The body of a decorated US Army officer was found dumped in a Delaware landfill on New Years Eve day, a few days after he expressed concern that the nation wasn't adequately prepared for cyber warfare, according to news reports following the bizarre whodunit.
Events surrounding the murder of John P. Wheeler III, who most recently worked part-time for defense contractor Mitre Corporation on cyber defense topics, read like a Tom Clancy novel. The 66-year-old worked for three Republican administrations, was special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, served in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and penned a manual on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons, which urged US forces to show restraint.
The day after Christmas – five days before his body was found as it was being dumped from a trash truck into the Cherry Island Landfill in Wilmington – Wheeler sent longtime friend Richard Radez an email expressing concern that the US wasn't sufficiently prepared for “cyber warfare,” according to The Associated Press.
“This was something that had preoccupied him over the last couple of years,” Radez told the news organization.
Wheeler's focus on computer warfare, and his ties to Mitre, have already attracted conspiracy theories involving the military industrial complex, but there are plenty of other intriguing details that don't immediately fit into such a plot.
Among them are revelations that Wheeler was seen on December 29 and 30 in a “confused and disoriented” state in downtown Wilmington. During that last appearance, which occurred some 14 hours before his body was discovered, he was wandering inside an office building a few blocks from an attorney who was handling a contentious lawsuit Wheeler filed to stop neighbors from building a home near his. He refused help from several people who approached him.
A day earlier, he approached a parking garage attendant “wearing a black suit with no tie and only one shoe,” according to the AP report. He carried the missing shoe in his hand and wore no overcoat, despite the frigid temperature. He told the attendant he had been robbed of his briefcase and said repeatedly he wasn't drunk.
To further the intrigue, Delaware police have reportedly found evidence that Wheeler may have been involved in an attempted arson on the same neighbors he was suing. The attempted arson on December 28 came after someone tossed several smoke bombs used for rodent control into the neighbors' house, scorching the floors.
What's more, the AP has reported that yellow police evidence tape was seen surrounding two wooden chairs in Wheeler's kitchen, where several wooden floorboards were missing, even though Delaware police have said the victim's home is not considered a crime scene. A neighbor, according to Examiner.com, said Wheeler's television blared continuously in the days preceding his death.
Those details, combined with the fact that someone went to considerable effort to hide Wheeler's body in a trash dumpster in nearby Newark, Delaware, would suggest the homicide wasn't a random mugging.
The FBI has offered “technical assistance” to the Delaware police, and judging from the facts as they are so far know, they're going to need it. ®