The death of John P. Wheeler, Random killing or assassination?

Surveillance video of homicide victim John Wheeler shows him carrying one of his shoes in the Colonial Parking garage outside the New Castle County Courthouse at 6:42 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. His body was found in a landfill on New Year's Eve.

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Delaware crime: The death of John P. Wheeler: Random killing or assassination?

In first extended interview, widow of former federal official says he looked scared in his final days

Written by
The News

When Katherine Klyce views the widely circulated video of her late husband, John P. Wheeler III, wandering around a Wilmington parking garage less than two days before he was beaten to death, she sees fear in the face of the man she loved.

“I think he was afraid,” Klyce told The News Journal about the video in which the former Pentagon official is seen looking in vain for his car.

In her first extended interview since his body tumbled from a garbage truck into the Cherry Island Landfill on Dec. 31, Klyce differed with those who believe Wheeler appeared disoriented in his final days.

Many observers of the high-profile murder mystery have noted that Wheeler looked disheveled while carrying his shoe and searching for his car, which had been in a garage several blocks away for weeks.

Klyce said she doesn’t know what might have frightened her husband of 13 years during his last days, a period in which he also beseeched his pharmacist for a ride from New Castle to Wilmington and asked strangers to drive him to Philadelphia.

“I don’t think he was acting abnormal,” Klyce said of a man known for quirky habits and forgetfulness.

Klyce acknowledged that the blunt-spoken, 66-year-old Wheeler, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had made “lots of enemies” during his years in the national defense community and as one of the key founders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, but “nobody that would kill him.”

Since Wheeler was killed by lethal blows more than four months ago, Klyce has pondered whether he was killed by someone he accidentally encountered in Wilmington, where he was last seen shortly before 9 p.m. on Dec. 30, or whether he was the victim of assassination.

Asked if she was leaning toward one scenario, she said, “Yeah, but I’m not going to tell you which one. I’m open to being wrong.”

Klyce earlier told online magazine she thought someone was “paid” to kill Wheeler, but her lawyer said she was only considering possibilities.

In a mystery that has drawn worldwide media scrutiny and a $25,000 reward offer from Klyce, police say they have no suspects and don’t know whether he was killed in a targeted or random attack.