In the hours after University of Utah researcher Uta von Schwedler was found dead in her bathtub, detectives became convinced that her ex-husband was to blame for the woman’s death.
It was his confusion, a detective testified Tuesday. His vague responses to direct questions. His demeanor, and finally this: "I’m a monster."
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It may have been a statement. It may have been a question. But either way, John Wall’s defense attorneys said Tuesday, it was not an admission of guilt.
Defense attorneys pushed back against detectives during the first day of Wall’s preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court, by saying police intimidated and berated Wall to the point that he didn’t know what he was saying.
"John Wall began to question his own sanity," said defense attorney Fred Metos. "[Police] left him in a fairly small room, alone, for nearly an hour, with nothing on the walls, not knowing what he’s there for. Any person in that situation would be fairly stressed."
The first day of evidence in the murder case against the Utah pediatrician offered a glimpse into how Wall might fight the charges against him: murder and aggravated burglary.
If Wall is convicted of either of the two first-degree felonies, he could face up to life in prison.
Wall, 49, intends to plead not guilty to all charges.
"My client has maintained his innocence all the way through this case," Metos told a gaggle of news reporters and television cameras outside the courtroom during a midday recess Tuesday.
The day began with testimony from two men.
One who knew Wall and von Schwedler from the very beginning.
And one who saw the bitter end.
Klaus Fiebig, the first witness called, was a college friend of von Schwedler’s and a childhood friend of Wall’s.
He was there when they met. He was there when they married. He was there when that marriage came undone, he testified.
Fiebig, who said he was "keen on having [Uta and Johnny] work things out," discussed the points of tension in the couple’s relationship: von Schwedler had allegedly begun seeing someone else; Wall had a temper and von Schwedler alleged abuse.
"She was frustrated by all the little pettiness and roadblocks that Johnny was building in her life," Fiebig said. "She was very happy as a person, but not happy about [their] relationship."
After the divorce, Fiebig kept in touch with von Schwedler more so than Wall. He said he and his old friend simply weren’t very good at maintaining contact. But he never thought Wall was a bad man.
"I was in between them," he said.
The last time Fiebig saw Wall before von Schwedler’s death, it was January 2011. He said his old friend seemed "very much full of hate" over the contentious divorce and custody proceedings. He said that Wall blamed von Schwedler for "ruining his life."
"He was very much against Uta. Everything she did caused a problem for him," Fiebig said. "He was very much full of hate. ... He asked me, ‘Would it be bad if Uta wasn’t here anymore?’ "
But defense attorney Howard Lundgren pressed Fiebig on that statement. Did he think Wall meant to harm von Schwedler?Next Page >
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