New developments in suspicious death of U researcher

Posted at 8:33 PM, Sep 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-28 02:35:17-04

ALT LAKE CITY - Thursday marks one year since the suspicious death of a University of Utah researcher. There have been no suspects named and up till now, few answers, but there may be new developments that could help solve her case.

Uta von Schwedler was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in her Sugar House home on Sept. 27, 2011, covered in cuts and bruises. The medical examiner ruled that her injuries could have happened in a struggle with an assailant but also noted that Uta had overdosed on Xanax and drowned.

Police are calling Uta’s death suspicious and the case remains open, but no suspects have been officially named. Family and friends consider Uta’s death a murder, but say that police have gone out of their way to close the case as a suicide. 

“A couple of times we were told by certain people that the case would be closed as an unexplained death. And we just found it incredibly difficult to accept that because there were so many unanswered questions,” said Almut von Schwedler, Uta’s sister.

Some members of Uta’s family, including her son Pelle von Schwedler Wall, believe that her ex-husband John Brickman Wall killed Uta. In May, police seized Wall’s car looking for her blood or any other trace evidence of a possible homicide, but he was never named a suspect.

Shrine for Uta during a vigil outside her home Thursday, Sept. 27.

Salt Lake City police and the district attorney confirmed Thursday to FOX 13 that they are undergoing preliminary discussions to screen possible criminal charges in connection with Uta's death.

Almut von Schwedler, who lives in Australia, has sent several emails to Salt Lake City police asking about possible developments in the case.

Sgt. Fred Ross responded Thursday, saying, in part, "the detective bureau has been trying to set a screening date with the district attorney's office for weeks. Between both offices it has been difficult to set a date."

Almut initially thought that meant police were blaming the district attorney's office, but Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill disagrees. Gill says the von Schwedler case, while complicated, is a priority for his department and they plan on sitting down with all necessary investigative units to talk about possible charges.

"I think there's probably some misunderstanding there. Our office has always been open and is always available for any homicide screening any time," Gill said. "We do not lead the investigation, we do not control the investigation but we cannot screen it until it's presented to us."

That meeting, which will include homicide detectives, prosecutors and the Utah medical examiner, could happen as soon as next week.