Slain defense expert changed clothes between videos

WILMINGTON, Del. - A slain defense expert changed clothes between when he was videotaped in a parking garage and another appearance on surveillance footage the next night, police said yesterday. He was found dead in a Delaware landfill the day after the second video was taken.

The new description of ex-Pentagon official John P. Wheeler III adds another piece to the puzzling circumstances surrounding his death.

Surveillance video captured the 66-year-old New Castle resident walking away from the Nemours office building in downtown Wilmington around 8:40 p.m. Dec. 30, wearing dark pants and a dark blue sweatshirt with the hood up, said Lt. Mark Farrall of the Newark police department.

The previous night, Wheeler wore a dark business suit and dress shirt in surveillance video from a downtown Wilmington parking garage.

Farrall declined to say how Wheeler's body was dressed when it was found New Year's Eve morning in a load of trash collected from a string of garbage bins in Newark.

The state medical examiner has ruled the case a homicide, but the cause of death is pending toxicology tests.

On both nights before he died, witnesses reported that Wheeler seemed confused and disoriented. He told the parking-garage attendant he had been robbed of his briefcase, and he refused offers of help from people inside the Nemours building.

A longtime friend, attorney Arthur Schulcz of Vienna, Va., said yesterday that Wheeler posted cogent comments online shortly after 5 p.m. Dec. 28. He said Wheeler had written in typically spirited fashion on a U.S. Mililtary Academy alumni forum about the corrupting influence of NCAA football.

"NCAA is all about football money with platitudes-window dressing about values. To Hell with the NCAA and its corrupting Money Game," Wheeler wrote.

Schulcz said other West Point classmates told him Wheeler didn't respond to their e-mails Dec. 29.

"They thought it was unusual because Jack was normally very prompt about responding," Schulcz said.

Wheeler's family issued a statement yesterday thanking police and well-wishers but asking for privacy.

Wheeler was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Harvard Business School and Yale law. His 45 years in and out of government service included a key role in establishing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; work on cyber, biological and chemical-warfare issues; and insider-trading investigations for the Securities and Exchange Commission.