Even with surveillance tapes, Wheeler mystery deepens

This surveillance video, taken in a Wilmington office-building hallway just 14 hours before his body was found dumped with a load of trash at a nearby landfill, shows John Wheeler, who appears to be disoriented, and may be carrying one of his shoes in his left hand.
This surveillance video, taken in a Wilmington office-building hallway just 14 hours before his body was found dumped with a load of trash at a nearby landfill, shows John Wheeler, who appears to be disoriented, and may be carrying one of his shoes in his left hand.
Posted: January 06, 2011

The balding, 60-something man shown in a Christmas week security camera video is well-dressed in a dark suit and an open-collared shirt - but he appears to be lost or confused.

The video - which Newark, Del., police say captures prominent defense expert John "Jack" Wheeler III two days before he was murdered and thrown into a trash dumpster - shows him wandering a couple of times up and down the office corridor of a downtown Wilmington parking garage.

It shows Wheeler stopping at one point to speak with the office attendant; later he is seen in a second hallway, walking past a bank of ATM machines and onto a parking level.

The footage, which is time-stamped from the mid-evening of Wednesday, Dec. 29, seems to bolster the accounts of at least three witnesses who've told police that Wheeler - an expert in cyberwarfare, and also a driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington - was in and around Wilmington and acting strangely last week.

In the video that police made public yesterday, Wheeler's left jacket sleeve appears covered in dirt and he also seems to be holding an item, maybe a shoe, in his hand.

Newark police - who are leading the probe because it's believed that Wheeler's body was thrown in a dumpster there before it was unloaded and discovered at a Wilmington landfill last Friday morning - said that Wheeler also "appears confused" on another surveillance film shot at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The cops said that they are intensifying their efforts to learn Wheeler's whereabouts over the roughly eight hours between the final video - taken inside the Nemours Building, at 10th and Orange streets, in Wilmington. They still have not explained exactly how the former top Air Force official during George W. Bush's second term was murdered.

The multiple sightings of Wheeler in Wilmington and his nearby riverfront hometown of New Castle on Wednesday, Dec. 29, and Thursday, Dec. 30, have resolved some of the mystery surrounding his final movements but also raised shocking new questions about his state of mind.

Two parking lot attendants have told police and Philadelphia TV news reporters that Wheeler seemed to be disoriented and confused about the location of his car, which police later found at a hotel lot near Wilmington's Amtrak station. Despite the frigid weather, he was not wearing an overcoat.

On Dec. 29, the day before Wheeler was last seen alive, he had asked a pharmacist in New Castle for a ride to Wilmington, about five miles away. Pharmacist Murali Gouro, who had filled Wheeler's prescriptions in the past, said that Wheeler looked upset, the Wilmington News Journal reported.

It's not clear how reports of a disoriented Wheeler might be connected to his death, although his repeated foot travels through downtown Wilmington could have increased the chance of his being targeted by street criminals. But Newark, where his body was believed dumped, is about 10 miles away.

Authorities have not confirmed a report in yesterday's Inquirer that evidence links Wheeler to a Tuesday smoke-bomb attack on a neighbor's under-construction home that Wheeler and his wife had targeted in a lawsuit, charging that the new home blocks their view of a local park.

Wheeler's wife - Katherine Klyce, an importer of silk from Cambodia - has not spoken to reporters since news of her husband's killing was released. The Wheeler family - he had twins, Katie and John, from an earlier marriage - issued a statement Monday night, asking for privacy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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