Quantcast

New billboards, website mark 1-year death of U. researcher

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 2:39 a.m. MDT

A billboard concerning Uta von Schwedler, who was found dead in the bathtub of her Salt Lake home in September, is displayed near 1300 East and 700 South Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) A billboard concerning Uta von Schwedler, who was found dead in the bathtub of her Salt Lake home in September, is displayed near 1300 East and 700 South Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The billboard says: "Help solve the mystery of my death."

Next to the words is a photo of University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler and the dates April 13, 1962 — Sept. 27, 2011. Two of those billboards were recently posted in Salt Lake City. One is located on the corner of 1300 East and 700 South — less than two blocks away from the home of von Schwedler's ex-husband, John Brickman Wall.

The billboards and a new website, www.justiceforuta.com, have been established on the eve of the 1-year anniversary of von Schwedler's questionable death.

"It's hard to believe it's been a year since her death, and there's been no arrests and her case is still being investigated," family friend Amy Oglesby said Tuesday. "So many unanswered questions ... The ripple of chaos is enormous."

The billboards and website were set up by a group called the Friends of Uta Committee.

"It's been very difficult for her family and friends to still not know what happened that night. This is an attempt to mobilize anyone who might know anything about the case," said Robert Schlaberg, a co-worker and friend of von Schwedler.

Both Oglesby and Schlaberg said the past year has been difficult and frustrating.

"It's hard to believe that a case like this cannot be solved," he said.

Often times, a case goes cold because people who have information that could help police don't step forward, wrongly believing they'd just be interfering with the police investigation, Oglesby said.

"It's my personal belief that there are a lot of people out there who know things. ... People have been afraid to come forward," she said. "It looks like this is not going to be solved without people coming forward."

As for the placement of one of the billboards near Wall's house, Oglesby said the hope was that "the people who may have information about Uta's death would see that billboard."

On Sept. 27, 2011, von Schwedler, 49, was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in her house with the water still running. The medical examiner was unable to determine whether the death was the result of a homicide or a suicide.

A knife was found underneath von Schwedler's body and photo albums of her children were in the tub with her. A high level of Xanax was found in her system, which family members insist she never took. Defensive cuts were found on her arms and legs as well as bruising on her neck and lips, according to the website. Blood was found in her bedroom, on the edge of a sink and windowsill in the bathroom as well as bloody footprints leading away from the bedroom.

Questions were raised almost immediately about the reportedly odd behavior of Wall following his ex-wife's death. According to court documents, he allegedly 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.

Investigators and co-workers noticed scratches on Wall's eye and his forearms the day after von Schwedler's body was discovered. His eye injury was bad enough that co-workers told him to go home and get it checked. But instead of a doctor, police say Wall's first stop was to get the interior of his car cleaned.

Von Schwedler and Wall were divorced in 2006. But a bitter custody battle regarding their four children persisted up until the time she was found dead.

But while some friends and family members are convinced that von Schwedler was murdered — and they blame Wall — Salt Lake police have remained tight-lipped about the case, restating Tuesday that their investigation remains active with nothing new to report.

A search warrant filed by Salt Lake police and signed by a judge on May 9 stated that detectives were seeking blood and "any other trace evidence of the crime of criminal homicide."

The new website, justiceforuta.com, has a written summary of events since Uta's death, and notes that Pelle Wall, von Schwedler and John Wall's eldest son, "clearly states that he believes that his father, John Brickman Wall, killed his mother."

"There is still widespread disbelief and shock not to know why and how Uta died that day. A mother of four, a well-loved and respected researcher, nature lover and bike rider, not anyone who knew her believes that she died of suicide or an accidental death," the website states.

A candlelight vigil for von Schwedler is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 8:30 p.m. at 1433 Harrison Blvd. (1370 South), the house where von Schwedler's body was found. A bike ride and pot luck lunch is scheduled for Sept. 29 at City Creek Canyon.

Since her death, there has been a flurry of activity in court over custody of von Schwedler's children, the managing of her estate as it relates to the children and communication between von Schwedler's family and the children.

Pelle Wall moved out of his father's house when he turned 18 and in with the Oglesby family. He then filed a motion in court to have his siblings — then ages 16, 13 and 11 — removed from his father's house until Salt Lake police complete their investigation into his father. One of the siblings recently turned 17.

An undisclosed custody agreement was reached and the three children are living at a location outside of their father's home, under the custody of the 3rd District Juvenile Court. But no other information about their whereabouts has been provided by the courts or the family.

Pelle is currently going to college in California, Oglesby said. He was scheduled to return to Utah to attend the candlelight vigil.

A communication agreement between John Wall and Almut von Schwedler, who lives in Australia and oversees the estate of her deceased sister, was also recently reached following a drawn out court battle.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company