A veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the administrations of Reagan and both Bushes, and who was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial built, was found dead in a Delaware landfill on Friday.
Police today identified the body they found last week as that of John P. Wheeler III, 66, who lived in New Castle, Del. Police have ruled his death a homicide.
A worker at the Cherry Hill Landfill spotted the body on Friday morning as a garbage truck dumped it into the landfill. Because that truck had only made stops at dumpsters on the east side of Newark, Del., that morning, police believe that’s where Wheeler’s body was left.
According to Delaware Online, Wheeler was last seen riding an Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., to Wilmington last Tuesday, three days before his body was discovered. Police say his wife was traveling and had not reported him missing.
Wheeler’s home in New Castle was roped off with crime scene tape today as police investigated.
“This is just not the kind of guy who gets murdered,” Bayard Marin, Wheeler’s attorney in a dispute with a neighbor, said. “This is not the kind of guy you find in a landfill.”
Local news outlets report that Wheeler and his wife had been involved in a protracted legal battle over another couple’s plans to build a home across the street from theirs, which would partially block their view. That couple, the Marinis, suffered a smoke bomb attack around the same time that Wheeler disappeared. From Delaware Online:
On Tuesday, firefighters discovered a smoke bomb that had been thrown inside the Marinis’ home. The state fire marshal is investigating the incident, but officials haven’t linked the two events.
Police haven’t indicated that they have many leads yet, and are encouraging anyone with information to step forward.
“There are no suspects. Again, we are still looking to determine where the crime scene occurred,” Newark Police Lt. Mark Farrall told the local ABC affiliate.
Wheeler was most known for his work with Vietnam veterans. During Reagan’s administration, he founded the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, a job placement program for vets. And, as chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in the early 1980s, when the project was still extremely controversial, he was instrumental in getting it built.
He also held several positions in Republican administrations, serving on the Securities and Exchange Commission during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, creating the Earth Conservation Corps during George H.W. Bush’s and serving as special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force during George W. Bush’s.