Pediatrician charged with murdering ex-wife

Posted at 8:55 AM, Apr 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-26 00:58:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Salt Lake City-area pediatrician was charged with murder Thursday morning in connection with the September 2011 death of his ex-wife, Uta von Schwedler.

Salt Lake City police arrested Dr. John Wall Thursday morning during what first appeared to be a routine traffic stop, near 900 South and 900 East in Salt Lake City, just a few blocks away from his home.

"We secured an arrest warrant for Dr. Wall and a search warrant for his home," said Detective Mike Hamideh, Salt Lake City Police Dept.

Hamideh says the arrest was carefully executed away from Wall's home to avoid his young children from witnessing police action.

"They did not see him go into custody," he said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says Wall is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in connection with von Schwedler's death.

"The forensics, scientific evidence certainly helped, and there's other pieces of evidence that we haven't revealed in our probable cause statement," Gill said.

Uta von Schwedler, who worked as a researcher at the University of Utah, was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in her Sugar House home, covered in cuts and bruises, on September 27, 2011.

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.

"That there was a struggle that happened there, we had some DNA found that cannot exclude the defendant," Gill ssaid.

Von Schwedler was never known to have taken Xanax, but Wall had written a prescription for the drug and had it filled a few months before Uta's death.

Wall and von Schwedler divorced in 2006. Some members of Uta’s family, including her son Pelle von Schwedler Wall, believe that her ex-husband John Wall killed Uta.

In May 2012, 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.

In December of 2012, Pelle von Schwedler Wall filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against his father. The lawsuit states “Wall had the motive, opportunity, intent, ability and the stated desire to end Uta von Schwedler’s life.”

[Read Pelle von Schwedler's response to Wall's arrest]

It also claimed Wall had premeditated the death of his ex-wife, and requested a jury trial where monetary damages would be proven for the four children, along with punitive damages and the cost incurred by legal fees.

Wall didn't attend von Schwedler's memorial service. Pelle's lawsuit claims Wall also forbade the children from having any photos or discussion about von Schwedler or her native Germany, and states the four children were not allowed to grieve over their mother's death.

Thursday's arrest marks the first time John Wall has been criminally charged with Uta's death. Wall also faces a first-degree felony charge of aggravated burglary.

John Wall will be held in the Salt Lake County Jail. Bail has been set at just over $1.5 million.

As news of Wall's arrest began to spread, a posting on Uta's Facebook memorial page read: "Thanking God today that perhaps Justice will be done. Thinking of the family today."