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Preliminary hearing begins for doctor accused of killing ex-wife

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Oct 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-02 00:12:02-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A three-day hearing began Tuesday to determine if prosecutors have enough evidence against a pediatrician accused of murder to go to trial.

Dr. John Wall is accused of killing his ex-wife, University of Utah researcher Uta von Schwedler.

Von Schwedler was found drugged and drowned in the bathtub of her Salt Lake City home on Sept. 27, 2011.  Her death was ruled as suspicious, and Wall was arrested in May 2013 and given a $1.5 million cash-only bail.

Klaus Fiebig, the man who introduced Wall to von Schwedler, testified Tuesday morning about the couple’s bitter separation and divorce.

Fiebig testified that he was visiting Salt Lake City about eight months before von Schwedler’s death and Wall asked him: “Would it be bad if Uta wasn’t here anymore?”

The next witness was Nils Abramson, who was von Schwedler’s boyfriend at the time of her death.  Abramson was the person who found von Schwedler dead in her bathtub.

Prosecutors showed graphic crime scene photos to go along with Abramson’s testimony, but Wall showed very little expression as the photos were presented.

“It just brings back way too many memories that are not very pleasant,” Abramson said.

On Sept. 27, 2011, Abramson went to check on von Schwedler, after he hadn’t heard from her in a while. During his testimony, he described finding blood around the bedroom and bathroom and von Schwedler’s stiff body resting under freezing cold water, the faucet still on.

“I don’t like going over it all again, but I’m glad we’ve gotten to this point,” Abramson said.

Initially, authorities believed her death could have been a suicide. An autopsy found the 49-year-old woman had Xanax in her system when she died, but authorities later discovered Wall had filled a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug months earlier.

“I know her,” Abramson said. “And I know what she was like at that time, and so there’s no chance that she committed suicide.”

The theory never added up to the couple’s oldest son, Pelle Wall, who had long been accusing his father of the crime. The 19-year-old man flew in from college for the proceedings.

“I have a great deal of confidence in the district attorney’s office. They did an excellent job today, and everything went very smoothly,” Pelle Wall said.

In court, Abramson also raised questions a piece of evidence found inside the bathtub with von Schwedler’s body.  A scrapbook belonging to one of von Schwedler and Wall’s four children was discovered floating in the water near her body. Abramson said von Schwedler was meticulous about the books and never liked having them out of place, which was a point of contention between her and Wall. Abramson argued von Schwedler would never have brought them into the bathroom.

Outside of court, Wall’s attorney would only say that his client maintains his innocence and is not guilty.