Private eye questions if death was murder

A PROMINENT Philadelphia crime sleuth is speculating that the region’s high-profile murder mystery – the shocking discovery of ex-Pentagon official John “Jack” Wheeler III in a Wilmington landfill – might not be a murder at all.

William Fleisher, an ex-cop who co-founded Philadelphia’s murder-solving Vidocq Society, said that the discovery of eyewitnesses and surveillance video of a disoriented Wheeler before he died suggests that the 66-year-old man had suffered a head or brain injury.

And that apparent disorientation, Fleisher speculated, could have caused Wheeler to voluntarily crawl into a trash Dumpster – either seeking shelter, as happens sometimes among the homeless, or perhaps looking for his reportedly lost papers.

“He may have crawled into the Dumpster looking for his briefcase, or simply to get warm,” said Fleisher, who runs a Center City investigations firm, Keystone Intelligence Network.

Fleisher also agreed with increasing speculation that Wheeler – who was filmed Dec. 29, two days before his body was found, in a downtown office with no overcoat and holding a shoe – was the victim of a traumatic event such as a mugging, or a stroke.

“He may have been mugged, as he himself suggested” in a conversation with a Wilmington parking-garage worker on Dec. 29, “and may have suffered a concussion,” Fleisher speculated.

The crime-solving expert – who stressed that he hasn’t seen Wheeler’s confidential case records – said that if the body that turned up at the Cherry Island Landfill at 10 a.m. Dec. 31 had belonged to a homeless man, police likely would have explored an accidental death before launching a murder probe.

But Wheeler’s prominence – he was a driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and a former CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with degrees from West Point, Harvard and Yale – may have steered investigators to instead focus on homicide.

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