Ex-husband charged with murder in death of University of Utah scientist

Published: Thursday, April 25 2013 12:05 p.m. MDT

"As sad as it may be, the day that they lost their mother was also the day they lost their father," Oglesby said.

Abramson said none of von Schwedler's friends ever gave up hope that this day would come.

"It wasn't just one person that made this happen. It's kind of a testament to Uta and all of her friends," he said. "There were a lot of people, dozens, who would never let this go."

Gill acknowledged Thursday the huge cooperative effort between his office and Salt Lake City police. But he said the charges were based on the evidence, not public pressure.

"It is the evidence that drives this. This has been a very difficult investigation," he said.

For the past several months, the district attorney's homicide team and homicide detectives from the Salt Lake City Police Department have worked together to investigate the case.

"This is something that people have worked, just like difficult cases are supposed to be done. They require a diligent commitment, persistence and critical examination of everything, and that sometimes is hard work," Gill said. "This is how police work is supposed to be done. This is how you take on complex matters."

The case

Initially, investigators questioned whether von Schwedler's death was a suicide or homicide. The Utah State Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death was drowning, but also that she had a "fatal or near fatal amount of Xanax in her body," according to charging documents.

The medical examiner said at the time the manner of death "could not be determined." It was also noted that there were no signs of forced entry into the house.

Family members, however, insisted that von Schwedler did not commit suicide and said that the 49-year-old University of Utah researcher did not take prescription medication.

"We were told so many times in the beginning, 'The case is closing. The case is closing. It's a suicide.' None of us ever believed that," Abramson said Thursday.

Investigators found evidence of a struggle in von Schwedler's bedroom, according to court records. They found blood in several areas on the bed. A blood pattern expert determined "Uta struggled with another person in the bedroom and on her bed prior to her death," charging documents stated.

According to charging documents, DNA found under von Schwedler's fingernails could not rule John Wall out as a suspect. And a mixture of his DNA was found on the pillow in von Schwedler's bedroom.

"The things that are important are the DNA evidence, the blood evidence, and there's some other evidence that we have that we have not made part of our probable cause (statement)," Gill said.

In earlier reports from court documents, search warrants and the medical examiner, incomplete footprints in blood were found on the floor leading away from the bedroom. Blood was also found on the edge of a sink and windowsill in the bathroom.

Fresh scratches were found on von Schwedler's eyes and face.

Wall, a doctor, wrote a prescription for 30 Xanax tablets for his mother in May 2011 and filled the prescription himself, according to court documents, but he did not document any patient-client relationship prior to writing the prescription.

Some of the biggest red flags for von Schwedler's family, however, were raised by Wall himself in his words and actions.

In an interview with police following his ex-wife's death, Wall said, "Only a monster would do what was done to Uta. If it was me, I don't remember," charging documents state.

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