The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right side bar.
Former FBI agent Gerald Clark, along with investigative reporter Ed Palattella, wrote a book, Pizza Bomber, about one of his most important cases. The book unravels the twists and turns of a plot conceived by eight emotionally unstable and devious people. The author’s give interesting insider details on how the investigation unfolded and why it took so long to solve. This is one of the most ingenious bank robbery schemes in history and is known as the “Collarbomb,” by the FBI.
The plot was conceived on August 28, 2003 in the suburbs of Erie, Pennsylvania. A pizza deliveryman, Brian Wells, had a time bomb locked around his neck, and was ordered to rob a bank. After delivering the money he would receive clues to disarm the bomb. The police surrounded Wells shortly after the robbery. Special FBI Agent Clark came on the scene, standing thirty feet away as Wells was interrogated by the police. To Clark’s horror the bomb exploded, killing Wells. The Agent would spend the next seven years investigating the incident, identifying, and charging those responsible.
Clark told BlackFive.net that he wrote it “for the educational component. I wanted people to understand the pitfalls that were involved. If you break this case down it is really about eight characters that found each other. They called themselves the ‘fractural individuals’ because they could not relate to anyone outside the group.”
The book also discusses the personality traits of each of the eight. Clark who has a Ph.D in criminology and a Masters degree in Forensic Psychology believes that four of the eight had an anti-social personality disorder, psychopaths. The instigator was Marjorie Diehl Armstrong who developed the idea to rob the bank to get money to pay for someone to murder her father for his inheritance. Clark felt “Diehl was one of those who had the anti-social personality disorder. She is one of the most unique, manipulative, really bright individuals I ever talked with.”
The person who had a major part in making the bomb was Bill Rothstein, also a psychopath. He was the one responsible for coming up with the plan to put a bomb on someone and to make sure they died so there would be no witnesses. On his deathbed Clark tried to get him to “cleanse his soul. However, he refused to talk. The bottom line is that he would not give us the satisfaction of telling us what happened. He once told me ‘I am the smartest guy in this room.’ He believed he was smarter than anybody and as he was dying had the attitude, ‘the joke is on you.’ He was such an arrogant guy who had a really dark side.”
The chapter in the book where Clark conducts this interview is fascinating since the reader can get a glimpse on how an interrogator is able to find details as they interviewed the suspect. Clark commented, “I massaged his ego and talked to him in hypothetical terms. He responded in hypothetical terms since he thought I could not use the evidence against him.”
The authors also explained how they were able to connect some clues through the FBI profiler, Mary Ellen O’Toole. “She was great and was able to come up with ideas as to the personalities behind the bomb maker. Just from examining all the pieces she was able to come up with a very accurate profile and her facts were right on. This case involved a lot of circumstantial evidence since there was no forensic evidence.”
Clark said he wants readers to understand that many cases take a toll on those trying to find the perpetrators. “There was a lot of pressure. It was intense. We had to have a lot of perseverance because this took a long time to get resolved. The information had to be developed to know what facts are related and how they can be pinned on the defendants. At the end of the case I was honored to get a letter and a phone call from FBI Director Mueller who congratulated me on sticking with and solving the case.”
Pizza Bomber is a true crime book that is informative and insightful. The characters are described in such a way that the reader will understand how their behavior allows them to conceive and initiate such a horrific act. Having it written from the perspective of FBI Agent Clark makes the book interesting because it traces the investigative process and the passion he had for making sure justice would prevail.