WILMINGTON, Del. (WJZ) — How did a man who rubbed elbows with some of the most powerful people in America end up dead in a landfill?
Mike Hellgren tracks Jack Wheeler’s final days alive, looking for clues that could catch a killer.
In some of Jack Wheeler’s last moments alive, he appeared disheveled and confused.
In the next 48 hours, the prominent Washington insider — the man who was the driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and an advisor to three presidents — would be dead.
Was his murder a random crime or something far more sinister?
“None of it fits together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, but most of the pieces aren’t there,” said Robert Dill, family friend and neighbor.
Dill and his wife told WJZ they saw him alive six days before his death.
“I dropped him off at Wilmington train station and that’s the last time I saw him,” said Dill.
Wheeler was going to New York to see his wife, then to Washington, D.C. where he consulted for a government contractor.
He was one of the nation’s top experts in cyber warfare.
Three days later, a cab driver says he picked up Wheeler at the Amtrak station in Wilmington.
“He just stood out, you know,” said the Roland Spence, the cabbie. “The whole thing seems like a mystery to me.”
Wheeler went home. The next day he tried to get a ride back to Wilmington from a shopping center near his house. When that failed, he called a cab, but wasn’t there when the driver showed up. Within the hour, though, a surveillance camera shows Wheeler made it to a parking garage in downtown Wilmington. Something appears to be very wrong in the video. He’s holding one shoe and tells the attendant he’s been robbed.
“He looked like somebody had done something to him,” said Iman Goldsborough, the parking attendant. “I’ve certainly never seen him walking around like that, and he wasn’t a guy who was a drinker.”
No one knows where Wheeler spent the night, but police now say they’ve uncovered more surveillance video — which they won’t release — showing Wheeler the next day. He’s wandering a few blocks away, wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
A building was the last place he was seen alive. He rounded the corner and headed toward the Hotel Dupont where he disappeared from camera view a few minutes later. Twelve hours later, his body was found at a landfill, miles away.
“At this point, we still haven’t located the actual crime scene where Mr. Wheeler was killed,” said Lt. Mark Farrall, Newark Police Department.
The medical examiner ruled Wheeler’s death a homicide. He died of blunt force trauma.
Wheeler’s widow has put up $25,000 of her own money to find her husband’s killer.
Too upset to speak, she’s asked former U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly to spread the word.
“Frankly, if this is random violence on a street corner, that is the kind of case where a reward can really bear fruit,” said Connolly. “A cold, cold evening not wearing a coat, clearly that’s very upsetting to the family.”
Could a medical problem explain his behavior?
“His health condition is something we’re exploring. One thing is certain, someone killed Jack Wheeler and went to great pains to get rid of his body,” said Connolly.
“It’s something we can’t even believe. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen,” said Dill. “To be wandering around carrying a shoe. That’s not the Jack we know.”
Prosecutors have sealed search warrants for Wheeler’s car and his phone. Police say they have no people of interest.
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