The investigation into the mysterious death of John P. Wheeler III, adviser to three US presidents, was hastily brushed aside by the Newark Police Dept as having "no crime scene, no suspect, no known cause of death and no motive."
And there it still stands.
The body of the 66-year old veteran official was discovered Saturday, Jan. 1, in a Wilmington, Delaware-area dump having been left there by a garbage truck. The facts coming out of the investigation by law enforcement agencies and the private investigators on the case are sparse.
His death was ruled almost instantly as homicide. Two CCTV video clips filmed on Dec. 29-30 two days before his death showed a man who appeared to be confused and unhinged – first at a Wilmington parking garage carrying one shoe and limping, then at another building in Wilmington looking disoriented.
Two days later, Wheeler's body was found at a dumpster 15 miles away.
He was apparently in the middle of a legal battle with a neighbor whose home was under construction on the grounds that it blocked his view. Local TV coverage reported that a search of the disputed house turned up incendiary materials and Wheeler's cell phone. This was not confirmed by the investigating authorities.
But there are six additional points in the Wheeler case which are suggestive because they were never explained.
1. His family disputes the evidence of the two video clips.
Wheeler, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War officer, who served as adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W, Bush and special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force under George W. Bush, was described as moving easily among Washington's elite and working most recently as a military consultant. He was the moving force in the funding drive for building the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.
His close family could not confirm that Wheeler was suffering from dementia, the impression conveyed in the video clips. Nor had they ever heard he had contracted a brain tumor.
The question here is – Who had an interest in a deliberate campaign to suggest that Wheeler was capable of ending his own life?
2. The cause of death is still unknown. So why was it pronounced homicide within 24 hours of the finding of his body – before pathology, or even toxicology, tests had been performed? And if they have since been carried out, why have the results not been released?
3. There are only 10 dumpsters from which his body could have ending up in that dump truck. Why then was none of them cordoned off as a crime scene?
And another contradiction: Even though the Delaware police deny they have located a murder scene, they have fixed yellow police evidence tape around two wooden chairs in the kitchen of the Wheeler home and several wooden floorboards are missing. Yet the police say the victim's home is not a crime scene.
Concerned about the threat of cyber warfare
4. Why at such an early stage of the investigation, before essential questions had been addressed, did the authorities tell the media – "We may never know how John Wheeler died"?
Does that mean cased closed? Or passed on? Were they stumped or covering up?
5. Wheeler most recently worked part-time on cyber defense subjects at the Mitre Corporation. The company has labs dealing with cyber defense topics at five centers in the Washington, D.C. area – McLean, Langley AFB, Chantilly, Quantico and Fairfax.
Yet none of his associates were investigated or interviewed.
6. Five days before his body was found, Wheeler sent longtime friend Richard Radez an email expressing concern that the US wasn't sufficiently prepared for cyber warfare.
"This was something that had preoccupied him over the last couple of years," Radez told journalists.
Wheeler was focusing on computer warfare, and was certainly involved with the widely publicized Stuxnet attack on the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Radez did not reveal the contents of Wheeler's last email, or what exactly he had discovered in his work in the field of computer warfare that made him so concerned for American security.
There goes another glaring gap in the story of John P. Wheeler III's death.
Dr. David Kelly: Was his suicide rigged?
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources find that the Wheeler case brings to mind the case of the British biological warfare expert Dr. David Kelly whose death in the UK in July 2003, five months after the US-British invasion of Iraq, has never been satisfactorily explained.
There are many parallels between the two cases:
Dr. Kelly was also involved in a shadowy area of defense. A microbiologist and expert in arms control, he had worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq after the first Gulf War, became senior adviser on biological warfare for the UN in Iraq from 1994 to 1998 and was considered the leading western scientist on biological weapons.
A retiring man who shunned the media spotlight, he shot to prominence as a key figure in the row between the British government and the BBC over claims that Prime Minister Tony Blair had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's weapons capability to justify the invasion.
On July 17, 2003, shortly after he was exposed as the source of a BBC news report questioning the grounds for the war in Iraq, Dr. Kelly, aged 59, was found dead in woods around his Oxfordshire home. His wife told the inquiry into his death that her husband had been utterly dismayed by the media frenzy around him.
Unusually in such cases, no coroner's inquest was held into his death. The only official verdict about its cause came from the Hutton Inquiry (August 2003-January 2004), commissioned by Blair, which concluded that Dr. Kelly died from loss of blood after cutting his wrist with a blunt gardening knife.
This report was widely dismissed as "a whitewash."
Both Wheeler and Kelly dealt in unconventional warfare
In July 2009, a team of 13 specialist doctors compiled a detailed medical dossier that rejected the Hutton conclusion on the grounds that a cut to the ulnar artery, which is small and difficult to access, could not have caused death.
And in August 2010, just six months ago, the mystery surrounding the Kelly death deepened after the detective who found his body claimed he didn't see "much blood." This supported his family's belief that he was murdered.
What John P. Wheeler III and Dr. David Kelly had in common is that both died violently and both held senior positions in their governments' work in relation to unconventional weapons: Wheeler was known to have been interested in cyber warfare and may have become involved in the Stuxnet malworm – Dr. Kelly was an official adviser on biological warfare.
Something they discovered or witnessed may have caused them deep concern and become the cause of their untimely deaths.
How they died remains an enigma – as does the hands that kill them. Might John Wheeler have fallen victim to some local enemy, Iranian intelligence or assassins they hired to kill him? The answers may never come to light any more than the true circumstances of Dr. Kelly's death eight years earlier.
But one thing is certain.
Both cases will keep on returning to the front pages. Their ghosts will linger on for as long as their dossiers are marked "unsolved."