By Claire Booth
I just finished watching the true crime documentary Evil Genius on Netflix and man, am I conflicted about my final opinion of it. It was both really good and disappointing at the same time.
On the one hand, it was a very well done look at the infamous "pizza bomber" case, where a delivery driver robbed an Erie, Penn., bank with a bomb locked around his neck. He was quickly caught by police, but the bomb exploded as he sat handcuffed in the middle of the street; he was killed instantly. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
The four-part series lays out the bizarre crime and ensuing law enforcement investigation nicely. But if you’re looking for answers – like, say, who masterminded the plot and was the actual "evil genius" – you’ll be disappointed. I think this is the fault of the title more than anything else. It’s too definitive for what ultimately played out. The police investigation was unable to determine who came up with the idea to strap a bomb to a pizza delivery man and send him into a bank.
It could have been Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a woman with a long history of mental illness who was already linked to several suspicious deaths. Or it could have been her former boyfriend, a man named Bill Rothstein. Diehl-Armstrong is the evil genius of the title, but there was nothing specific presented in the documentary that clearly proved it was her instead of Rothstein. Both were intelligent, grandiose personalities who existed on the fringes of society.
Rothstein presented himself better, which made it easier to label the prickly, erratic, anti-social Diehl-Armstrong as the instigator of the plot.I’ll add an aside here that Diehl-Armstrong did have well-known homicidal tendencies. She’d been previously charged with murder and acquitted, and was accused of killing the boyfriend she had during the time of the pizza bomb plot. So she wasn’t some brilliant person who never got caught, and she wasn’t a person who was able to present a different, false face to the world. Those talents appeared to belong to Rothstein.
So who was really the genius? The documentary does a lot of things well, but answering that question isn’t one of them.