SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that aims to protect children when one of their parents is suspected of killing the other.

SB173 would make it possible for concerned parties or the state to petition that children be placed in protective custody if their custodial parent is a suspect in a murder.

The bill expands the definition of abuse to include a parent who caused the death of the other parent, is identified as primary suspect by law enforcement, or is being prosecuted or is convicted, said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, the bill's sponsor.

Nothing in the bill changes the presumption of innocence, he said.

Weiler said he saw a need to change the law after he was approached by Pelle Wall, son of University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler, who has maintained his father killed his mother since she was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in September 2011. Wall was 18 but was worried about his two younger siblings.

John Wall, 49, was charged last April with criminal homicide and aggravated burglary in von Schwedler's death.

SB173 now moves to the House.

— Dennis Romboy