SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – The long-awaited trial for a Utah pediatrician accused of killing his ex-wife begins Tuesday.
Uta von Schwedler was found dead in her own bathtub in Sugar House on September 27, 2011. She was a 49-year-old researcher at the University of Utah. The medical examiner called it a drowning, but she had cuts and bruises--and family members suspected her ex-husband John Wall.
“His behavior, I think, immediately after was very unusual, highly unusual, very suspicious,” Pelle Von Schwedler-Wall said of his father.
The couple divorced in 2006 and engaged in a heated custody battle. When von Schwedler drowned, the medical examiner found a high amount of Xanax in her system. Wall had written and filled a prescription for Xanax a few months before her death. The defense claims she overdosed and drowned.
“The medical examiner couldn't say this was a homicide,” Wall’s Defense Attorney Fred Metos said. “In looking at the DNA evidence, it's consistent with other members of his family that were living in the house.”
A coveted scrapbook the mother created for her children was found in the bathtub, along with a knife. Friends and family say von Schwedler would not want to hurt her scrapbooks and that she was not suicidal at the time of her death.
“I knew her,” said her boyfriend, Nils Abramson, who discovered her body after she died. “And I know what she was like at that time. And there was not a chance that she committed suicide.”
In December of 2012, the couple's son Pelle filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against his father, saying Wall planned his ex-wife's death. The suit says Wall would not allow his children to discuss their mother or grieve her death. Wall did not attend von Schwedler’s memorial service and friends testified he acted strangely in the weeks following her death.
“I just said, ‘Do you think that you did this in your heart of hearts?’ and he said, 'If I did, I don't remember,'” said Andrea Brickey, a family friend.
Wall has entered a not-guilty plea and his attorneys say von Schwedler's death was a suicide.
“He feels he’s not guilty because he didn't commit a homicide," Metos said. "He didn't have anything to do with her death."
Wall was arrested in April of 2013 and is facing a first degree felony murder charge and a charge for first-degree felony aggravated burglary.
The trial begins Tuesday and is expected to last four weeks in Salt Lake City Third District Court.