Doctor ordered to stand trial in ex-wife’s death

Posted at 4:36 PM, Oct 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-03 18:36:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dr. Johnny Wall had a grim expression on his face as the judge ordered him to stand trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Uta von Schwedler.

"He's discouraged," Wall's attorney, Fred Metos, told reporters outside the courtroom. "He was hopeful, obviously."

After two days of testimony, Dr. Wall was bound over for trial Thursday on charges of murder and aggravated burglary. Prosecutors pressed their case that Wall broke into his ex-wife's home, drugged her, drowned her and tried to clean up a bloody crime scene.

"There was, during this time frame, a very contentious divorce proceeding," deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Matthew Janzen said of a possible motive.

Von Schwedler's body was found in a bathtub. The medical examiner said the official cause of death was drowning. She had cut son her arms and legs, her neck had an injury that could have come from choking. She also had elevated levels of Xanax in her system, something prosecutors said she did not have a prescription for -- but Dr. Wall did.

"How did it get administered?" Janzen said in court. "Well, he's a doctor. He knows how to administer that."

But the medical examiner could not declare von Schwedler's death a homicide. Defense attorneys pounced on that, claiming the wounds could have been self-inflicted and her death a suicide. Metos said the timeline of von Schwedler's death and Dr. Wall's whereabouts did not match up.

"He never admits to killing Uta," Metos told the judge.

Prosecutors argued the totality of their case pointed to Dr. Wall as the culprit. Third District Court Judge Robin Reese said there was enough evidence for him to believe a murder occurred.

"It would be my conclusion, counsel and Mr. Wall, the state has met its burden," Reese said in his ruling. "(They have) established probable cause to believe, number one: that this was, in fact, a murder and along with that, an unlawful entry into the home of the deceased. Number two: that, Mr. Wall, you committed that murder."

Outside of court, Metos said his client maintains his innocence and they would be prepared for a trial.

Wall will enter a formal plea to the charges on Oct. 21.