Fugitives occupy a unique place in the American criminal justice system. They can run and they can hide, but eventually each chase ends. And, in many cases, history is made along the way.
John Dillinger’s capture obsessed J. Edgar Hoover and helped create the modern FBI. Violent student radicals who went on the lam in the 1960s reflected the turbulence of the era. The sixteen-year disappearance and sudden arrest of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in 2011 captivated the nation. Fugitives have become iconic characters in American culture even as they have threatened public safety and the smooth operation of the justice system. They are always on the run, always trying to stay out of reach of the long arm of the law. Also prominent are the men and women who chase fugitives: FBI agents, federal marshals and their deputies, police officers, and bounty hunters.
A significant element of the justice system is dedicated to finding those on the run, and the most-wanted posters and true-crime television shows have made fugitives seemingly ubiquitous figures of fear and fascination for the public. In On the Lam, Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella trace the history of fugitives in the United States by looking at the characters – real and fictional – who have played the roles of the hunter and the hunted. They also examine the origins of the bail system and other legal tools, such as most-wanted programs, that are designed to guard against flight.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, as one judge described her, is “a coldly calculated criminal recidivist and serial killer.” She had experienced a lifetime of murder, mayhem, and mental illness. She killed two boyfriends, including one whose body was stuffed in a freezer. And she was convicted in one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s strangest cases: the Pizza Bomber case, in which a pizza deliveryman died when a bomb locked to his neck exploded after he robbed a bank in 2003 near Erie, Pennsylvania, Diehl-Armstrong’s hometown.
Diehl-Armstrong’s life unfolded in an enthralling portrait; a fascinating interplay between mental illness and the law. As a female serial killer, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong was in a rare category. In the early 1970s, she was a high-achieving graduate student pursuing a career in education but suffered from bipolar disorder. Before her death, she was sentenced to serve life plus thirty years in federal prison.
In Mania and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella examine female serial killers by focusing on the fascinating and tragic life of one woman. This book also explores mental illness and forensic psychology and provides a history of how American jurisprudence has grappled with such complex and controversial issues as the insanity defense and mental competency to stand trial. The authors’ account shows why Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong was unlike any other criminal – man or woman – in American history. Accounts of Diehl-Armstrong’s travails – her difficult childhood, her murder trials, her hoarding – are interpolated with chapters about mental disorders and the law.
On August 28, 2003, in the suburbs of Erie, Pennsylvania, a pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells robbed a bank with a time bomb locked around his neck. He said a group of men accosted him and forced him to carry out the heist. After delivering the money, he would receive clues to help him disarm the bomb. It was one of the most diabolical bank-robbery schemes in history, known by the FBI as COLLARBOMB, Major Case #203.
It did not go according to plan.
Wells, picked up by police shortly after the robbery, never had time to find the clues he needed. Investigating the crime after his grisly death, the FBI ultimately discovered that Wells was not, in fact, an innocent victim. He was merely the first co-conspirator to fall in a bizarre trail of death following the crime.
Jerry Clark, the lead FBI Special Agent who cracked what became known as the Pizza Bomber case, and Erie Times-News investigative reporter Ed Palattella, who followed it from the beginning, tell the complete story, from the inside, for the first time.
No crime is as synonymous with America as bank robbery. Though the number of bank robberies nationwide has declined, bank robbery continues to captivate the public and jeopardize the safety of banks and their employees.
In A History of Heists, Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella explore how bank robbers have influenced American culture as much as they have reflected it. Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Willie Sutton, and Patty Hearst are among the most famous figures in the history of crime in the United States. Jesse James used his training as a Confederate guerrilla to make bank robbery a political act. John Dillinger capitalized on the public’s scorn of banks during the Great Depression and became America’s first Public Enemy Number One. When she held up a bank with the leftist Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hearst fueled the country’s social unrest. Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella delve into the backgrounds and motivations of the robbers, and explore how they are as complex as the nation whose banks they have plundered.
But as much as the story of bank robbery in America focuses on the thieves, it is also a story of those who investigate the heists. As bank robbers became more sophisticated, so did the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies. This captivating history shows how bank robbery shaped the modern FBI, and how it continues to cultivate America’s fascination with the noble outlaw: bandits seen, rightly or wrongly, as battling unjust authority.