Widow wants answers in John Wheeler’s mysterious death case
Those questions, involving previously undisclosed details of the unsolved slaying, tug hard at Wheeler’s widow and grown son. No one outside of the official investigation knows more about the case, and no one is more frustrated by what remains unknown.
“There are a lot of unsolved questions,” says Katherine Klyce, 67, Wheeler’s wife of the past 13 years.
Jack Wheeler, well-known in defense circles and a driving force in creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, served in jobs that gave him access to plenty of government secrets, including a stint from 2005 through 2008 as a top assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. And Klyce, like many, can’t help but wonder whether his death could have had some connection to his work. “You want to know what happened,” she says.
In their first extended news media interview since Wheeler’s death, Klyce and John Wheeler IV, Wheeler’s 34-year-old son from his previous marriage, spent 90 minutes talking with USA TODAY and The News Journal of Wilmington, Del. They provided information not revealed before about the case — that Wheeler’s watch and ring were on his body, for example — but nothing that offers answers to who killed Jack Wheeler or why.
A slew of conspiracy theories have emerged since his body was found New Year’s Eve in a Wilmington landfill. They’ve been fueled by puzzling, seemingly disconnected clues. Snippets of video from random surveillance cameras put Wheeler at a series of inexplicable locations in his last 48 hours. No one seems to know what he was doing or who may have been with him. He simply fell out of contact, and then turned up dead, the victim of blunt-force trauma, a beating.
The Internet is rife with speculation that he was killed in some federal plot involving his Pentagon post. Others suggest Wheeler was simply the victim of a robbery gone bad. And some raise the possibility that Wheeler, who had bipolar disorder, became detached from reality, got caught up with the wrong people, and paid with his life.
Some of the insights offered by Klyce and the younger Wheeler are tantalizing: He looked “afraid” and “cautious” when caught on camera at a parking garage and other locales in the days before he died; he asked strangers for a ride to Philadelphia as he wandered a Wilmington office building, obviously disheveled; on the night he died, he appeared to be hiding his face while walking toward a rough neighborhood in clothing that “wasn’t his.”
“There are two theories: that he was robbed or that he was targeted,” Klyce says. The fact that the jewelry was on his body “casts doubt on the robbery theory,” she adds, and the assassination theory has problems, too. “He had lots of enemies, (but) nobody that would kill him.”
By all accounts, Wheeler, 66, was passionate and provocative, known for his strong opinions and heated debates with people who didn’t agree with him.
Klyce describes Wheeler as showing characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome, which can affect a person’s ability to read social cues and manage relationships, and she says he often couldn’t tell if he was antagonizing or upsetting someone. He also took anti-depressants and mood stabilizers for his bipolar disorder.
Klyce does not believe that Wheeler had gone off his medication, and on the rare occasions when he did, she says, “he just became in a bad mood.” He had been hospitalized at least once, in 2004, for manic behavior, but Klyce dismisses the notion that he may have lost touch with reality in the days before he was killed. That said, she can’t explain Wheeler’s unusual behavior before his death, including that caught on surveillance video in his final hours.
“What happened to Jack in the last few days of his life didn’t look like Jack,” Klyce says. John Wheeler notes that his father didn’t appear to be having “a psychotic breakdown. He’s fully functional … but something’s very wrong.”
Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-05-11-jack-wheeler-unsolved-murder_n.htm