While police continue to investigate the suspicious death of a Sugar House woman, her 18-year-old son believes his father killed her.
Uta von Schwedler, 49, was found dead in her bath tub last September.
Now, her oldest son,Pelle von Schwedler Wall, 18, has filed a petition in 3rd District Juvenile Court aimed at removing his three siblings — ages 16, 12 and 11 — from his father’s custody.
Pediatrician John Brickman Wall, 48, is accused in the petition of failing to properly care for the children, as well as inflicting "non-accidental harm, threatened harm and emotional damage."
But Pelle said during a recent interview with The Salt Lake Tribune that "the most immediate threat is a physical threat ... I thought maybe he would harm them, just like he harmed my mom and killed her."
The children — the subject of a bitter custody battle since their parents divorced in 2006 — began living exclusively with their father after their mother’s death. Pelle moved out in January. The petition requests placing the other three children with another family or in protective custody.
Pelle said the last time he saw his mother alive, Wall had picked up him and his siblings from her house. When Uta tried to talk to Wall about the ongoing custody dispute, he just rolled the window up and drove away.
A year prior to his ex-wife’s death, Wall told the children his life would be "better if he never saw Uta again," documents state.
The next day, Sept. 27, 2011, Uta’s body was found by her boyfriend.
The medical examiner’s office has not determined if her death was a homicide or suicide, but found the cause of death was drowning. Police have called her death suspicious.
Wall’s criminal attorney, G. Fred Metos noted Tuesday that despite the son’s allegations, no charges have been filed against Wall.
"You would think that if they had some evidence, it would have surfaced by now," Metos said.
Salt Lake City police continue investigating the case, but there have been "no significant changes at this point," said police spokesman Shawn Josephson on Tuesday. As for Pelle’s petition, Josephson said, "That is a civil part of it, we continue our investigation on the criminal side of it."
Pelle said that on Sept. 27, Wall was acting strangely as the children — who did not yet know their mother was dead — got ready for school.
"His behavior that [day] was paranoid or freaked out," Pelle said.
Earlier that day, the two oldest children awoke to find their father absent and his car gone. That afternoon, Pelle saw a scratch across his father’s eye and blood inside his eye, documents state. When Pelle asked about it, Wall said that Molly, the family’s 4-year-old Labrador "became excited and accidentally scratched his eye" while he was sleeping on the porch the night before.
Wall also told Pelle there was a burrito stain on his car seat, so he took the car to get detailed early that morning. He also said he left the windows open to air the car out and someone stole his cell phone, according to court records.
The following day, Sept. 28, Salt Lake City police opened an investigation into Uta’s death and questioned Wall, among several others.
A frightened Pelle slept with a knife and an airsoft gun under his pillow that night, not knowing why his dad was being questioned.
Wall told police he was asleep at his own home the night his ex-wife died, according to Pelle’s court petition. Wall later came into Pelle’s room with the other children trailing behind him as he cried and said, "Uta’s dead and they think I did it," Pelle said.
Pelle recalls his dad sitting on the bed and breaking down emotionally. The youngest child consoled him by rubbing him on the back. Wall told the children not to go to school and leave him alone or he might jump to his death.Next Page >
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