SALT LAKE CITY — The 18-year-old son of a woman at the center of a murder investigation was so afraid of his father after his mother was found dead that he slept that night with a knife and an Airsoft gun under his pillow, according to court documents.
Even today, Pelle Wall, the son of Uta von Schwedler and John Brickman Wall, remains "so fearful for his physical safety around his father he has, on occasion, armed himself with knives," according to a petition he filed in 3rd District Court saying his younger siblings are being abused and neglected by their father.
The petition also describes bizarre behavior by the woman's ex-husband, including statements he allegedly made that appear to question whether he was involved in her death.
Wall is now asking the state to remove his siblings from his father's home until the criminal investigation into his father is completed.
The court documents, filed in late April, are the latest moves in a bitter family feud that started before von Schwedler died and has continued with recent court hearings.
Wall and Von Schwedler, both researchers and doctors, were divorced in 2006. But their rancorous battle over visitation and custody of their four children continued.
On Sept. 27, 2011 — just a week after filing for a custody evaluator in court — von Schwedler's body was found in an overflowing bathtub. Her youngest child's photo album was found in the tub with her. When she was removed from the tub, a knife was found under her body. Blood was found in her bedroom, on the edge of a sink and windowsill in the bathroom.
The medical examiner listed her cause of death as drowning. But the manner of death "could not be determined." The autopsy noted that questionable injuries also found on her body "leave some question as to the exact scenario under which her death occurred."
A high amount of Xanax was also found in von Schwedler's system, something her family said she did not have a prescription for and did not take. No Xanax bottles were found in her home, according to court records.
The autopsy left open the possibility that von Schwedler's death could have been a homicide or suicide.
Von Schwedler's family members insist her death was not a suicide. Salt Lake police said Tuesday their investigation into the death is still open and ongoing. The petition claims the focus of the investigation is on John Wall.
After von Schwedler's death, Almut von Schwedler, who lives in Australia, was appointed to be in charge of her sister's estate.
In October, Almut von Schwedler filed a motion in 3rd District Court for a guardian ad litem to be appointed for her sister's children. The request was made on behalf of Pelle Wall, who moved out of his father's house when he turned 18.
A judge denied the request in February, noting that appointing a guardian ad litem in a probate case was highly unusual. During the hearing, Pelle Wall sat at one table with his father at another. The courtroom was packed for the hearing, with 99% in attendance there to show support for Pelle.
Now Pelle Wall, in new court documents says his siblings, who still live with his father, are "suffering physical, emotional or development injury or damage." The siblings are 16, 13 and 11.
At times, the children have been left without adequate food or transportation, the petition states. The siblings have even resorted to hoarding food in their backpacks. At times, the house has allegedly been filthy, including a time in December when there was dog feces all over the basement.
Pelle Wall said in court documents that when he and his siblings awoke early on the morning of Sept. 27, their father and his car were not at home. Later that afternoon, Wall "observed a scratch across Dr. Wall's eye and blood in the conjunctiva," court records state. John Wall blamed the injury on the dog. He said he had taken his car out to have the interior cleaned and his phone was stolen, according to court records.
That evening, Pelle Wall indicated that his father seemed "very paranoid" and said his father told him he "felt unsafe" in the house, the petition states.
After John Wall was questioned the first time by police, he returned home that night and "his demeanor was frightening," his son said in the petition. "He rocked back and forth, cried, and was emotionally out of control, crying, 'I want my mom.'"
According to the petition, he further made statements to his children such as, "Am I monster?" "How am I supposed to know what I do when I'm asleep?" "What if I did it and I don't remember?" "I loved Uta, I couldn't have done that to her, right?"
Wall also asked his children to stay with him "so he wouldn't jump," court records state. His "extreme emotional distress" continued as his children found him "laying on the bed in a fetal position making strange statements." He was eventually admitted to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute.
While visiting at the institute, Pelle Wall said his father made several statements about police and their investigation, including, "If they find my phone there, how can I refute that?" court records state.
Pelle Wall claims he further became suspicious when he learned that his father had written a prescription for Xanax for his grandmother, who never received it.
Since returning home from the psychiatric unit, John Wall has "isolated the children, causing them to be alone and more dependent on him," the petition states. The children have their cellphones monitored and are forbidden to talk to von Schwedler's boyfriend, sister and other extended family members. He has also allegedly said he does not feel "adequately supported" by his children in relation to their mother's death.
"Dr. Wall has never, to date, directly denied killing Uta von Schwedler to (Pelle) or to any other children in (Pelle's) presence," the petition states.
John Wall has been summoned to appear in juvenile court on May 9.
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