SALT LAKE CITY — An 18-year-old who wants to get his siblings out of their father's home pending a criminal investigation into the mysterious death of their mother continued his efforts in juvenile court Thursday.
The hearing was closed to the public. However, a gag order previously placed on the proceedings by 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Charles D. Behrens, which prevented people in the courtroom from talking about the hearing outside the courtroom, was lifted Thursday.
The body of Uta von Schwedler was found in an overflowing bathtub in her house on Sept. 27, 2011. She and John Brickman Wall were divorced in 2006, but a bitter custody battle continued until the day she was found dead.
The medical examiner listed von Schwedler's cause of death as drowning. But the manner of death "could not be determined." The autopsy also noted that questionable injuries were found on her body.
Some of von Schwedler's friends and family members have said they believe she was killed by Wall. Her son, Pelle Wall, recently filed a petition to have his siblings — ages 16, 13 and 11 — removed from Wall's house. Pelle Wall moved out of his father's home when he was 18. In his petition, he said he was very scared of his father after his mother's death and slept with a knife under his pillow.
Family friend Amy Oglesby said Salt Lake police investigators were back in von Schwedler's neighborhood earlier this month.
"We know from Uta's neighbors that detectives had come back around the neighborhood and had taken statements from the neighbors asking them about that night and when they were home, when they were awake and if they saw anything," she said.
Another search warrant was also served on John Wall's vehicle, according to Oglesby. She also noted that family members were anxiously awaiting the results of DNA tests submitted to the state crime lab.
The autopsy on von Schwedler revealed a high amount of Xanax in her system. Family members said, however, that she never took Xanax and court documents indicate that no Xanax bottles were found in her home.
Pelle Wall, however, said in court documents that his father was authorized to fill Xanax prescriptions for his own mother who lived out of state, but she never received the pills.
"I am convinced that (von Schwedler's) death is not an accident," Oglesby said. "I am so very proud of Pelle's (motion), that he is taking the steps to try and protect his siblings and help them be safe. He knows the kind of living hell they live in day to day in that home, in living with him and isolated from people who love them.
"He knows that they haven't had the opportunity to grieve the death of their mother, that they're not allowed to speak of her, that there are no pictures of her, that their primary job has been to take care of him. And Pelle wants that to be different. He wants them to be able to have what he has had ever since he moved out of the home," Oglesby said.
The custody hearing will continue June 4 and a decision is expected during a June 20 hearing.
Almut von Schwedler, Uta's sister who lives in Australia, is executor over Uta's estate. In February, in an unrelated hearing, a judge in probate court denied a motion to have a guardian ad litem appointed for the three Wall siblings. Almut claims the siblings still living with Wall were not allowed to have any contact with her or anyone from Uta's family.
In denying a guardian ad litem, the judge told both sides to work out a communication plan.
"Both parties could never agree to any communication plan. There was nothing that they were able to agree to. And they weren't willing to work with Almut and her attorney," Oglesby said.
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