Original article no longer available
The Kentucky Post, (Covington, KY)
January 16, 2007
Last September, James “Sleepy” Wheeler’s name was thrust into the local spotlight when police found him, an Erlanger murder suspect and a slain woman’s stolen car at a motel in Sharonville, Ohio.
Ten days ago — roughly one month after a stolen property charge against Wheeler in the case was dismissed — the 51-year-old Crittenden man’s lifeless body was found in a Covington alley with three near-empty prescription bottles in the pockets. Police believe lab tests will soon reveal that Wheeler died of a drug overdose.
Wheeler’s face and name made news Sept. 12 when police tracked him and Christopher Elkin — the man suspected of killing elderly Erlanger resident Alma Sauer — to a Motel 6 in Sharonville. Elkin shot himself to death during a standoff at the motel that night, but Wheeler surrendered and was charged with receiving stolen property because police said he told the motel manager he was driving Sauer’s car.
Hamilton County court records indicate that charge was dismissed Dec. 4.
Erlanger police say they never uncovered any evidence that Wheeler was involved in Sauer’s killing. But police believe Wheeler still ended up bringing about his own death by taking too many drugs.
“We’re still waiting for lab results to verify what we believe happened — but right now the only thing we believe he did is hook up with Chris Elkin after the homicide,” said Erlanger Police Lt. Kevin Gilpin.
“Right now we have no indication that he was at the crime scene.”
Sauer was found shot to death in her Herrington Court condominium Sept. 9. Police said the 83-year-old woman knew Elkin, who investigators believe robbed her that day.
Five days later, Sauer’s stolen Mercury Sable was found at the Sharonville motel where Wheeler had registered a room for Elkin and himself and listed the stolen car as the one he was driving, according to police.
After Wheeler surrendered, police negotiators spent five hours trying to persuade Elkin to do so as well. Instead, the 34-year-old handyman turned a gun on himself.
Gilpin said the investigation of Sauer’s murder is continuing. He said investigators are awaiting the toxicology results of tests on Elkin’s blood to complete their findings in the case.
According to a Covington police report, Wheeler’s body was found on East 10th Street about 3:40 p.m. Jan. 6 by four passersby. Aside from some money, identification and cigarettes, police found three prescription bottles in Wheeler’s pockets, which had been filled that day at a Fort Mitchell pharmacy.
Only 12 of the 100 pills dispensed to Wheeler that day remained in the bottles, according to the police report. The labels indicated the bottles contained the antidepressants Wellbutrin and Sertraline, as well as the benzodiazepine Clonazepam, which is often used to treat anxiety. Lab tests of Wheeler’s blood will determine what drugs, if any, he ingested.