Military expert found dead in Delaware landfill
(01-04) 04:00 PST Dover, Del. — The body of a military expert who served in three Republican administrations was found dumped in a landfill over the holiday weekend, investigators said Monday.
John Wheeler III, 66, was last seen Dec. 28 on an Amtrak train from Washington to Wilmington, Del. His body was found three days later, on New Year’s Eve, as a garbage truck emptied its contents at the Cherry Island landfill. His death has been ruled a homicide, and detectives do not know who might have killed him.
Wheeler, who served in Vietnam, helped lead efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington.
The former Army officer lived in New Castle and worked as a consultant for the Mitre Corp., a nonprofit that operates federally funded research and development centers.
Police have determined that all the stops made Friday by the garbage truck before it arrived at the landfill involved large commercial disposal bins in Newark, several miles from Wheeler’s home.
“He was just not the sort of person who would wind up in a landfill,” said Bayard Marin, an attorney who was representing Wheeler in a dispute over a couple’s plans to build a new home in the historic district of Old New Castle where the victim lived.
Wheeler, the son of a decorated Army officer, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He served as a special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force under President George W. Bush, and in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also was the second chairman and chief executive officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
As the first chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Wheeler led the multimillion-dollar fundraising effort to create the memorial on Washington’s National Mall.
Fund founder and President Jan Scruggs said Wheeler dedicated himself to ensuring that service members were given the respect they deserve.
“I know how passionate he was about honoring all who serve their nation, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Scruggs said in a statement.
Wheeler’s military career included serving in the office of the secretary of defense and writing a manual on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons, which recommended that the United States not use biological weapons.