Releases Pictures of Device Around Bank Robber's Neck

September 3, 2003 -- The FBI on Tuesday released photos of a steel collar used to secure a bomb to the neck of a pizza deliveryman killed last week after robbing a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. FBI Special Agent Bob Rudge said the bomb's locking device was unique, sophisticated and has "significant lead value" to investigators.

Additionally, a law enforcement source told CNN that the FBI Tuesday evening returned to search a remote area around a television transmitter site for possible clues in the case. Agents also scoured the tower location Friday.

The deliveryman, Brian Douglas Wells, had gone to the remote area to deliver a pizza, according to his boss, and showed up at the bank an hour later with the bomb attached to him. Investigators have been unable to determine any commercial use for the mechanism, Rudge said.

Law enforcement sources told CNN the device was a pipe bomb. The FBI said it had released the pictures of the collar hoping that someone will remember seeing it somewhere before the robbery.

"We feel this device was made uniquely for the incident at hand," he said. "We are hopeful that by showing a picture of the device, someone may recognize the instrument, the metal, the locking material used to secure it to the neck and, certainly, call us with that information so that we can further examine the details of its construction."

Investigators also said they had found no direct connection between the death of Wells and the later death of a friend and co-worker.

Wells, 46, was killed Thursday afternoon when a bomb attached to the collar exploded after a bank robbery. Wells had told police he had been forced to rob the bank. After the robbery, Pennsylvania State Police stopped Wells, handcuffed him and sat him down on the ground, safely away from others. Police then called a bomb squad, but the device exploded before bomb technicians arrived, killing Wells.

A task force of federal, state and local investigators is looking into whether Wells was a hostage or willing participant, said Cpl. Mark Zaleski, a Pennsylvania State Police spokesman.

The collar around Wells' neck included a series of locks near his throat and was "obviously designed by the individual who intended to affix it," Rudge said.

Police handcuffed and isolated Brian Douglas Wells, who had said he was forced to rob a bank. Wells carried a note for bank employees during the robbery and another one that included instructions for him. Both notes are being examined for any fingerprints, handwriting, hair or fiber evidence they may yield, Rudge said.

Though previous bank robbers in the area have told tellers they had a bomb, "This is the first time that a device has actually exploded," Rudge said.

In addition, Zaleski said investigators have found no connection between Wells' death and the death Sunday morning of a co-worker, Robert Pinetti.

Erie County District Attorney Bradley Foulk said an autopsy found no sign of disease or injury, but preliminary drug tests indicated the presence of methadone and depressants similar to Valium in Pinetti's system. Taken together, those drugs "could lead to respiratory depression, which could result in an accidental or intentional drug overdose," Foulk said. "[But] we do not know that this is positively the case at this time." Final test results could take more than a week, he said.

Authorities received a call requesting medical
assistance be sent to Pinetti's home early Sunday. Pinetti refused treatment, and his parents found him dead about 9 a.m. Investigators looking into the bank robbery also assisted in the probe of Pinetti's death.

"At this time, no connection has been made linking Mr. Pinetti with the bank robbery that occurred on Thursday," Zaleski said. "Investigators are continuing to explore any link between the two individuals."
-- CNN

Fox News Article and Photo Essay

Second Man Dies: Bank Robber's Friend Found Dead In Home

September 1, 2003 ERIE, PA -- The investigation of a Pennsylvania pizza delivery man who robbed a bank and then exploded from a bomb took a turn Sunday when a 43-year-old co-worker of Wells at the Mama Mia's Pizzeria died after seeking medical assistance earlier in the day.

"There was nothing overtly obvious as to the cause of his death," state police said, "but because there's a relationship between the two individuals, we are over there."

Pinetti, 43, died Sunday morning in his 2525 Dobbins RD home. What otherwise would have been a quiet death investigation instead brought his well-manicured Lawrence Park neighborhood to a standstill as local, state and federal investigators poured onto the scene, all trying to learn if Pinetti's death was related to his co-worker Brian Wells'.

A task force of dozens of investigators from state and local police, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are sorting out the yet unanswered question of whether Wells was a robber or murder victim. Pinetti's death Sunday took that investigation down an unexpected road.

State police evacuated residents from the houses surrounding Pinetti's home Sunday afternoon and brought in the Erie Bureau of Police bomb squad to search Pinetti's home after officers investigating his death learned he was Wells' friend and a fellow delivery driver for Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria.

"Due to the working relationship and possible
friendship, we decided to hold the scene for processing until we had Erie Police Bomb Squad go through two vehicles at the residence and the residence itself," state police Cpl. Mark Zaleski said.

"All of this was done as a result of the coincidence that these two worked in the same location and were also friends," he said. Zaleski declined to comment on if anything was found in the home that might link Pinetti to the robbery or Wells' death.

"There are too many unanswered questions," he said. "These things take time to sort out."

Wells left Mama Mia's, 5154 Peach ST, Thursday to deliver two sausage-and-pepperoni pizzas to a Peach Street address that proved to be a remote radio tower.

Authorities said he then used the threat of a bomb to rob the PNC Bank in Summit Town Centre. When police surrounded him and handcuffed him minutes later in the parking lot of Eyeglass World, 7200 Peach ST, the bomb, which was hung around his neck and hidden under his shirt, exploded, and he died.

In the minutes before he died, the 46-year-old man told police he was forced to wear the bomb and rob the bank and asked them for help. Authorities summoned the bomb squad, but the bomb exploded before they arrived.

An autopsy completed Saturday night showed Wells died of injuries from the blast of the device, Chief Deputy Coroner Korac Timon said Sunday. The FBI has said Wells' death is being investigated as a homicide.

Pinetti had refused medical treatment for an
unspecified medical problem around 5 a.m. that day. Pinetti's parents discovered Pinetti unresponsive at about 9 AM Sunday, Zaleski said. Pinetti was declared dead at 9:47 AM by the Erie County Coroner's office.

Zaleski declined to comment on what medical condition brought paramedics to Pinetti's home at 5 a.m. He said there was nothing "overtly obvious" as to the cause of Pinetti's death.

Timon said an autopsy would be performed today at 9 AM and would include toxicology tests. He said no preliminary cause of death had been identified.

He said a deputy coroner responded to the scene Sunday after being notified of a home death. When the deputy coroner heard from family members that Pinetti had been friends with Wells, he immediately called Timon, who notified Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk and the Pennsylvania State Police. That set the stage for an intensive, all-day search.

Zaleski said investigators also were contacting members of the multiagency task force investigating the bank robbery and explosion to see if Pinetti was scheduled to be interviewed or had been interviewed in connection with the robbery.

Zaleski said investigators continue to work around the clock on the robbery investigation. An autopsy was completed Monday for Pinetti, but police were still waiting for toxicology tests to determine whether deaths were related. Federal investigators and police were expected to discuss the case at a news conference Tuesday.

Remnants of the bomb that killed Wells were flown out of Erie Saturday to the FBI lab in Quantico, VA, The FBI also is analyzing the handwritten note found on Wells.

The scene on Dobbins Road drew neighbors' curiosity and concern. At 7:30 PM - nearly 10 hours after Pinetti had been discovered - there were still 10 marked and unmarked police cars parked along the road or in the grass of a playground. Two neighbors watched the proceedings through binoculars. Other curious neighbors walked through the nearby park, and children loitered on bicycles. None of the neighbors said they knew Pinetti or his family.

Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria owner Tony Ditomo would not answer questions about the deaths of two of his employees within three days of each other.

But despite the mysteries surrounding Wells' and Pinetti's deaths, Ditomo's business was open Saturday. Two men were eating at one of the tables in the store shortly before 5 PM The phone was silent.

"It's been very tough," Ditomo said. "We just try to work and stay busy." He declined to comment on the situation further, saying only that he knew nothing of what had happened to his employees.

Down the street at Papa John's, 3546 W 12th ST, head driver Rob Pansky said he knew Wells when the two worked together at the Pizza Outlet several years ago. He said hearing the mysterious circumstances surrounding his former co-worker's death made him nervous.

Papa John's Manager Catalin Ghisoiu said when someone who ordered a pizza earlier in the day gave a bogus telephone number, the store canceled the order rather than take the pizza to the address given by the caller.

-- Edited and excerpted from articles by Lisa Thompson and Kara Rhodes in the Erie Times-News, NEPA News, and UPI

Page Contents:

  • FBI Releases Pictures of Device Around Bank Robber's
  • Erie, Pennsylvania, Murder-Bombing Mystery: Information Sought
  • Pennsylvania Delivery Man Killed by Strap-On Bomb
  • Second Man Dies: Bank Robber's Friend Found Dead In
  • Police Detonate Pizza-Bomber (Sick Humor)
  • Criminal Minds Crime and Court News Links

Erie, Pennsylvania, Murder-Bombing Mystery: Information Sought

On August 28, On August 28, pizza delivery man Brian Douglas Wells was allegedly locked into a bombing device by unknown person(s) and ordered to rob a bank branch just outside the city of Erie. When he was detained by the Pennsylvania State Police following the robbery, the bomb exploded, killing him instantly. Following a preliminary investigation of the case by a multi-agency law enforcement task force, many questions remain.
Specifically, information is sought about any aspect of the triple-banded metal collar that was locked around Wells' neck and about the lock that kept it in place. On behalf of the task force, the FBI requests the public to carefully scrutinize the pictured photographs of these objects. By clicking on the photos, they can be enlarged to see fine details. If you have any information at all about the devices, please immediately call the FBI's toll-free number 1-866-219-2008.
On 9/11/03, a new drawing was released in the Erie Bank Robbery/Bombing case. The drawing was made from the description of a man seen emerging from a wooded area directly behind the Country Fair gas station and convenience mart located on Peach Street in Erie, Pennsylvania. Accordingly, this man is of interest for questioning. He is a white male, approximately six feet tall, dark brown medium length hair, wearing a Pittsburgh Steeler's jersey, denim shorts, and high top sneakers.
This drawing joins drawings of two other men, a site map, and photographs of a collar bomb and lock that were released earlier. Of the earlier drawings, one man (pictured) was located and questioned; no further information is needed. The other man--a white male with scraggly hair--is still wanted for questioning. He was seen on Interchange Road, near the Red Lobster restaurant, running through traffic and touching several vehicles along the way. He is described as being about 5'8" with white-blond hair, in his early 20s, and wearing dark cargo shorts, an untucked white t-shirt, white sneakers, and a baseball cap.
On behalf of the multi-angncy task force investigating the case, the FBI requests the public to carefully scrutinize the items pictured. If you have any information at all about the items, about the identities of the men pictured, or about the locations shown on the map, please immediately call the FBI's toll-free number 1-866-219-2008.

Officials Probe Bizarre Bank Robbery

August 31, 2003 ERIE, PA -- A pizza delivery man told police he had been forced to rob a bank and asked authorities to help him minutes before a bomb strapped to his chest exploded and killed him.

On Saturday, federal agents and police in northwestern Pennsylvania were trying to solve the bizarre case of 46-year-old Brian Douglas Wells, who left to deliver a pizza to a mysterious address in a remote area about an hour before he turned up at the bank with a bomb strapped to his body.

No one else was hurt in Thursday's explosion, which happened in front of law enforcement officers as they waited for a bomb squad to arrive. WJET-TV of Erie captured audio and video from Wells as he sat handcuffed in front of a state police cruiser.

"Why is nobody trying to come get this thing off me?" he asked.

A state police spokesman confirmed Friday night that Wells had made a number of statements, including that he had been forced to rob the bank. The tape shows Wells telling authorities someone had started a timer on his bomb under his T-shirt, and that there was little time left.

"It's going to go off," Wells said. "I'm not lying."

Erie Chief Deputy Coroner Korac Timon said Saturday the bomb appeared to have hung from Wells' neck, and that he had been told it was of a "very sophisticated construction."

FBI Special Agent Bob Rudge called the case unusual, noting that while bank robbers sometimes claim to have a bomb, few actually do.

While no one has been arrested or identified as a suspect, Rudge said the investigation was "going extremely well." Wells' death was being investigated as a homicide and investigators were looking into Wells' background.

Linda Payne, who owns the property where Wells lived, described him as a private, trustworthy person who liked music and cared for three cats. He was a friend of Payne's husband, who also had been a pizza delivery man, she said.

"I couldn't believe that he would rob a bank. He doesn't care that much about money," Payne said. "I think somebody lured him into that place delivering a pizza, dropped a bomb on him and sent him into the bank ... He would not have decided to do that on his own."

Wells' boss and one of the owners of Mama Mia's
Pizza-Ria outside Erie, who asked that his name not be published, said Saturday he took a call Thursday for a pizza delivery but didn't recognize the address given. He put Wells on the phone to get directions. Wells left to make the delivery and never returned, the pizzeria owner said. The address of the delivery was a rural spot along a main drag that runs south of the city, where a gravel road leads to a television transmission tower.

According to police, Wells entered the PNC Bank branch outside Erie on Thursday afternoon and producing an "extensive note" demanding money and saying he had a bomb. Rudge would not provide any details about the note.

Wells left with an undisclosed amount of money and got into his car. Police surrounded him a short time later in a nearby parking lot, pulled him out of his car and handcuffed him, authorities said. The bomb exploded about 40 minutes after he entered the bank.

Authorities obtained a search warrant and took evidence from Wells' home, but a state police spokesman refused to say what was taken. The evidence arrived at FBI laboratories in Washington, DC, but Rudge could not say how long testing would take.

State police forensics teams also searched near the spot of Wells' last pizza delivery. It was not know what, if anything, they found.

-- Edited and excerpted from the full article by Judy Lin for the Associated Press, at Yahoo

Police Detonate Pizza-Bomber

EERIE, PA - Brian Wells, the dreaded Pennsylvania Pizza-bomber, was blown to pieces Thursday when a bomb attached to his neck detonated as police and FBI agents urged him to "sit down and relax, and we'll be right back."

Wells, 46, had delivered a pizza and subsequently robbed a bank before exploding in front of dozens of bystanders. After he was pulled over by Pennsylvania State Police in connection with the robbery, Wells advised them that he had a bomb strapped to his neck, and it was about to explode. The police immediately handcuffed Wells and told him to sit in the road, then bolted away in horror.

As he sat on the ground, Wells said, "Hey! Can I get a bomb squad over here? How about something to drink? Uh, hello? I'm kind of in a hurry."

"Yes, sir! That's one bomb squad and a drink. Be there in about 15 - 20 minutes, or the Pepsi's free."

Wells was blown to smithereens a few minutes later. The police reported that the bomb squad arrived in fifteen minutes, saving the cost of a free beverage.

An FBI investigation has confirmed the state police acted properly. "Our analysis shows that Wells had a long history of pizza deliveries," said FBI spokesperson Ken McCabe. "He's also been in banks numerous times. Pizzas, banks and bombs just don't mix."

The FBI also said the police could have done little more to help Wells. "You ever see what happens to Wiley Coyote when he tries to blow up the Road Runner?" said McCabe. "He gets a bunch of dynamite, wires it up, then KABOOM!!!! - He blows himself up. Road Runner escapes unharmed 'cause he ran like hell. Same basic idea."
-- Bongo News

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