Expert at doctor’s trial: Blood spatter indicates struggle
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A bloody comforter found on the bed of a Utah doctor’s ex-wife shows she was attacked and her death was staged to look like a suicide, a blood spatter expert testified Thursday.
Rod Englert unfurled the brightly colored green-and-blue comforter during the second day of the trial against Salt Lake City pediatrician John Brickman Wall, who is accused of killing the cancer researcher amid a bitter custody dispute.
Uta von Schwedler was found dead in 2011 in a bathtub full of cold water with wounds on a wrist and a leg. Englert said it appeared she got those cuts while defending herself from someone who had a knife, and blood on the sink and the shower also pointed to a struggle.
Defense attorneys dispute that, saying the wounds could have been made by von Schwedler herself. Lawyer Fred Metos has said she could have spread blood throughout the house as she stumbled around after taking the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Under questioning from Metos, Englert said he hadn’t reconstructed exactly how von Schwedler could have been wounded during an attack. But he said the cuts didn’t look like she made them herself, and there was no blood on walls or light switches, as if she was holding onto things.
Sister Almut von Schwedler testified Thursday that she never knew her sister to be depressed or use Xanax. Though she once suggested antidepressants when her sister was having trouble at work and in her marriage in 2007, Uta von Schwedler didn’t like how the medication made her feel and stopped using it after less than a week.
The day before her death, Uta von Schwedler had a meeting about an important breakthrough she’d made involving the genetics of childhood leukemia, said her former boss, Joshua Schiffman.
“This was a big discovery. This was a big day for our lab that Uta had figured this out,” he said. He said he still hasn’t found anyone to replace her.
Metos also asked about Uta von Schwedler’s boyfriend, Nils Abramson, who found her body in September 2011, and whether his alibi holds up.
A medical examiner ruled von Schwedler died from drowning with an overdose of Xanax in her system but stopped short of calling her death a homicide or suicide. A small knife was found in the bathtub with her, along with one of the photo albums she had made and later fought over wither her ex-husband.
Police called von Schwedler’s death suspicious, but it was nearly 18 months before authorities charged Wall, 51, with murder and aggravated burglary in a largely circumstantial case.
The charges came after the couple’s oldest son, Pelle Wall, fueled speculation about his dad by saying he believed John Wall killed his mother.
The trial, which started Wednesday, is scheduled to last four weeks.