April 12, 2010 -- A woman awaiting trial on charges she masterminded a bank robbery plot that ended with a pizza deliveryman being killed by a bomb locked around his neck says she has cancer -- in her neck.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, 61, is scheduled for trial Aug. 30. But she told the Erie, Pa., Times-News from jail that she had a cancerous tumor removed from her neck last month and is awaiting test results to determine the extent of her illness, according to The Associated Press.
Armstrong, the so-called "pizza bomber," is serving a seven-to-20-year sentence for the murder of former boyfriend James Roden, which happened during the same month pizza deliveryman Brian Wells was killed by the bomb. She pleaded guilty but mentally ill to that crime in January 2005.
While Armstrong appears to have been complicit in both homicides, authorities have never formally made a link between the two cases.
Despite her apparent cooperation with investigators, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against Armstrong and another man in connection with the Wells case in 2007.
It was around that same time that Armstrong initiated contact with ABC News.
Her letter began enticingly enough.
"I am totally innocent of the Wells crime, but I have a plethora of information to offer.''
Stamped "Inmate Mail -- Pa. Dept. of Corrections'' in Muncy, Pa., and bearing Armstrong's name, the letter arrived unbidden at ABC News in March of 2007, after the network sent a producer to Erie the previous winter to take a fresh look into the long unsolved case.
In the letter, Diehl-Armstrong gets right to the point.
"I'm sane, not on psych[iatric] meds'' and have "equivalent of five college degrees with honors,'' she wrote.
Armstrong, one of the strangest figures in a very unusual case, graduated class valedictorian from her Erie high school, according to former classmate Brad Foulk, currently Erie County's district attorney and the man who prosecuted her for Roden's murder.
She went on to earn several postgraduate degrees, but has been linked to violent crime for decades. More than 20 years ago, she shot and killed a man who her attorney Lawrence D'Ambrosio described as a "vicious, abusive'' boyfriend. Then in 2003, authorities say, she shot and killed Roden.
D'Ambrosio told ABC News that Armstrong was preoccupied with the disposal of Roden's body when the pizza bomb plot was carried out by Wells.
"I know Marge,'' D'Ambrosio said Tuesday. "And she has an obsessive, one-track mind, where she's obsessed with one thing and she just stays right on it and you can't talk to her about anything else. There's no way that I can picture her planning something else when she has a one-track mind obsession with 'what are we going to do with my boyfriend's body and not tell the police.' That [bomb plot] was a traumatic incident, and whether she participated or not, it's not something you do every day.''
In August 2003, Armstrong was in fact trying to conceal Roden's body, which police found on Sept. 21, 2003, in a freezer in the garage of resident William Rothstein, Armstrong's one time fiancé. Rothstein lived near the site where Wells was sent to deliver a pizza. Wells turned up soon afterward in the bank with the bomb around his neck.
Investigators questioned Rothstein extensively in the case up until his death from cancer in the summer of 2004. The local substitute teacher and handyman was 60.
The letter from Armstrong was full of small talk -- asking the reporter to bring dollar bills and change for the vending machine, and complaining that the psychiatric medications she normally takes were being withheld from her. Like many inmate letters to reporters, it included pleas and coy offers of information. ABC News did not respond to the letter.
After offering herself to be interviewed in return for help finding new legal counsel, Armstrong acknowledged she's not in much of a position to bargain.
"I'll talk to you anyway, but won't give you near as much information if I don't get some help, as a show of support," she wrote.
The letter concludes, "Please answer soon…..thanks, Marge.''
Armstrong said in the letter that she was being advised by her current attorneys to withdraw her guilty but mentally ill plea in the Roden homicide, possibly out of fear that the conviction could be used against her in the Wells case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.