Son wants to keep father behind bars as Utah murder case proceeds
To keep John Brickman Wall in jail as he awaits trial for the alleged murder of his ex-wife, the couple's 19-year-old son will testify in court Monday that his father is a violent, vindictive man who poses a threat to himself and his four children.
Following the hearing, a 3rd District Court judge will decide whether the 49-year-old pediatrician will have an opportunity to bond out of jail on charges of first-degree felony counts of murder and aggravated burglary in the alleged 2011 slaying of his ex-wife, University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler.
The couple's son, Pelle Wall, will be there to try and persuade the judge to keep his father behind bars. The teen will present to the court a psychological profile he commissioned of his father that describes the Salt Lake City pediatrician as an angry, self-centered man who "would sacrifice any member of the family for his own needs."
But defense attorney Fred Metos discredited the report, saying the consulting forensic psychologist did not interview Wall and based his findings solely on what he was provided by the son's attorney.
He pointed to the doctor's non-violent past and conduct during the nearly two-year investigation as proof that his client is no threat to anyone, and should be allowed the chance to make bail.
"This report is all speculation and conjecture. It reads like a poorly written crime novel," Metos told The Tribune. "The best indication of future violence is past violence, and Dr. Wall does not have a violent history."
Pelle Wall, who has long maintained that his father murdered his mother Uta von Schwedler, has also fought for custody of his three younger siblings on the basis that their father might harm them.
"Our main concern all of ours since this happened, has been for the safety of the children," Nils Abramson, who was von Schwedler's boyfriend at the time of her death, said shortly after Wall was charged in the woman's murder. "We always felt he was capable of more violence."
The report, which was submitted to the court Thursday, was written by Richard D. Walter, a private consulting psychologist from Pennsylvania who specializes in criminal profiling.
In it, Walter states that Wall fits the profile of a "Anger-Retaliatory Type" of criminal, characterized by a need for control, impulsiveness, narcissism and a likelihood to re-offend to exact revenge or "resolve issues" with others in his life. The report singles out Wall's children as possible targets for future attacks.
"The operative coping style is to lash out at whatever they perceive to be a risk or potential harm at that moment," the report states. "The Anger-Retaliatory Type [...] uses murder to resolve angst and revenge issues with others."
Metos said none of this is true of his client, who intends to plead not guilty to all charges.
The defense attorney said he will be asking the judge to reduce Wall's bail from $1.5 million, cash-only, to $100,000.
Should Wall bond out of jail, Metos said, they will agree to putting him on a GPS ankle monitor so that the courts can monitor his movements and ensure he does not flee the state.
"Dr. Wall was being investigated for two years, and he was aware of the investigation," Metos said. "He never did anything to retaliate against anyone, nor has he tried to run away."
Uta Von Schwedler, 49, drowned in the bathtub of her Sugar House home on Sept. 27, 2011.
For months, authorities struggled to determine whether the woman's death was murder or suicide.
But expert analysis of the crime scene has revealed a violent struggle and Wall's DNA in the home, which he did not share with his ex-wife, according to charging documents.
Von Schwedler and John Wall had a contentious divorce in 2006 that led to years of custody battles over their four children, which prosecutors have cited as a motive for murder.
But Metos has said Wall had been prevailing in the custody struggle and had no reason to hurt his ex-wife.
Von Schwedler was found dead in an overflowing bathtub of ice-cold water by her boyfriend, Nils Abramson. A scrapbook was lying on top of her and a knife was later found under her body. Blood was found in her bedroom, at the edge of the bathroom sink and on a window sill, charging documents state.
She was practically naked, wearing only shorts, and had cuts on her left wrist and leg and injury to her throat, as well as a potentially lethal dose of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax in her system, for which von Schwedler did not have a prescription, according to an autopsy report.
Charges allege Wall had written and filled a prescription for his mother for 30 Xanax tablets in May 2011, though there was no documentation indicating he was treating his mother medically.
Pelle Wall, the couple's eldest son, has attracted the attention of local and national media for his outspoken position that his father is guilty of murder.
In April 2012, Pelle Wall filed a petition in 3rd District Juvenile Court aimed at removing his three younger siblings from their father's custody. In June, the court and family reached an agreement that removed the children then ages 16, 13 and 11 from John Wall's home.
In December, the son filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his father.
But two months later, the younger children were returned to John Wall by Juvenile Judge Charles Behrens. Since their father's arrest, the children have been staying with relatives.
Metos said that should the doctor be released from jail, the children would likely stay in the care of their eldest brother and the relatives who have taken them in since their father's arrest.
"We will ask that he be allowed to contact the children, so long as he does not discuss the details of the case with them," Metos said. "That's always been the conditions."
If convicted of either charge, Wall could spend up to life in prison.