Police told John Wheeler murder mystery should take back seat
WILMINGTON — At least two Wilmington City Council members said Friday that the investigation into the death of former Pentagon official John P. Wheeler III — though important — should not take priority over any other homicide investigation in the city.
Newark police, the lead investigative agency, continued to release details Friday about Wheeler’s movements on the day before he died. A newly discovered surveillance video shows the 66-year-old New Castle resident in the area of Wilmington’s Rodney Square on Dec. 30, walking toward a high-crime section of the city about two blocks away.
And according to a city cabdriver, who was questioned by Wilmington police, it appears investigators may have recovered Wheeler’s cell phone because he was informed his phone number was on it. The cabbie denies he ever gave Wheeler a ride.
None of the new details appeared to represent a major break in the case.
The cause of Wheeler’s death has not been released. Jay Lynch, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Social Services, declined to say if the body had been released, but an employee of Krienen-Griffith Funeral Home in New Castle said it had the body. Newark police declined to comment on the results of the autopsy.
Wilmington City Councilman Kevin Kelley on Friday cautioned Wilmington police not to go overboard in investigating Wheeler’s death.
“I don’t want any more resources dedicated to this than we do any other homicide,” Kelley said, adding that about half of the city’s record 27 homicides from 2010 remain unsolved.
Kelley said he wants police to find the person responsible for Wheeler’s death, but not at the expense of other investigation.
Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, who heads the city’s Public Safety Committee, agreed, saying Kelley’s comments were “absolutely appropriate.”
She noted that the FBI is assisting Newark police. “The city is secondary, so we should not make ourselves out to be a bigger deal than we are,” she said.
Wilmington Police Chief Michael J. Szczerba confirmed that two investigators have been assigned to the case, but said that is no more or less than have been assigned to other homicide investigations. And he said the detectives still have their usual caseloads and are not working the case exclusively.