A prominent national defense consultant was seen alive in downtown Wilmington less than 24 hours before his body was found in a load of trash at a landfill, police said Tuesday.
John P. Wheeler III, of New Castle, was seen around 3:30 p.m. Thursday near the Hotel du Pont, about two blocks from the office of an attorney who was representing him and his wife in a property dispute, Newark police said.
Wheeler’s remains were found around 10 a.m. Friday as a refuse truck dumped its load at the Cherry Island landfill in Wilmington. Investigators say he was slain.
Police say the truck collected all its trash from about 10 commercial disposal bins in Newark, several miles from Wheeler’s home in the historic district of New Castle.
Newark Police Lt. Mark Farrall said the information about Wheeler’s whereabouts before he died came from a caller’s tip that police confirmed. He said police also were reviewing video surveillance tapes from downtown Newark.
Farrall said Newark police have consulted with the FBI about the case but wouldn’t say what assistance, if any, federal investigators are providing.
Wheeler, 66, served three Republican presidents and helped to get the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built.
Friends say they traded e-mails with Wheeler — who had not been reported missing — around Christmas. Wheeler also had been scheduled to take an Amtrak train from Washington to Wilmington on Dec. 28, but it’s not clear if he ever made the trip.
By the looks of things, Wheeler was deliberately targeted; this wasn’t some kind of robbery gone bad. This is really weird.