U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up appeal in bank heist collar bomb death case

By Jon Campisi | Jan 16, 2013

The nation’s highest court has refused to hear the appeal in a bizarre case out of

Northwest Pennsylvania in which a woman was convicted in the death of a pizza deliveryman who died after the collar bomb he was made to wear during a bank holdup ended up exploding.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to take up the appeal of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, the convict serving a life sentence plus 30 years for the death of deliveryman Brian Wells back in the summer of 2003, according to a report Tuesday in the Erie Times-News.

The newspaper reported that the high court’s decision ends Diehl-Armstrong’s direct appeals, and opens up the door for her to file habeas corpus appeals, which she can pursue on her own.

Diehl-Armstrong was convicted by a federal jury in Erie in 2010 in connection with Wells’ bombing death, according to the Times-News.

The woman had been convicted of conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery and two other charges relating to Wells’ death, which occurred when a bomb locked to his neck exploded after he robbed a bank in Summit Township, Erie County.

While Diehl-Armstrong was sentenced in federal court, the newspaper reported, she remains in a Pennsylvania state prison, where she is serving a seven-to-20-year sentence for pleading guilty but mentally ill to third degree murder for shooting her boyfriend.

She was sentenced to prison for that crime back in 2005, prior to the federal sentence in the bomb death incident.

The Times-News reported that Diehl-Armstrong maintains her innocence in the Wells case, claiming that she was framed by a man named William A. Rothstein, in whose garage her dead boyfriend’s body was found 10 years ago.

Authorities had been investigating Rothstein in connection with the deliveryman’s death, but Rothstein ended up dying of cancer in the summer of 2004, three years before Diehl-Armstrong was indicted in that case, according to the newspaper.

Diehl-Armstrong had subsequently appealed her federal conviction to the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is based in Philadelphia.

A three-judge appellate court panel, however, ultimately upheld her criminal conviction and prison sentence in the Wells case.

The Times-News reported that the appeals panel agreed that U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin, the trial judge in the case, was correct in finding Diehl-Armstrong mentally competent to stand trial, even though the defendant had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

According to a past ABC News report, Wells, 46, had been killed when the homemade metal collar that an FBI agent once described as “unique” and “sophisticated” exploded after Wells robbed the PNC Bank in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Just prior to his death, Wells had told police that someone set a timer to go off on the bomb; officers were unable to remove the locked device before it detonated.

During the trial, prosecutors had contended that Wells may have originally been part of the bank heist conspiracy, although Wells’ family maintained he was an innocent victim in the ordeal, according to past news reports.

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