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Those descriptions are a far cry from the consistent behaviour of a man whose career has seen him in roles such as Army Officer and Pentagon aide. Not only that, John was also known by three former presidents, he helped raised money for the Vietnam Veteran Memorial and was affiliated with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).
So how does a man like John P. Wheeler, born 14th December, 1944, go from pillar of society to down and out in just a few short days?
Little is known about his last days, but what is certain is that Wheeler was deeply distressed by something. Some speculate that the building of a house across the street from his could be at the heart of it. Indeed witnesses claim they saw smoke bombs launched from Wheeler’s house into the unfinished property and minor fire damage occurred as a result.
Wheeler was said to be unhappy about the house being built there as it obscured his view of the Delaware River and adjoining park land. He had filed numerous complaints and tried unsuccessfully to halt the construction.
His grudges against the house aside, there is still no clear indication of what might have caused him to act so drastically out of character.
John P. Wheeler is seen in video footage wearing a suit with no tie, walking with a limp (presumably because one of his shoes was damaged), and his jacket appears to have dirt on the sleeve. Wheeler told witnesses that he had been attacked and robbed.
The catalogue of oddness that police and press have so far built doesn’t immediately point to a man behaving like a deranged vagrant, but more like someone in distress.
On December 28, 2010, Wheeler was reportedly seen getting off an Amtrak train, and two days later at 10th and Orange streets in Wilmington. On December 31, a worker at the Cherry Island Landfill site said he saw Wheeler’s body fall onto a garbage heap. Police have said that all the stops made by the truck carrying Wheeler’s body involved large commercial disposal bins in the Newark, Delaware area.
The police have kept tight lipped about his death, other than to say it was a homicide. Investigations are still ongoing and law agencies including the FBI are on a fact finding mission, trying to piece together Wheeler’s movements in his final days.
FBI lab work has uncovered a link between Wheeler and the smoke bombs thrown into the house across the street and it is clear that his body was left in a dumpster in a heavily commercial area. Efforts, however, seem to be aimed at keeping the case as low profile as possible in order to gather all the information needed before making any public announcements.