Testimony ends in murder hearing for SLC doctor

Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-02 21:18:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Testimony wrapped up in the preliminary hearing for a pediatrician accused of killing his ex-wife.

A medical examiner, a DNA expert, a family friend and the lead investigator testified Wednesday in the case against Dr. Johnny Wall, who is accused of murdering Uta von Schwedler in 2011.

"There were no surprises," defense attorney Fred Metos told reporters outside of court. "It went pretty much as expected."

Dr. Erik Christensen, an assistant state medical examiner, testified about the autopsy performed on von Schwedler, who was found dead in her bathtub. Christensen testified the woman had some bruises and abrasions on her face, a neck injury, cuts on her arms and legs and elevated amounts of Xanax in her system.

Her official cause of death was drowning, but he could not declare it a homicide or a suicide. Defense attorneys pounced, suggesting that some of the wounds -- particularly the cuts -- could have been self-inflicted.

Under von Schwedler's body, police discovered a knife. A DNA expert testified on Wednesday they found trace amounts on the blade and handle, but it could not conclusively be tied to Dr. Wall. DNA samples taken from von Schwedler's bedroom also could be traced to Dr. Wall -- or his sons. It could not get any more specific than that, she testified.

A Salt Lake City police detective testified that blood was found in von Schwedler's bedroom, kitchen and bathtub. There were partial shoe prints in blood, but Cordon Parks testified they could not determine who they belonged to.

"It looked like a staged crime scene," he said, indicating that someone had made efforts to clean up some of the blood.

Andrea Brickey, a friend of Wall and von Schwedler, testified about her encounter with him the day that Uta's body had been discovered. She described his behavior as strange, noting that he had a bloody eye and some marks on his face. On his leg and arms, she testified, she saw scratches.

"Johnny, in your heart of hearts, did you do this?" Brickey testified that she had asked him.

He replied, "No, no. If I did, I don't remember," she testified. "Only a monster would do this. Only a monster would do these things."

Brickey said during their conversation, Wall mentioned suicide. She asked if he had any Xanax.

"Xanax, what's that?" she said Wall replied to her.

"It was very odd," Brickey testified. "Because he's a doctor."

As the conversation continued, Brickey said Wall mentioned that he had been sleeping outside in recent weeks and expressed happiness that his ex-wife had a new boyfriend. Given the animosity between the couple, Brickey said she found that strange.

"He didn't want her to be happy," she testified.

Final statements are expected to be presented on Thursday. Third District Court Judge Robin Reese will then decide if there is enough evidence to make Wall stand trial for murder.