Earlier this month, Netflix dropped volume 2 of the Unsolved Mysteries reboot brimming with cold cases, mysterious murders, and disappearances including perhaps one of the most high profile cases they’ve covered to date. On New Year’s Eve in 2010, longtime Washington, D.C. insider, Jack Wheeler was found dead in a Delaware landfill. His death was declared a homicide, but even after nearly a decade, officials still have no solid leads on what happened to Wheeler after he was last seen on December 30 when CCTV footage captured Wheeler exiting an Amtrak train in Wilmington.
Wheeler was a former White House aide and Vietnam veteran. Over the course of his career, Wheeler held several high-ranking positions as a Pentagon staffer, working in the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as an aide for the Reagan and both Bush administrations. At the time of his death, he was consulting for a defence contracting firm in cybersecurity. “They had so much law enforcement because he’s such a high profile human being. They had all different branches of law enforcement trying to solve that case,” Unsolved Mysteries co-creator, Terry Dunn Meurer, told Refinery29. “They had leads that came in and they followed every single lead and once you run out of leads, there’s nothing you can do, and these cases just go cold.” Given his security clearance and the subject matter of his work, some theories posit that he was the victim of a murder-for-hire.
When Wheeler was found, he appeared to be severely beaten and police ruled the cause of death to be assault and blunt force trauma. Further supporting the hired hit theory, on the same day Wheeler was found, police were also sent to investigate a burglary at Wheeler’s home. Still, his wife, Katherine Klyce, and his stepdaughter, Meriwether Schas, who both recounted the case for Unsolved Mysteries, have no idea why anyone would have wanted to harm him. In a 2011 interview with Slate, Klyce said that she was inclined to believe the hired hitman theory because no one ever came forward to claim the $25,000 (£19,199) reward the family offered to anyone who could provide a promising lead or information. “I think perhaps no one has been on the reward because they’ve already been paid,” said Klyce. “The way they disposed of his body, it’s a miracle anybody ever found it. That just sounds like a pro to me.”
While this is a popular theory, it has not been proven or presented at the most likely explanation presented by investigators. It just hasn’t been ruled out. The CCTV footage, while giving a timestamp to add to the timeline of Wheeler’s disappearance and death, was not enough to produce any significant leads. Law enforcement was never able to identify any promising suspects.
"They followed every single lead and once you run out of leads, there’s nothing you can do."
Unsolved Mysteries showrunner Terry Dunn Meurer
Equally as strange are the circumstances leading up to Wheeler’s tragic and mysterious death. The investigation revealed several days of strange behaviour leading up to Wheeler's death. According to an Associated Press report, Wheeler was seen on December 29, 2010, wearing a single shoe and no winter coat while attempting to enter a parking garage in Wilmington. He reportedly told the garage attendant that his briefcase had been stolen. His car was later discovered in a different parking garage in the city. His briefcase was never recovered. When his body was found, he still had his wristwatch and college ring. On December 30, security footage caught Wheeler wandering through multiple office buildings wearing a black hoodie. This is corroborated by eyewitness statements. He appears confused and disoriented, but allegedly refused several offers for help. What is even stranger is that this all occurred in Wilmington, but his body was discovered in the contents of a commercial dumpster coming from Newark, DE nearly 15 miles away. Police have no idea how Wheeler ended up there given that he didn’t have his car.
True crime enthusiasts have long been captivated by Wheeler’s case. Popular theories range from his death being a hit from a political enemy to a mugging gone wrong to Wheeler seeking shelter from the cold in a dumpster after suffering a psychotic break.
But alas, unless any more leads come forward (Unsolved Mysteries is still looking for tips on all of its cold cases at unsolved.com/tips), these theories and best guesses will remain just that.