Monday, January 31, 2011

Former Bush-Administration Official Was Beaten to Death

John P. Wheeler

John P. Wheeler, the former Bush-administration official whose body recently was discovered in a Delaware landfill, was beaten to death.

The Delaware Medical Examiner's Office has announced that Wheeler died from blunt-force trauma, according to a report at Does that mean Wheeler was the victim of a mugging gone wrong? That's what one of Wheeler's friends thinks, according to delawareonline, but we find that to be an unlikely explanation.

Wheeler, who had served as a Pentagon official and presidential aide, had extensive experience in the areas of aerospace, technology, logistics, intelligence, and cyber warfare. His body was discovered on New Year's Eve, and officials took almost four weeks to announce a cause of death. Many mysteries, however, remain about the case. Reports delawareonline:

The official cause of Wheeler's death was "blunt-force trauma," agency spokesman Karl Kanefsky said about a case that has drawn worldwide media coverage. Kanefsky would not say which part of Wheeler's body sustained the lethal blows.

Police reiterated Friday that the case remains under investigation but acknowledge they cannot fill in critical gaps in the mystery and don't have any suspects.

Within hours of the grisly mid-morning discovery, state pathologists had ruled that the 66-year-old New Castle resident was a homicide victim, but until Friday authorities had been mum on the cause of his death--an unusual posture in Delaware, where such information is usually released promptly.

There has been no shortage of speculation about what happened to Wheeler, fueled partly by the release of videotapes that appeared to show him in a disoriented state just hours before his death:

The four-week delay has helped fuel rampant speculation that Wheeler, a defense consultant and expert on chemical and biological weapons, was poisoned by enemies--a theory that persisted in part because he was seen stumbling around Wilmington in the days before he died and officials said they were awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Hal G. Brown, deputy director of the Medical Examiner's Office, said he did not know what medications or chemicals, if any, were in Wheeler's system, but said the death certificate makes it clear that toxicology "didn't play a role" in Wheeler's death.

We now know that Wheeler was beaten to death. But what does that tell us about who killed him and why?

Brown said blunt-force trauma describes the result of being struck with an object or a body part such as a fist. Brown added that Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Adrienne Sekula-Perlman, who handled Wheeler's autopsy, met with police and prosecutors Friday about her conclusions.

Newark police are the lead agency on a multi-force investigation because the garbage truck that dumped Wheeler's body at Wilmington's Cherry Island Landfill was emptying debris it had collected at trash bins in Newark. The FBI is also assisting with the probe.

Why would someone assault John Wheeler, and how many people might have been involved? Police don't seem to have the answers to those questions at the moment:

Lt. Mark Farrall, a Newark police spokesman, was mum Friday on the official word that Wheeler was killed in an assault. "I can't comment on his injuries," Farrall said.

Farrall said detectives still do not know how Wheeler got to Newark or ended up in the trash bin.

"We're still attempting to determine how he made his way to Newark and who is responsible for his murder," Farrall said. "How he got the injuries, I just don't know."

Wheeler's family has offered a $25,000 reward for information about his death. The general public seems baffled about the Wheeler case, and so are those who were closest to the victim.

The announcement of the reward came Sunday through lawyer Colm F. Connolly, a former U.S. attorney for Delaware, whom the family hired to represent them and act as a go-between with law enforcement.

Connolly said Wheeler's death is as much a mystery to the family as it is to the public. He said Wheeler's family is despondent over his death and "desperate" for information.

One of Wheeler's closest friends has a theory about what happened:

Retired Army Col. Doug Thormblom, a former roommate of Wheeler's at West Point, said the autopsy results indicate his old friend was a victim of a mugging gone awry but that many unanswered questions remain--such as why he was so disoriented in the days before he was killed, whether any drugs or chemical agents were in his system and how he got from Wilmington to Newark, about 13 miles away.

"I'm glad there was no direct poisoning that caused his death, but his disorientation still hasn't been explained," said Thormblom, who thinks Wheeler suffered a stroke or some other kind of physical or mental breakdown.

We think Thormblom probably is off base. For one, authorities have already ruled Wheeler's death a homicide, which means someone set out to kill him. That does not sound like a mugging gone awry. And why would muggers go to the trouble of putting Wheeler's body in a trash bin so that it would be carried away to a land fill? That sounds like the work of someone who did not want Wheeler's body to be discovered. And if that was the case, it probably means the killers knew who Wheeler was. Why would random muggers know Wheeler's identity and target him specifically? That sounds unlikely to us.

The evidence suggests that someone knew exactly who Wheeler was, planned to kill him, and planned to dispose of his body in a way that it probably would never be found.

Given Wheeler's background, a motive likely is connected to his many professional pursuits involving intelligence, the military, and technology.

John Wheeler's killers failed in their efforts to make sure his body never would be found. That should make this a solvable crime. But as we have shown in numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer, America's law-enforcement mechanism is badly broken. The FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, local law-enforcement agencies . . . in many instances, they simply cannot be trusted.

We feel certain honorable individuals exist within those corrupt organizations, and we can only hope ethical folks are handling the John P. Wheeler investigation. Sadly, that hardly is a certainly in post-Bush America.


MaxShelby said...

Very good article LS!
The weak and predictable attempt to explain it away as occurring in a "crime ridden area of the city" is just that.
To the naysayers who like to crow about looking for a conspiracy in every story I say this:
What part of this doesn't look like a conspiracy of some sorts?

Anonymous said...

Bodies piling up:

But it was while serving as tech guru to Karl Rove that Connell developed his deepest and perhaps most problematic professional relationship.

Hurley said...

I dunno. I think any criminal would want to avoid being caught. A dumpster isn't a crazy place to try to hide a body. Hiding a body doesn't signal anything extraordinary to me.

Occam's razor would suggest that we should take the simplest explanation that fits the current facts. We should, however, keep looking for something more.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing you're not a detective. This is bad journalism at best.

Here are a few of the leaps you make in your assessment:

1) "authorities have already ruled Wheeler's death a homicide, which means someone set out to kill him."

It means no such thing. Homicide means a human killing another human. It does not at imply that the act was premeditated. Lt Farral called it a murder, but that still does not imply that the act was planned. No statement, neither implicit nor specific, has been made that this has been ruled a premeditated murder.

2. "the killers knew who Wheeler was"

Again, there has been no public statement that should lead a reasonable person to assume this. It is just as likely that someone beat the man to death and hid the body to delay capture. This in no way leads directly to the assumption that the killer knew the victim. To respond to your subsequent question, Why would a 'random' attacker leave a man they had beaten to death lying around to be found quickly? No publicized evidence leads logically to the assumption that the killer knew the victim or planned in advance to kill him.

3. "a motive likely is connected to his many professional pursuits"

This is just a complete fabrication. Is it possible? It certainly is. Do any of us know from the official statements that this is likely? Not in the least.

Also, the fact that a body has been found and identified does not mean that a murder case is easily solvable, and certainly not quickly. Sure, there are problems with the system, but it sounds more likely that you have a chip on your shoulder where police and the justice system are concerned, rather than that you are connecting the dots based on sound, factual evidence.

Your FUD is not helping anyone with this situation. You sound like a fanatic and a fear monger. Please stay as far away from investigative work as you possibly can.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon No. 2:

The Wheeler death has repeatedly been referred to as a murder in the press. In one link in today's post, a police official calls it a murder. Many of us, including me, might be guilty of using the terms homicide and murder interchangeably. But when a key police official in Delaware refers to it as murder, you tend to think it was murder. And an element in most murders is intent or "malice afterthought" (premeditation). As for some of the other points that you take issue with, I say those are my theories based on what we know at the moment. I didn't say my thoughts are based on public statements from some official. You are free to disagree with my assessment, but it doesn't mean that I'm a fanatic or a fear monger. That's where the evidence points, in my view. Just my opinion, but going to the trouble to gather up the body and drive it to a dumpster would possibly increase your chances of being caught if you are a random mugger who accidentally killed your vic.

Max Shelby said...

If this is just one of those run of the mill murders then why are the authorities keeping the family "in the dark?"
Connolly said the family coordinated and timed its offer of a reward offer with Newark police in order to best assist the investigation.

However, Connolly said, the family feels isolated and out of the loop when it comes to the investigation.

“The authorities are not sharing information with them at this point,” Connolly said.
‘Family was in the dark’

$25,000 Reward Being Offered By Wheeler Family

Anonymous said...

Sure, there are problems with the system, but it sounds more likely that you have a chip on your shoulder where police and the justice system are concerned, rather than that you are connecting the dots based on sound, factual evidence.
Some folk have had to live in the world and NOW KNOW their are those who are "above the law" no matter the crime.

In 1988 Connell developed a voter contact database for George H. W. Bush, thus inaugurating a long association with the Bush family: Connell worked on Jeb’s gubernatorial campaign in Florida in 1998; two years later he was the chief architect of George W. Bush’s Web site as Dubya launched his bid for the White House.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon No. 2:

Don't know what you mean by "chip on your shoulder." Also don't know how much you have read my blog. Finally, don't know what you mean by "some folks have lived in the world" and KNOW that our justice system is broken. If you've read this blog for any length of time, or care to acquaint yourself with its backstory, you know that I have "lived in the world" and KNOW that our justice system is broken. I've seen how the DOJ, FBI, and local law-enforcement can have huge ethical lapses. I've seen it and so have many other Alabamians. If you aren't familiar with the Don Siegelman case, check it out and learn about the role of the DOJ and FBI in that fiasco. Do the same thing on the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. I've written several hundred posts on both casees. If you get run over by a drunk driver and pursue justice in the matter, does that mean you have a "chip on your shoulder." If so, then I proudly will wear my chip. Don't know who you are, and you probably don't have the courage to tell me, but I KNOW plenty about our justice system--probably way more than you will ever know, at least from a regular citizen's perspective.

Anonymous said...

legalschnauzer: hope you didn't get anon 2 mixed up with my anonymous- because i understand completely that the feds make up the rules up as they go along.

that's what i meant about "some folk have lived in the world."

legalschnauzer said...

It's difficult to keep up with various anonymous commenters. Still not sure what you mean about "chip on your shoulder."

If you get mugged and beaten half senseless, and the courts repeatedly rules unlawfully when you seek justice, would that give you a "chip on your shoulder"? I suspect it would.

I've never understood what that phrase means, anyway.

Anonymous said...

i DIDN'T write that..

that's what caught my eye on anon2's comment....

Anonymous said...

trying to keep up with the Clintons

Anonymous said...

Any updates since 2011?