Former Pentagon staffer 'confused' before death
John Wheeler III, a former Army officer who helped lead efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was seen wandering in apparent confusion...
The Washington Post
John Wheeler III, a former Army officer who helped lead efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was seen wandering in apparent confusion in downtown Wilmington in the days before he was found slain in a local landfill, police in Delaware said Wednesday.
Wheeler, 66, a lawyer and longtime business and government consultant who lived near Wilmington, was found Friday by a landfill worker who saw his body in a load of rubbish being dumped by a truck. Investigators said the trash had been picked up hours earlier from receptacles in Newark, Del., west of the city.
Authorities said he was a homicide victim but have not disclosed how he died.
Newark police said Wednesday that Wheeler was seen in an office building in Wilmington's central business district "as late as 8:30 p.m." last Thursday, about 13 hours before his remains turned up at the landfill. On security video from the building, Wheeler "appears confused," police Lt. Mark Farrall said.
The night before, investigators said, a disheveled and disoriented Wheeler was seen in a downtown parking garage, a half-mile from the Nemours Building.
Surveillance video from the Hypark garage, next to the New Castle County Courthouse, shows Wheeler staggering along a narrow corridor, clad in a dark suit coat, dark pants and a white shirt, and holding his right shoe in his left hand.
He hobbled past an attendant's window, then returned and spoke briefly to the person behind the glass, ending the exchange by jabbing a finger. He walked unsteadily along another hall toward an exit door that was open. He pulled the door closed, then turned, threw up his arms as if frustrated and got on an elevator.
Security guard Cathleen Boyer, who saw Wheeler at the garage, told the News Journal of Wilmington that Wheeler said he had been robbed of his briefcase. She said his speech was not slurred and she did not notice any odor of alcohol.
"His eyes were red, like he was crying or something," the newspaper quoted Boyer as saying.
Wheeler served as a junior staff officer in Vietnam and at the Pentagon before leaving the Army as a captain in the early 1970s. As the first chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, he was instrumental in erecting the memorial on the Mall.
Wheeler worked as a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission and as a self-employed business consultant. He also held a few midlevel advisory posts in the federal government, including a stint in the mid-2000s as a special assistant to the Air Force secretary.
Phoebe Dill, a friend and neighbor of Wheeler and his wife, Katherine Klyce, in New Castle, Del., told The Philadelphia Inquirer she last saw Wheeler on Christmas Eve when Dill's husband, Robert, drove him to the train station.
"He was going to New York with his wife's Christmas present," she said. Wheeler and Klyce have a condominium in Manhattan.
Dill said she assumed Wheeler then took a train directly to Washington, near his consulting job at Mitre Corp., a defense contractor in McLean, Va.
After working at Mitre on Dec. 28, Wheeler is believed to have taken a train from Washington to Wilmington. That night, police said, smoke-bomb devices were set off in an unfinished New Castle home across from Wheeler's that belongs to a couple with whom he was long embroiled in a court battle over the dimensions of the house.
A day later, he was seen in a drugstore in New Castle, about a mile from his home, according to a pharmacist there. The druggist, Murali Gouro, said Wheeler asked Gouro to give him a ride to Wilmington. Gouro said he declined and offered to call a cab for Wheeler but that Wheeler said no thanks and left.
Less than an hour later, he was in Wilmington, seeming lost at the Hypark garage.
Information from The New York Times is included in this report.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.