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Communication plan reached in custody case involving bathtub death of scientist

Published: Wednesday, July 25 2012 3:25 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The father of the children of a Salt Lake scientist who died under mysterious circumstances says they can email and Skype with the administrators of his ex-wife's estate, but only under supervision.

A communication agreement between John Wall and Almut von Schwedler, who oversees the estate of her deceased sister, 49-year-old Uta von Schwedler, was announced in 3rd District Court documents on Wednesday.

Uta von Schwedler was mysteriously found dead in an overflowing bathtub in her house on Sept. 27, 2011. She and John Wall were divorced in 2006, but a bitter custody battle over their children continued until the day she was found dead. The medical examiner listed von Schwedler's cause of death as drowning. But the manner of death "could not be determined," leaving open the possibilities of both murder and suicide.

Uta von Schwedler's four children moved in with their father full-time after her death. That's when Almut von Schwedler, who lives in Australia, said her communication with them was cut off.

Uta von Schwedler's oldest son, Pelle, moved out of his father's house when he turned 18.

After struggling for months to reach a compromise, attorneys for both sides announced a settlement Wednesday on communication with the three remaining children, ages 16, 13 and 11.

With the help of a guardian ad litem, Wall agreed to allow written communication between the children and Almut von Schwedler, as well as Skype conversations "from time to time," but only to talk about administration of the estate. Wall must be given at least 48 hours advance notice of all Skype communication as well as a description of the items that will be talked about, the agreement states.

The Skype conversations will be supervised by Wall or the guardian ad litem who will also have power to end the conversation, "if the subject of the contact strays from estate administrative matters," according to court records.

In addition, Wall must be copied on all emails and written letters between the children and Almut von Schwedler, the agreement states.

The agreement applies to three of von Schwedler's children until they turn 17. One of those three siblings turns 17 on Sunday.

Currently, the three children are living at an undisclosed location outside of their father's home, under the custody of 3rd District Juvenile Court.

After Pelle Wall moved out, he filed a motion in court to have his siblings removed from his father's house until a Salt Lake police investigation into his father over whether he had any involvement in his wife's death, is completed.

Wall, before moving out, said in court documents that he was "so fearful for his physical safety around his father he has, on occasion, armed himself with knives." He filed a petition in court to have his siblings removed from the house, saying he was concerned about their safety and that they were "suffering physical, emotional or development injury or damage."

Also in court, Wall has asked a judge to set a hearing to force Almut von Schwedler to turn over all the photo albums, videos and negatives she has "reflecting the shared marital life" of himself and Uta von Schwedler.

When they were divorced, a judge ruled Uta von Schwedler could be in charge of the family photo albums at her house while all videos and film negatives could be watched by Wall at his house.

Not only is Wall demanding all pictures being held by Almut von Schwedler be returned to him, but all copies made of the albums after his ex-wife's death without his permission be turned over.

On the day Uta von Schwedler was found dead in her bathtub, her youngest child's photo album was also found in the water next to her body.

Almust von Schwedler claims her sister would never have taken that album in the water with her. She said each of Uta's children had an album with both pictures and memorabilia from their early years. Possession of the albums was reportedly a "bone of contention" between her and Wall, she said.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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