Man jailed for helping wife fake her own death so she could dodge prison

Rodney Wheeler caused a massive three-day hunt for his wife only for her to be found later safe and well inside a closet at the couple’s home.


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Rodney and Julie Wheeler
Rodney and Julie Wheeler
(West Virginia Regional Jail)

You really couldn’t make this one up!

A man who went to extreme lengths to try and keep his other half out of the slammer will now be forced to spend some time there himself.

Rodney Wheeler, of West Virginia, has been sentenced for helping his wife fake her own death so that she could avoid sentencing for health care fraud.

Wheeler, 48, was sentenced to eight months of confinement, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia announced in a press release.

The Beckley resident will spend two months in federal prison and six months in home confinement and will be on supervised release for three years after that.

Wheeler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice back in January.

Prosecutors said the couple conspired to fake Julie Wheeler’s death in an effort to avoid a potential 10-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty in February 2020 to scamming the Department of Veterans Affairs out of more than $300,000.

Court documents show Rodney Wheeler called 911 on May 31 to claim that Julie, 44, had fallen over the main overlook at the New River Gorge in West Virginia, prompting a multi-agency search-and-rescue operation involving hundreds of volunteers.

But Julie Wheeler was found “alive and well” two days later by West Virginia State Police, hidden in a closet inside their Beaver home.

Investigators were told the woman fell into the gorge while searching for an earring at the Grandview Overlook, some 1,400 feet above the New River, the Register-Herald previously reported.

Authorities said Rodney Wheeler also posted on Facebook one day after the purported plunge that his wife had “an accident at Grandview yesterday” and was hoping that she would be found alive.

“I am heartbroken and lost right now but I have to have faith,” Rodney Wheeler wrote. “Please give us time to [work] through this and please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”

Both Rodney and Julie Wheeler later admitted conspiring to fake her disappearance to avoid the woman’s pending federal sentencing in June 2020. They had planned to go into permanent hiding, authorities said.

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