A Utah pediatrician was convicted of murdering his ex-wife on Thursday in a case that was initially treated as a suicide.
Prosecutors said John Brickman Wall, 51, attacked his ex, 49-year-old Uta von Schwedler, with a knife, dosed her with Xanax and then drowned her in a bathtub, according to the Associated Press.
Von Schwedler, a prominent cancer researcher, was found dead in that bathtub in her Sugar House home on Sept. 27, 2011. Initially, police ruled the death as a suicide, but her friends and family insisted that she showed no signs of wanting to end her life and eventually Wall was arrested for murder more than a year after her death. He pled not guilty.
The case against him was largely circumstantial. The couple had gone through a bitter divorce and had ongoing issues with child custody. Despite that, von Schwedler was described as a happy woman who never would have taken her life.
Meanwhile, Wall despised his ex-wife, Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Nicholas D’Alesandro told the court, KSL reports. “He just couldn’t stop talking about how much he hated her,” he said.
Wall allegedly saw his ex as an “obstacle” to gaining custody of his children – an obstacle he wanted gone, prosecutors claimed.
“The evidence of motive, of means, of opportunity, there is but one compelling conclusion you can come to,” he continued. “Uta was murdered and the defendant Johnny Brickman Wall murdered her.”
But defense attorney Fred Metos said the state’s case rested on “wild assumptions” and “maybes.”
“There is more than a reasonable doubt in this case that it was not murder,” Metos told jurors.
Ultimately, it took the eight-person jury a little more than seven hours to convict Wall of murder.
The couple’s 21-year-old son was pleased with the verdict. “I am deeply thankful for the example of my mom’s life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and try and emulate her generosity, optimism and vigor for life,” Pelle Wall said.
“She may not be here any more, but her light is not gone. It lives on inside of me, inside of all of us who knew her.”
Added von Schwedler’s younger sister Almut: “Uta struggled with Johnny as her ex-husband and as the father of her children.
“We as family all knew about Uta’s struggle to co-parent the children in view of Johnny’s quiet, pathological and hateful behavior,” she said. “Johnny never succeeded to destroy Uta’s joyful life, but he ended up taking her life.”
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