House panel approves bill to protect children whose parent is murder suspect
SALT LAKE CITY — The House Judiciary Committee endorsed 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 law enforcement investigators identify a parent as the primary suspect in the killing of the other parent.
Nothing in the bill changes the presumption of innocence, said sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, said a child should never have to live in a home where a parent, guilty or not, is the primary suspect in a homicide because of the emotional stress it would cause.
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 months later — last April — with murder and aggravated burglary in von Schwedler's death.
It is a less stringent version of a bill that failed in the Washington Legislature last year that was prompted by the Josh Powell case. Powell had partial custody of his two young boys, even though he was suspected of killing his missing wife, Susan Cox Powell, in Utah. He murdered the two boys and killed himself minutes after the children were delivered to him for what was supposed to be a supervised weekend visit.
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