Pediatrician was 'very evasive' when questioned about ex-wife's death, officer testifies

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1 2013 2:40 p.m. MDT

Uta von Schwedler, the ex-wife of John Wall, was found dead in the bathtub of her Salt Lake home in September of 2011. A three-day preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for a judge to order Wall to stand trial for murder in her death got underway Tuesday.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For family members and friends of Uta von Schwedler, Tuesday was a day they have wanted for for a long time.

A three-day preliminary hearing for her ex-husband — a doctor accused of killing her — began at the Matheson Courthouse. John Brickman Wall, 51, is charged with murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies. Judge Robin Reese will decide during the next three days whether there is enough evidence to order Wall to stand trial on the charges.

The two had been involved in a bitter divorce and they continued fighting after their separation. Ever since her body was found in an overflowing bathtub in her home, 1433 E. Harrison Ave. (1625 South), on Sept. 27, 2011, her family — including the couple's oldest son, Pelle Wall — has been vocal about their belief that John Wall is responsible for her death.

The medical examiner determined that her cause of death was drowning. But she also had a "fatal or near fatal amount of Xanax in her body," according to charging documents. The medical examiner, however, could not determine whether the death was a homicide or a suicide.

Nils Abramson, von Schwedler's boyfriend at the time of her death, testified Tuesday that he was the person who discovered her body in the bathtub.

After she didn't respond to his text messages that day, Abramson stopped by her house that evening. From the outside, he could see only a light on inside her bathroom, and then could hear running water when he entered.

"I said 'Hello, hello,' then I pushed the door open," he said. "I observed Uta in the bathtub under about 3 inches of water."

Abramson said he grabbed von Schwedler, 49, by her arm and pulled her out to attempt CPR. "She was so stiff, I knew rigor had set in," he testified. "And I just let her back down. I grabbed (the phone) and called 911 and said, 'My girlfriend is dead.'"

Abramson remained stoic during his testimony, despite being asked to recount what happened that day and look at crime scene photos, which included von Schwedler's body in the drained bathtub.

"It just brings back way too many memories that are not very pleasant. I'm just glad after this we won't have to deal with it again for awhile," he said outside the courtroom.

During his testimony, Abramson pointed out things that were not common in his girlfriend's house that night, as prosecutors projected images from the home on a screen.

A scrapbook of one of her children was found in the bathtub with von Schwedler. Abramson said her scrapbooks, one made for each child, were "immensely important" to her and she would never take them near a bathtub. The scrapbooks were also a point of heavy contention between her and Wall prior to her death. He wanted possession of them but she wouldn't give them up, family members said.

Abramson also noticed "foamy blood" coming out of her nose that night. He testified that he saw blood stains on the window sill above the tub and on the edge of the sink, as well as on her bedsheet. She was found in the bathtub wearing the type of pajama bottoms that she would typically wear to bed. Her bed sheets were in disarray as was the rug on her bedroom floor.

The blinds in von Schwedler's bedroom were down — something that Abramson said "would never be the case."

Underneath her body, investigators found a magazine and a knife, one that Abramson believes came from the kitchen.

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