Plot details for Unsolved Mysteries ahead. Content warning: violence. John P. Wheeler III, known as "Jack," was a graduate of prestigious military academy West Point with a long and impressive resumé: presidential aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, a critical part of getting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built, and eventually a consultant at Mitre working on classified information in cybersecurity. He's also the subject of an Unsolved Mysteries episode. Wheeler's body was found on December 31, 2010, in a landfill, under mysterious circumstances. Family, friends, and investigators express in the episode their hope that someone has information about what happened to Wheeler in his final days.
Who was Jack Wheeler?
A prominent figure and a strong advocate for veterans, Wheeler was known for his passion about the causes he supported. He was happily married to Katherine "Kathy" Klyce; they each had two children. In his later years, Wheeler had become particularly focused on a house that was being built across the street from him in New Castle, DE, that had also been a battleground in the Revolutionary War. Wheeler considered the construction "sacrilegious" and was in the process of filing legal challenges against the homeowners.
Another relevant detail is that Wheeler suffered from bipolar disorder. He saw a therapist and took medication. Family members say that he could have periods of manic energy and depression—but that it fueled his energy and drive, and that his disorder was well-controlled. He didn't, however, have a strong sense of direction and was often losing his car.
What happened in Wheeler's final days?
On December 28, 1010, smoke bombs were set in the aforementioned home construction, and Wheeler's phone was found at the scene. A few days later, a neighbor noticed an open window and found Wheeler's New Castle home in disarray, with a copy of The Long Gray Line (in which Wheeler is featured) on the table.
Wheeler had notified Mitre his phone was missing but didn't tell his wife or the police. He was then seen asking for a ride to Wilmington, DE, searching unsuccessfully for his car in the wrong parking garage. He seemed disoriented and agitated, with one shoe torn; he carried it in his hand. He spoke about a stolen briefcase.
Hours later, he was seen in an office building unconnected to him, wandering around, staying the night, camouflaging himself in a hoodie, and walking away. He may also have been seen in a cab. This was the last time anyone reported seeing him alive.
Wheeler's body was later found in a landfill. Per the crime scene, Wheeler's body had ended up there because it had been in a dumpster in Newark, DE—miles away from Wilmington.
As mentioned in the episode, Wheeler's emotional distress and his death seem unconnected to each other. Some investigators theorized he might have died after seeking refuge in the dumpster, but his brutal wounds are inconsistent with that—Wheeler was pretty badly beaten, according to the report. In addition, Wheeler's Rolex watch, West Point ring, and wallet with money were all left on him.
What wasn't covered in the Unsolved Mysteries episode?
According to a Washington Post article, Wheeler emailed his therapist after he emailed Mitre, saying after a fight with his wife he felt “dazed, boxed in a corner.” The office building he ended up spending the night at was one in which he had visited to request a consultation with a lawyer, although he left without getting counsel. He also, interestingly, asked for train fare, despite refusing the offer of a cab from parking attendants the night before. It was, apparently, not the only office building he went to; he also visited a Mitre office.
Wheeler also spoke about an interest in hacking to people he knew, in relation to an informal investigation he was making into corruption of Delaware public officials. "'I thought it was a little odd,' says [a hacker he spoke to]. 'But Jack was a really brilliant guy, and I...gave him a reading list.' One of the to-do lists Wheeler left behind, dated Dec. 5, mentions hacking a target associated with the construction dispute."
Klyce believes that Wheeler was in the midst of a bipolar episode—but also says she believes her husband was targeted for some reason. "I think he might have pissed someone off...and I think his movements reflected that. He was trying to stay out of sight because someone might have been following him."
If you have information about Wheeler's death, visit unsolved.com.