File This Under “F” for “Really Fucked Up”

What you are seeing is a picture of Brian Wells in 2003. He is wearing a t-shirt with the word “GUESS” written on it. In a few moments after that picture was taken, a bomb strapped around his neck exploded, taking his head off.

It’s a super super bizzare unsolved case.


Apparently Wells was a pizza delivery man who got a call in 2003 to make a delivery near a television tower in Erie, PA.  The next time he was seen was attempting to rob a bank with a custom steel collar closed by a combination lock and four keys clamped around his neck. He was also holding a shotgun built into a walking cane.

The police intercepted him, which is the state in which the picture finds him. Apparently, he told police before the bomb went off that someone had placed the collar around his neck and set the timer off on a bomb strapped to that collar. While waiting for the bomb squad to come, the thing exploded. (Leave it to Fox News to find the video of that — link goes to a article, not directly to the video)

In the ensuing investigation, police discovered a series of hand written notes that provided a “scavenger hunt” set of clues to find the keys/combination necessary to unlock the collar after the robbery.

Apparently the investigation hit a dead end, though they’re making what seems to be a final move in the past week or so to prosecute someone involved in an incidental crime near the same television tower. Links here, here, and here.

It’s nuts. The Wikipedia article actually suggests that Wells himself might have been involved in the plot, and just not realized that the bomb was real.

Tangentially — the study using data on media attention to the case is also pretty interesting.

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