Surveillance Video Shows Disoriented John P. Wheeler Before Death

See also:

“We May Never Know” How John Wheeler Died (CBS News)

Wheeler’s cell phone discovered, taxi driver says (CNN)

Video shows Wheeler in high-crime area day before death (USA Today)

Wheeler: Super Bloodshot Eyes (Fox News)

Delaware police show new video of dead former Bush official (Reuters)

Former Presidential Aide’s Murder Mystery Deepens (Fox News)

US Presidential Adviser John Wheeler Dumped In Landfill (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Video footage shows Wheeler wandering hours before his death

Added: 5. Januar 2011

(USA Today) — Newark police reported Wednesday that John P. Wheeler III was spotted at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 30 as he wandered through a DuPont Co. building, apparently confused and disoriented — filling in five more hours leading up to the discovery of his body in a Wilmington landfill.

The former Pentagon official’s body was found about 13 hours later, on New Year’s Eve, lying in refuse at Wilmington’s Cherry Island Landfill. Law enforcement officials also confirmed Wednesday they are looking into a Dec. 28 smoke bomb incident at a New Castle home that had been the focus of several lawsuits filed by the 66-year-old Wheeler.

The home, which is under construction, is directly across the street from Wheeler’s house, blocking his view of the Delaware River. Wheeler contended in a long-running legal dispute the home violates the historic town’s zoning codes.

State fire officials reported that several low-powered devices — commonly used to smoke out small animals — were found. They caused only minor damage and officials said they originally talked to and released two teenagers who were spotted near the house. Though they have no suspects, investigators hoped to speak to Wheeler about the incident.

On Wednesday, police said Wheeler, who led fundraising efforts in the 1980s to construct the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, was last seen alive inside the Nemours Building at 10th and Orange streets in Wilmington.

“We don’t know when he left the building, because he was out of the camera’s frame,” said Newark police Lt. Mark Farrall. “But we do know that several individuals inside the building approached him, because they saw him walking around appearing disoriented or confused.”

Wheeler declined their help, Farrall added.

Rick Straitman, a spokesman for the DuPont Co., said they turned the video over to police.

“We have provided whatever we could to the investigating agencies and that’s the end of our role there,” he said. Straitman would not provide copies to The News Journal.

As of Wednesday, Newark detectives had not determined where Wheeler was killed, although his last movements indicate he was in Wilmington. Detectives also have not yet been able to narrow down which one of the 10 trash receptacles that a trash truck picked up along a Newark route contained Wheeler’s body before it was placed in the landfill.

“Detectives are sifting through video footage taken from all of the locations trying to find clues,” he said.

The state Medical Examiner has not released the exact cause of Wheeler’s death pending toxicology and other forensic tests, but ruled the manner of death a homicide. The FBI also is involved in the investigation because of Wheeler’s past position as special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force from 2007 to 2009, said Rich Wolf, spokesman for the FBI field office in Baltimore.

Smoke seen at home

Alan Brown, the state’s chief deputy fire marshal, said this week that on Dec. 28 around 11:30 p.m. a neighbor saw smoke coming from the partially constructed home owned by Frank and Regina Marini that is directly across the street from Wheeler’s home.

“The neighbor saw an unknown person running away after they turned their light on, and then called 911,” Brown said.

Two teenagers were picked up by police around that time in nearby Battery Park with unlit Roman Candles but they were later released and not charged, according to attorney Mike Modica, who is representing one of the minors.

Modica said the boys did not know Wheeler and had no connection to the incident.

Damage was estimated at about $1,000 and Brown said there were identifying numbers on the devices and were tracing who may have purchased them. The office declined to comment further on the incident when contacted Wednesday.

The legal dispute between Wheeler and the Marinis involved at least three lawsuits — two in Chancery Court and one in Superior Court — and the most recent legal action came on Dec. 13, when a Chancery Court judge denied a request by Wheeler to issue a temporary restraining order to stop further construction on the home.

In a statement Wednesday from Marini attorney Paul Webb, the family declined to be interviewed but extended “their heartfelt sympathies” to Wheeler’s family over his untimely death.

“Out of respect for the … family and in accordance with the request for privacy expressed by the … family in their statement, Mr. and Mrs. Marini will have no further comment on this matter,” wrote Webb.

Wheeler’s wife, Katherine Klyce, has a Cambodian silk company in New York. The family previously said it would have no comment.

Wheeler searched for car

Wheeler was spotted in a variety of places days before his body was found in the landfill, including the Happy Harry’s pharmacy on Del. 9 in New Castle about 6 p.m. on Dec. 29.

About 40 minutes later, Wheeler was spotted at the New Castle County Courthouse parking garage on King Street in Wilmington — nearly 5 miles from the pharmacy and blocks from where his car was parked in a garage on Martin Luther King Boulevard near the train station.

Wheeler was reported to have been erratically searching for his car, according to employees and surveillance video made public Tuesday.

An employee at the garage said she tried to help Wheeler, who was carrying his right shoe in his left hand and said someone had stolen his briefcase.

“I was closing down the garage and the older guy came knocking on the window,” said 33-year-old Iman Goldsborough, the Colonial Parking attendant who spoke with Wheeler through a glass window. “He said he just wanted to come in and get warm before he paid for his ticket.”

Goldsborough said she found it strange the man was walking with his shoe in his hand and had no coat on, only a sport jacket over his white button-down shirt. That day’s high was 40 degrees and the low was 22.

“I told him that if he shut those doors he could get warm in here,” she said motioning to the foyer door.

But Wheeler walked passed the door, into the area with the automated parking payment machines and into an elevator.

Wheeler left the building about 20 to 30 minutes later.

Conspiracy theories abound

Wheeler spent his career in and out of government, working as an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the early 1980s, and helping President Reagan create the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program. He also founded the Earth Conservation Corps for President George H.W. Bush.

In March 2009, Wheeler was hired as a part-time consultant for The MITRE Corp., a not-for-profit organization that provides systems engineering, research and development and information technology support to the government.

“He was providing part-time support to outreach activities aimed at promoting discussions among government, industry, and academia on cyber defense topics,” Jennifer Shearman, a MITRE spokeswoman, said in a statement. “At this time our thoughts are with his family. Due to the ongoing investigation, we feel it is inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Wheeler’s connections have spurred a number of conspiracy theories, including claims that flashed across websites around the globe Wednesday announcing Wheeler was killed to prevent the release of information on American biological and chemical weapons shenanigans that purportedly led to the deaths of blackbird flocks in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Those reports, appearing without a trace of attribution or hard evidence, were tracked back to a European Union Times article claiming that Russian intelligence sources — in a report to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin— linked Wheeler to alleged Defense Department poison gas testing that killed the birds.

The idea took root on television news broadcasts, newspaper websites, conspiracy theory blogs and and other Web operations where Wheeler’s death already had been branded a cover-up of one kind or another.

“This is a good example of when anybody can say anything without any accountability and there are no consequences,” said Ralph J. Begleiter, a University of Delaware professor and distinguished journalist in residence who directs the university’s Center for Political Communication.

Begleiter said that, across the internet, information can be presented and repeated as news almost instantly, even though “there are no standards, there are no ethics, there are no bylines in most cases.”

Jan 06, 2011

Source: USA Today

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