New details on murder victim’s final hours

New accounts have emerged into John Wheeler III’s final days and hours before the body of the former Pentagon official was discovered in a Wilmington landfill. 

Wheeler’s body was left in one of ten dumpsters that were picked up by a refuse truck in Newark early last Friday morning.  A sanitation worker spotted the body at the Cherry Island landfill on the east side of Wilmington.

Wheeler was scheduled to be on an Amtrak train between Washington and Wilmington on Tuesday December 28th.  It has not been determined if he was on that train, but Wheeler’s vehicle has been found at a parking garage near the Wilmington station. 

A New Castle pharmacist says a man who appeared to be Wheeler approached him Wednesday December 29th and asked for a ride to Wilmington, but left when the pharmacist offered to call a cab instead.  Later that same evening, a parking attendant at a garage near the New Castle County Courthouse says a disheveled man approached her.  He was holding one of his shoes, and said he was looking for his car.

More coverage:

Leads, motive sought in murder of former Pentagon official
Police puzzle over killing of Vietnam Memorial backer

 

Police say Wheeler was spotted in the area of 10th and Orange Streets at about 3:30 p.m. the afternoon of Thursday December 30th.  He also was seen on video inside the Nemours Building at that intersection as late as 8:30 p.m.  Earlier, several people in the building had offered him assistance, but he refused. 

View Untitled in a larger map

Investigators have not released the cause of Wheeler’s death, and have not established where he was killed.

The mysterious circumstances surrounding his death sharply contrast with Wheeler’s lifetime of service and accomplishments.  He was a graduate of West Point, served as a staff sergeant in Vietnam, led an effort to raise funds for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, and was a former chair of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Most recently, he was a consultant to a defense department contractor.

Wheeler owned a home in New Castle, and was involved in a dispute over construction of a large home that blocked his view of the Delaware River.  Neighbors have said he and his wife had not been seen often recently.  The Wheelers also shared an apartment in New York City.

Anyone who can assist in the investigation is asked to call Newark Police at 302-366-7110, or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333.

Due to Wheeler’s former role as an assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, the FBI is also involved in the investigation.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.