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April 01, 2023

Bucks County detectives solve cold case murder from 1980

Investigators said Peter Eric Marschner shot and killed his business partner Richard Wheeler in Nockamixon Township over allegedly mishandling money

Investigations Cold Cases
Bucks county cold case Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Bucks County detectives allege Peter Eric Marschner, who died in 2006, killed Richard Wheeler in Nockamixon Township in September 1980 over mishandling money.

Over four decades ago, the body of Richard Wheeler was found in a wooden property by a construction worker in Nockamixon Township. Prosecutors failed to identify Wheeler's killer for 43 years until this week.

Bucks County detectives finally pieced together the details to solve the cold case and figure out who murdered 34-year-old Wheeler.

Peter Eric Marschner, a business associate of Wheeler, is alleged to have shot the man four times in an ordered hit by a third man Leslie Schmidt, Bucks County Detective David Hanks, and Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Christopher Cleveland said

Marschner, Wheeler, and Schmidt met in 1979 in a Connecticut prison and established plans to move to Bucks County after their release, where they would run a drug business making and selling meth. 

Wheeler began operating a meth lab in Nockamixon Township and lived on a camper on the property while Schmidt was still in prison, although he was funding the drug business. Marschner eventually reconnected with Wheeler in Bucks County after fleeing JFK Airport, where he was supposed to catch a flight to Germany after his prison release.

Investigators said that Wheeler mishandled $250,000 that was to be used to care for Schmidt's family while he served the remainder of a prison sentence.

Suspicions that Wheeler was spending the $250,000 personally instead of giving it to Schmidt's family led to Wheeler being shot. Detectives believe Wheeler was shot between Sept 8 and Sept 18, 1980.

An investigation into Marschner's criminal history led to a discovery that he was arrested in 1982 on drug conspiracy charges in New York under the name Charles McLaren. His fingerprints matched Marschner's from a 1977 arrest, which landed him in prison with Wheeler and Schmidt.

In 1983, witnesses alleged that a German guy killed Wheeler.

Marschner moved to New Jersey, started a family, and ran a limousine service before he died in 2006 at 68. Schmidt died in 2022.

"Although leads may go cold, it is so important for both the community protection and these families to be able to have a solution at the end of the day that they don't just disappear," sBucks County Deputy District Attorney Megan Hunsicker said.