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Defense tries to suppress info in Uta von Schwedler case

Published February 8, 2014 4:46 pm

Courts • Statements were not voluntarily given, lawyers say.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Late one night in 2011, a pair of detectives grilled John Brickman Wall for more than four hours about the death of his ex-wife.

The detectives yelled at Wall. They swore at him. They pounded on the table, insulted him and insisted he had killed University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler. Later, the detectives lied to Wall, saying they had a witness placing him at the scene of the crime. And then the detectives asked what his children would think of him when they found out he killed their mother.

At the end of the interview, after Wall was left alone, he sat in a room muttering to himself and "questioning his own sanity," according to court documents filed Friday.

The documents were filed by Wall's attorneys and aim to suppress everything he said to the detectives. His attorneys argue that the statements were involuntarily given.

Wall's case began just hours after von Schwedler's boyfriend discovered her body in her bathtub on Sept. 27, 2011. Wall's interrogation lasted from about 11:30 that night until about 4 a.m. According to court documents, the exchange between Wall and the investigators "grew very heated." Among other things, Wall, a doctor, talked about being diagnosed with depression and self-medicating with Lexapro and Trazodone.

When the interrogation ended, police dropped Wall off near his home and told him to walk the rest of the way. When he arrived, he told his children that their mother was dead and the police believed he did it. Later, the mother of one of his children's friends came to the home and found him lying on the bed. Court documents quote Wall as telling the woman that "only a monster would do these things" and that he didn't know if he had killed von Schwedler.

Friday's court documents also seek to suppress the statements Wall made at his home after the interrogation.

Prosecutors eventually charged Wall in April 2013 with murder and aggravated burglary, both first-degree felonies. Charging documents state that Wall told various people that von Schwedler was "ruining good things in his life and/or that she was to blame for his problems." He told a friend, "It would be all right if Uta wasn't around anymore," the documents state. Prosecutors have further described Wall's split with von Schwedler as "acrimonious."

A medical examiner determined that von Schwedler drowned. She 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. She did not have a prescription for the drug, charging documents state. Wall also had a cut on his face the night von Schwedler died, though he told police a dog scratched him.

Wall's son 19-year-old, Pelle Wall, has described his father as dangerous and said he would fear for his safety if Wall were to be released.

Attorneys involved in the case could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night. Wall's next hearing is scheduled for March 24. If convicted on either of the charges he could face up to life in prison.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii