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Son files wrongful death suit against father on behalf of dead mother

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 4:25 p.m. MST

Billboard concerning Uta von Schwedler, who was found dead in the bathtub of her Salt Lake home in September of 2011, taken Sept. 11, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — An 18-year-old boy being sued by his estranged father for possession of family photo albums filed a countersuit Friday claiming his father murdered his mother.

Pelle Wall filed a wrongful death suit against his father, John Wall, in the death of his mother, 49-year-old University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler, who was found dead in her bathtub Sept. 27, 2011.

"John Brickman Wall had the motive, opportunity, intent and the stated desire to end Uta von Schwedler's life. John Brickman Wall planned and executed Uta von Schwedler's death," the lawsuit states.

Almut von Schwedler, Uta's sister and curator of her estate, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The body of Uta von Schwedler was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in her house with the water still running. The medical examiner was unable to determine whether the death was the result of a homicide or a suicide.

A long list of circumstantial evidence was collected, according to lawsuit, including cuts and bruises that appeared to be defensive wounds, blood found in the woman's bedroom, on the edge of a sink and a windowsill in the bathroom, as well as part of a bloody shoe print leading away from the bedroom. When von Schwedler's body was found, she was barefoot, according to court documents.

An autopsy determined that von Schwedler had an excessive amount of Xanax in her system when she died, something her family said she didn't have a prescription for and didn't take.

The Wall children, who were staying with their father the night before their mother's body was discovered, also contend when they got up during the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 2011, neither their dad nor his car were there, according to court records.

When they saw him again later that day, he went to get his car detailed at 8:30 a.m. and told the attendant to "pay particular attention to the pink colored stain on/in the back seat," court records state.

John Wall's behavior became increasingly bizarre to the point that by Sept. 28 he was taken to the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Unit where he stayed for the next six days.

John Wall and Uta von Schwedler had gone through a drawn-out, bitter divorce. Their marriage ended in 2006, but custody battles continued up until the time of her death.

After his mother's death, Pelle Wall filed a motion in juvenile court to have his siblings — then ages 16, 13 and 11 — removed from his father's house and placed into protective custody until police completed their investigation. An undisclosed settlement was reached in June that involved the removal of the children from the house.

A photo album of von Schwedler's youngest child was found in the bathtub with her when her body was found. In November, the elder Wall sued his son and Almut von Schwedler to gain possession of it.

Pelle Wall and Almut von Schwedler filed their response to the photo album lawsuit while also filing their countersuit. According to a statement from the von Schwedler family, Pelle Wall filed his wrongful death suit now before the statute of limitations for filing expired.

"We understand that Pelle must now bring his claim against his father … or risk losing the ability to ever file a wrongful death claim," the statement reads.

John Wall has not been arrested or charged in connection with his ex-wife's death. In October, Salt Lake police and the District Attorney's Office met for the first time to discuss the case. Though no charges were filed and any decisions made were not announced publicly, investigators said their case was still active.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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