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Military expert's body found in Del. landfill

DOVER, Del. - The body of a military expert who served in three Republican administrations was found dumped in a landfill over the New Year's weekend, and investigators said yesterday they do not know who might have killed him.

Authorities say John Wheeler III, 66, was scheduled to be on an Amtrak train from Washington to Wilmington on Dec. 28. Police say it's not clear now whether he ever made that trip. His body was found three days later, on New Year's Eve, as a garbage truck emptied its contents at the Cherry Island landfill. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Wheeler, who served as an Army staff officer in Vietnam, worked later in the Reagan and both Bush administrations and helped lead efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington. He also was the second chairman and chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

His body was discovered Dec. 31 as a waste management truck emptied its contents at the Wilmington-area landfill.

Police have determined that all the stops made by the garbage truck on Friday before it arrived at the landfill involved commercial disposal bins in Newark, Del., several miles from Wheeler's home in the historic district of New Castle.

Police spokesman Lt. Mark Farrall said investigators had been to Wheelers' house, which was roped off with police tape after his death, but that it could not be considered a crime scene as investigators did not have any leads in the case.

Farrall said investigators don't know how long Wheeler might have been missing before his body was found, or where and when he was last seen. Asked why he had not been reported missing, Farrall said the family was not in town at the time.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Wheeler went on to study at Harvard Business School and Yale Law School.

Richard Radez, a longtime friend, said he exchanged e-mails with Wheeler on Christmas. James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, wrote in an article on the magazine's website that he had known Wheeler since the early 1980s.

Wheeler, Fallows wrote, had spent much of his life trying to address "what he called the '40-year open wound' of Vietnam-era soldiers being spurned by the society that sent them to war."

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