The woman who is suspected of being one of the masterminds of the Erie pizza bomber bank robbery heist at the center of the Netflix documentary “Evil Genius,” died in 2017 of breast cancer while serving a life sentence plus 30 years in federal prison. According to The Associated Press, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong was 68 when she died at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
Diehl-Armstrong, who had been diagnosed bipolar disorder, had previously served seven to 20 years in prison for the murder of her boyfriend, William Roden. She pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, in 2005 in that case. Diehl-Armstrong was also charged in the 1984 murder of her boyfriend, Robert Thomas, but was acquitted after claiming self-defense, arguing that Thomas had abused her.
Federal prosecutors said Diehl-Armstrong conspired with others, including her fishing buddy, Kenneth Barnes, and her ex-boyfriend, William Rothstein, to rob a PNC Bank branch in Erie, Pennsylvania, on August 28, 2003. A pizza deliveryman, Brian Wells, had a collar bomb strapped around his neck before he was sent to rob the bank. Wells was eventually stopped by police and the bomb detonated during a standoff, killing him. Prosecutors allege Wells was part of the plot, though they said it was not known if he knew he had on a real bomb, while the new documentary argues Wells was not part of the plan.
“She does have mental illness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini said at Diehl-Armstrong’s sentencing, according to the Erie Times-News. “But when you combine this woman’s serious mental illness with her personality disorder, her narcissism, her paranoia, her deception, her manipulativeness, you combine that into one person with evil and this is the type of crime that results. The combination of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and her propensity toward violence in this particular case proved deadly.”
She Died in Hospice Care After Refusing Chemotherapy
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong died in hospice care while an inmate at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, according to records obtained by the Erie Times-News. She had been refusing treatment for breast cancer. It’s not clear how long she had the disease.
“Patient had an anti-social personality, was assaultive to staff and Inmate nursing assistants, and refused any kind of medical care offered to her,” according to a federal Bureau of Prisons’s medical report obtained by the newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request. “She refused chemotherapy, eating, drawing labs, hygiene and taking medications.”
Several weeks before she died, Diehl-Armstrong was found to be psychologically competent, but “continued to refuse chemotherapy and was only eating Jello.” On March 21, Diehl-Armstrong was found unconscious and “deemed futile,” by medical staff. “She was breathing on her own, vital signs were stable, however she did not respond to verbal stimuli nor to questions,” the report states. She died two weeks later at Kindred Hospital at 4:48 a.m. on April 4, 2017, records show.
She Is Buried in an Arlington, Texas, Cemetery, but a Man Who Claimed to Be Her ‘Husband’ Is trying to Have Her Body Moved to a Quaker Burial Ground in New York
Diehl-Armstrong is buried in Lot 346 of Cedar Hill Memorial Park, a cemetery in Arlington, Texas, not far from the hospital in Fort Worth where she died. Fittingly, Diehl-Armstrong’s story took one final strange turn after her death. A man claiming to be her common-law husband filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal court in an attempt to have her body moved to a Quaker cemetery in southern New York near where he lives. In court documents, Mark Marvin claims he is Diehl-Armstrong’s husband and says they met through letters while she was in prison.
Marvin said in his petition that he met Diehl-Armstrong in person while she was being held at a Pennsylvania state prison and he filed legal documents for her, though he is not an attorney. He also requested a federal judge posthumously declare Diehl-Armstrong innocent.
Federal prosecutors argued that Marvin did not meet the requirements for an “informal marriage,” under Texas law, and in April, a federal judge ruled that the habeas corpus petition only applies to people who are alive. The judge told Marvin, who lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, he could try to make his request again using a different legal strategy. Marvin said he made arrangements for Diehl-Armstrong for her burial by setting aside a plot at a Quaker cemetery in Cornwall, New York.
Marvin told the Erie Times-News he has not traveled to Texas to visit Diehl-Armstrong’s gravesite there. “I haven’t been where she is. I’ve visited where she belongs. She was my wife. I want her home.”
Her Death Came a Year After a Federal Appeals Court Rejected Her Bid for a New Trial
Diehl-Armstrong died a year after a federal appeals court rejected her bid for a new trial in the bank heist. “It is a travesty,” she told the Times-News in a 2015 phone interview after a previous denial. “We are going to keep on fighting this. This is an absolutely unmistakable miscarriage of justice.”
At the time of that interview she said she was recovering from breast cancer. She told the newspaper, “I really feel this should have been thrown out a long time ago. There is no physical evidence, and I can pass any lie-detector test — serum, brain scan. I am not Casper the Friendly Ghost. If I was at the bank, you would have seen me. If I was doing it, I’d be there front and center. That is the kind of person I am.”
Diehl-Armstrong’s co-conspirator in the pizza bomber heist, William Rothstein, is also dead. Rothstein died of lymphoma on July 30, 2004, at the age of 60. Kenneth Barnes is serving a 45-year sentence in federal prison. Another co-conspirator, convicted child rapist Floyd Stockton, testified against Barnes and Diehl-Armstrong and was given immunity. He was released from federal custody after completing a