His body was found three days later when a garbage truck emptied its contents at the Cherry Island landfill in Wilmington. The truck had collected the trash from about 10 commercial disposal bins in Newark, several miles from Wheeler's home in the historic district of New Castle, but police said they aren't sure which container his body came from.
Family members may not have reported him missing because they were out of town, Newark police spokesman Lt. Mark Farrall said.
Wheeler worked as an aide in the Reagan and both Bush administrations. He also chaired the committee that raised funds for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.