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Defense trying to suppress statements of Salt Lake City doctor accused of killing ex-wife

Published March 24, 2014 10:51 pm

Courts • John Brickman Wall, accused of killing ex-wife, made statements to cops, friends.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

John Brickman Wall has never confessed to murdering his ex-wife, Uta von Schwedler.

But the former Salt Lake City pediatrician did say during a police interview, and several times to friends and family, that if he did do it, he didn't remember.

"He said to me, 'Only a monster would have done what was done to [von Schwedler],' " family friend Jill Alger-James testified on Monday during an evidentiary hearing in 3rd District Court.

She said that Wall added, "If it was me, I don't remember."

Defense attorneys are trying to keep a jury from hearing those statements, claiming they were involuntarily given.

Judge Denise Lindberg heard testimony Monday from several witnesses who interacted with Wall the evening after von Schwedler's boyfriend discovered her body in her bathtub of her Sugar House home on Sept. 27, 2011.

Before making a ruling, the judge will hear additional testimony on April 14 from the two detectives who interviewed Wall.

Wall, 50, was charged last April with murder and aggravated burglary, both first-degree felonies, in the death of the 49-year-old woman.

Monday's hearing began with testimony from Salt Lake City police Officer George Pregman, who drove Wall to the police station to be questioned about von Schwedler's death.

"He just seemed kind of 'off,' " Pregman said of Wall. "Kind of confused, maybe. ... Not in the moment."

But Pregman said Wall was not threatened by police during the interview.

According to the defense attorneys' motion, the two detectives yelled at Wall, swore at him, and insisted he had killed von Schwedler, who was a University of Utah scientist.

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 that he was 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 telling Andrea Brickey that "only a monster would do these things" and that he didn't know if he had killed von Schwedler.

Both Brickey and Alger-James denied coercing Wall to make the statements, and said they were not told by police to question him. "I asked him to be quiet," Alger-James testified. "I asked him to shut up."

Prosecutors said in a written motion that Wall's statements were voluntarily made and "not a product of physical or psychological coercion" and should be admitted at a yet-to-be-scheduled trial.

A medical examiner determined von Schwedler died from drowning. But 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, for which she did not have a prescription.

Last June, Wall gave up his medical license and his ability to write prescriptions until the murder case is resolved.


Twitter: @jm_miller






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