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Man helped wife fake fatal fall from West Virginia cliff, feds say. He got prison time

Simone Jasper, The News & Observer on

Published in News & Features

A husband told 911 his wife fell from a scenic overlook in West Virginia — but it was all a lie, federal prosecutors said.

Rodney Wheeler, 48, is accused of misleading investigators as crews used rescue dogs, helicopters and climbing equipment to search for his wife on a rugged cliff side in May.

But Wheeler's claims were part of a plot to fake his wife's death so she could avoid sentencing in her federal health care fraud case, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Now, he is going to prison for conspiring to obstruct justice in his wife's bogus disappearance, prosecutors said Monday in a news release.

An attorney representing Wheeler didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Wheeler was conspiring with his wife, Julie, when he reported that she fell off the Grandview Overlook on May 31. The scenic area is 1,400 feet above the water at New River Gorge, roughly 60 miles southeast of Charleston, West Virginia.


"They haven't found her yet but I am holding out hope that she will be found and she is ok," Rodney Wheeler wrote on Facebook at the time, McClatchy News reported.

Prosecutors argue the post was part of a "ruse that she had fallen and was missing."

It turns out, Julie Wheeler was found hiding in her closet about 10 miles away, according to court documents. She was given a prison sentence of more than four years in her federal cases and ordered to pay more than $289,000 for the alleged health care scheme.

Rodney Wheeler pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced to two months in prison. Then, he is ordered to spend six months in "home confinement" and three years in "supervised release," according to prosecutors.

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