How did a Washington insider end up dead in a landfill?

CASE DETAILS

cell phone on ground in flashlight beam

Someone had tossed smoke bombs into the structure.

John “Jack” Wheeler III, 66, worked for three presidential administrations, was special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, served in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and led the effort to create the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. He was a well-known figure in Washington circles.

On Saturday, December 25, 2010, Jack Wheeler and his wife, Katherine Klyce, spend Christmas with the family at their condo in Harlem, NY. (The couple split their time between their home in Harlem and their get-away home in New Castle, Delaware.) The morning of December 28th, John catches a train to Washington DC, where he works with a defense contracting company, Mitre Corp. He sends emails from his phone throughout the day.

House with flag and fence at night

Signs of a burglary were found in the Wheeler home.

Late that night, about 11:30pm, a neighbor next door to John’s home in New Castle, Delaware, hears an odd sound outside and sees the silhouette of a man near a house under construction across the street, and then he sees smoke coming from the property. The fire department and police are called but discover little damage—someone had tossed smoke bombs into the structure. The only other evidence they find at the scene is a cell phone, which belongs to John Wheeler. Could he have been the shadowy figure seen by the neighbor? (John had opposed the construction of this three-story home because of its historical significance.)

The next morning, December 29th, John emails the Mitre Corp. reporting that his home has been burglarized and that his cellphone, badge, key fob, and briefcase are missing. At 6pm, he walks into a pharmacy, just blocks from his New Castle house, and asks the pharmacist for a ride to Wilmington. The pharmacist offers to call him a cab, but John declines. Forty minutes later, John is seen in a Wilmington parking garage. He appears disoriented and tells an attendant his briefcase was stolen and he can’t find his car.

The next morning, December 30th, John’s neighbor in New Castle, Robert Dill, notices an open window at the Wheeler’s home. He enters the home and finds chairs knocked over, broken dishes in the kitchen sink, and an overturned plant—all signs of a burglary. He calls John and Katherine, leaves voicemails for both, but gets no response.

Katherine and their daughters have been trying to reach John on his cell phone, but he doesn’t answer. Never has he gone two days without being in touch. Later that afternoon, John arrives at the Nemours office building in Wilmington. He asks to speak to a partner at a law firm but leaves the offices before having a meeting. That evening, cameras in the basement of the Nemours building capture John exiting, and walking east toward Rodney Square, into the high-crime streets beyond. The following day, New Year’s Eve morning, police are called to investigate a body that has just been dumped out of a garbage truck at the Cherry Island Landfill in Wilmington. Police identify the body as John Wheeler. Investigators determine that the body came from a truck that made pickups in Newark, Delaware, which is miles from Wilmington. But the investigation turns up few credible witnesses or clues to the identity of John Wheeler’s killer.

birds flying over vehicle in landfill

John’s body was found at the Cherry Island Landfill.

Some believe John was robbed and beaten to death, yet his expensive watch and ring and some cash were found on his body. Others believe his bi-polar disorder could have led him into harm’s way. Still others believe there could be something more sinister involved and that his death could be connected to his government work.

Delaware Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of subject(s) responsible for the death of John Wheeler III. Please contact Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or go to delawarecrimestoppers.com.


9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Lisa

    It looks like he is on his phone in the surveillance video (19:54) in the pharmacy? I thought it had been stolen?

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    Rissa

    Trump killed wheeler. Case closed.

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Lucila

    Hola, el pie que está marcado en la casa con el polvo blanco coincide con el pie que Jack llevaba descalzo.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    M

    lol reaching with this episode. The man obviously suffered a mental episode. Poor guy ended up sleeping in the trashcan and got crashed. Very similar behavior to Elisa Lam.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    suzy

    he was clearly suffering and episode, his wife said he was forgetful and he smoke bombed the house he didn’t want to be built and forgot his phone there and had a fit in his own house when he realized he left it. He slept in a garbage can ,after confirmed sleeping in a basement (which was on film), and later slept in a garbage can and was crushed by the garbage truck. The injuries line up with being crushed by a garbage truck compactor. this is not a mystery

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    dctom

    Honestly I think the conspiracy theories with this one are wrong…this seems medical. We’re talking about a guy that regularly can’t remember where he parked his car….

    So on the way from DC, he forgets his briefcase–with his work ID and maybe his bipolar meds–on the train. He realizes this when he gets to the house in New Castle and decides he’ll report to his employer (but not the police, that would be a false report) that his briefcase was “stolen”–so he messes up his own house to make it look good, just in case. For good measure, and because he’s pissed off about the house across the street, he drops the smoke bombs off there as well and drops his phone while he’s at it.

    After that, he figure he’ll run up to Wilmington to get his car…maybe he’s got more meds in the car too. As usual, UM does not address key questions–why did he go to the pharmacy? Just for a ride to Wilmington?
    Seems like a strange place to go ask for a ride? Or did he go to replace his meds which were in his briefcase, but could not for some reason (system down, prescription expired, who knows?) Anyway, he forgets where he parks, and because he hasn’t had his meds in a while, starts totally losing it, wandering around the city. He sleeps in the dumpster and is killed when he’s dumped into the trash truck. His injuries as described seem wholly consistent with going through a compacter in a trash truck. That’s it…

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    Carrie

    Good morning
    They said he had removed one shoe and was walking wx it.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Diana

    I 100% don’t believe Jack died because of anything related to BP disorder. It could explain some of his “extreme” emotions but this man worked for a defense contractor. He had real connections to many powerful people in the military. I think he knew something and he died for it. He was robbed and then someone set those some bombs across the street, for what reason I am not sure. Maybe a distraction? Jack reports his stolen badge and briefcase to work, which is weird, like why not the police? Maybe he knows something is wrong and decides to grab his car, that car ride there is a real mystery, what happened there? Somehow ends up in that basement and hides there, probs waiting something out? He finally leaves to perhaps deal with whatever he was hiding from and died. I just wish there was more info on what projects he was working on at the time, perhaps there is a connection there.

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Louise

    I’m a podiatrist and I have just seen the film of john wheeler. The video of him in the underground of the building and the video of him in the hoodie walking past the hotel look strange. It maybe that I only saw a very short clip but it looks like his stance changes its him but walking different his whole demeanor is more assured, not sure what that would mean but thought I would say

    Reply

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