Nearly four years after one of the strangest murder cases in federal law enforcement history, authorities appear poised to announce indictments in the case of the pizza bomber as early as Wednesday, sources tell ABC News.
Sources say the indictments will center on a former high school valedictorian with bipolar disorder who is believed to be the ringleader of a bizarre Pennsylvania bank robbery gone bad. What remains vexingly unclear is whether pizza-delivery man Brian Wells was involved in the plot in any way.
In late summer 2003, Wells walked into an Erie, Pa., bank wearing a bomb attached to his neck by an elaborate, locked metal collar. He was also carrying a gun disguised as a walking cane.
Cornered by police in a nearby parking lot after the robbery, Wells said that armed gunmen had locked the bomb around his neck and sent him into the bank. Police seized a multiple-page note full of instructions that told Wells to move swiftly to a variety of seemingly unrelated spots around the area or the bomb would detonate.
"Why is nobody trying to come get this thing off me?" he yelled to authorities as he sat handcuffed near a police car. "I don't have enough time."
He didn't. With a small crowd gathered that included curious media, the bomb exploded, blowing a hole through Wells' chest and killing him instantly. He was 46 years old.
The case has taken numerous twists and turns over the years, and investigators have acknowledged at times that they were simply stumped. This week though federal authorities are expected to announce indictments, sources close to the case tell ABC News' Law & Justice Unit.
Valedictorian Turned Robbery Ringleader?
Monday, a federal public defender for a woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong filed court documents trying to prevent the government from holding a news conference to announce indictments. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh, which is handling the case, declined comment, as did federal public defender Thomas Patton's office.
Diehl-Armstrong, a high school class valedictorian with multiple graduate degrees who suffers from bipolar disorder, has long been a main target of the investigation. While law enforcement sources tell ABC News Diehl-Armstrong has cooperated with investigators, she is still expected to be charged in the case, possibly as its ringleader.
Tim Lucas, a lawyer who represents a witness who testified before a grand jury in the pizza-bomber case, told ABC News that "it appears the government theory is Diehl-Armstrong is the primary leader/orchestrator in the robbery that led to Wells' death."
It was unclear whether the indictments were expected to include charges related to Wells' death or just the bank robbery.
Less than two years after Sept. 11, the strange case immediately raised fears of a new and frightening terrorist tactic. It appears now that the plot was the work of a group of American criminals, virtually all of whom are either dead or in jail on unrelated charges.