Evidence in the death of Uta von Schwedler.
Interestingly, the main prosecutor in this case, Mathew Janzen, was also the prosecutor in the Esar Met case. In this case he has a woman helping him, an especially tragic irony considering the case.
There is one 'web sleuthing' website where most of the discussion involves gossipy speculation about countless possible suspects, in lots of crimes, who could be guilty because of their horoscope or because they have a certain kind of ear lobe.
As a person researches more and more, the entire justice system in Salt Lake City looks like a real life version of that website.
The person accused by prosecutors in the case discussed here may well be guilty, but there is no evidence of it aside from what was conjured in the minds of police and prosecutors. There are strong indications he is not guilty, though no conclusive courtroom 'proof'.
The prosecutor himself could well be a mass murderer who secretly kills people and eats their organs. There isn't evidence of that but it is possible. Should he be prosecuted?
This case is added to the Esar Met section because it seems to show a pattern of prosecutorial behavior in Salt Lake City, which extends to the media and to that part of the public which is represented in jury pools.
In this case the ex husband of Uta, Johnny Brickman Wall, was convicted in Salt Lake City of murdering her and staging her suicide.
Media in Salt Lake City seem to have leaned heavily toward the prosecution, but a CBS documentary presented other aspects of the case.
If a prosecutor ethically wanted to prosecute somebody for murder in a case where suicide appears evident, the prosecutor should provide some evidence that others, those who perceive a suicide, may have missed. In this case the prosecutor played a sort of game, 'characterizing' evidence in such a way as to suggest murder, but without actually presenting any evidence that the death was anything other than a suicide.
It is possible that the ex husband carefully staged an elaborate suicide, it is certainly convincing if it was a staged suicide, but his frame of mind at the time, along with other factors, seems to make that unlikely.
Like the Esar Met case, this case relied on the prosecutor's ability to fabricate a demon that does not seem to have existed. The prosecutor, and later the appeal judge, do this by being the gatekeepers of information and credibility for the jury. The public trusts the prosecutor and judge to accurately present facts, but that is clearly not what the prosecutor and judge did.
Below are the simple facts of the case, based on news articles.
1 The couple separated, supposedly due to her having an affair. They each went on to other relationships which did not work out. She was in a relationship of sorts when she died. This final relationship looks sort of opportunistic and was probably a negative factor in her life.
2 The children were primarily with him but she visited them, sometimes took them, and kept scrapbooks of them which were important to her.
3 She was very career focused and shortly before her death claimed to have made a massive scientific discovery involving childhood leukemia that would have great implications for her career and associates. A supervisor references this as an apparent indication she would not have committed suicide. The supervisor says the claim is true, but the actual discovery does not seem to be mentioned and it isn't clear if it is true. It looks doubtful and if the prosecutor or defense lawyer suspected it was true they should have verified it. Most likely they suspected it was not true and avoided scrutinizing the claim out of politeness.
4 She was reported as having a 'near lethal' amount of Xanax in her blood when she died. Xanax is a benzodiazepine. This kind of drug is very addictive and builds tolerance. It is pretty commonly abused by people in her demographic, and would have been one of her first choices. Xanax is very widely used and almost certainly there are scientific papers detailing long term metabolites or byproducts that it produces after a period of time. The prosecutor could have used this to support a conclusion of suicide, but instead omitted it and then took further dishonest steps to make the Xanax into a murder drug. In other words if there were metabolites in her hair and nails then it would be further proof of suicide. Most likely there were.
People who take a lot of Xanax are a lot like very drunk people, they bump into things etc. There doesn't seem to be anything obvious pointing to a second person present in her last hours. Having a low amount of Xanax in the stomach only means she died hours after she took it. The 'injected Xanax' theory is silly.
Benzodiazepines show up in fingernails and hair, and most likely the entire prosecution case could have been derailed by simply testing her fingernails or hair for traces of past Xanax use.
5 A shoe print was used to exclude some people as 'suspects', but was not sufficient to be used as 'his shoe print'. In the context of other evidence, such as his frame of mind at the time, it looks like the prosecutor was fabricating evidence. There may be more to the shoe print but based on what is easily available online it looks like more prosecutorial dishonesty.
6 Very similar to the appeal in the Esar Met case, the appeal judge in this case goes far out on a limb to support the prosecution version of a murder, disregarding and distorting facts in the process.
7 The fact that she was planning a trip west with her two youngest children and and her boyfriend while her husband went east with the two older children would have put suicidal pressure on her and was probably the immediate cause of her suicide. Uta is also referred to as especially outgoing. Comments made by her last boyfriend point to her as being 'more direct' than both him and her ex husband. She probably realized her relationship with her 'boyfriend' was similar to the one she had with her husband and did not see any escape. Her 'suicide' was probably not an overwhelming definitive suicidal death, it was the kind of thing that sometimes results in death, and it did that night.
She probably had past similar nights that left some evidence, and there are indications of that in some of the testimony.
8 The oldest child who 'saved' his siblings by removing them from the ex husband's house seems to have been seeing things inaccurately for obvious reasons. Unfortunately he and the other children seem to have been surrounded by people who benefited from creating distance between the children and their surviving parent. Worse, the mother had a boyfriend at the time of her death and the children would have been a little conflicted over who their father figure was.
The oldest boy, who initiated the murder charges, obviously felt like the process of getting his father charged with murder made him, the boy, more of an adult, and unfortunately many people in the boy's environment encouraged that. Unless the boy is steered back to reality he has a bleak future.
9 A lot is made of a scratch near the ex husband's eye, but actual photographs of the scratch show it is unlikely to have come from a physical altercation with a person like his wife. Most people have tiny scratches like that several times a year somewhere on their body, whether from brushing under a tree or some other carelessness. If he had physically overpowered her so he could inject her with Xanax, as the prosecution suggested, she certainly would have done more than scratch him faintly.
10 Detectives woke him to interrogate him and the interrogation is blatantly ridiculous. The detective quizzing him has no business interviewing anybody. The interview does not seem to be accurately mentioned in Salt Lake media, but the CBS piece shows some clips that make it clear the police were trying to fabricate a case. They recognized that he was disoriented and tried to coerce him into believing their opportunistic version of events.
That detective has almost certainly gotten false confessions from younger people with that tactic. Finding a plausible but vulnerable suspect and then maneuvering them into a false confession seems to be a signature of some police departments.
11 The theory that he staged the suicide would mean that he calculated that putting the scrapbook in the water would make the scene look like a suicide, that he cut her skin superficially to give the appearance of a hesitant suicidal person, etc. It's possible certainly, anything is possible, but if the prosecutor or police believed that then they should have at least been accurate with the evidence. The fact that they skewed the evidence so thoroughly points to the prosecutor and police knowingly fabricating their case.
12 The main piece of 'evidence' used to convict him was the unspoken suggestion that his obvious instability at, and after, the police interview, was the result of his having killed his wife. If none of the police interview were available then this would be plausible, but the little bit of the police interview shown on CBS makes it clear that the police deliberately 'destabilized' him in the hopes they could 'solve' the suicide by getting him to confess that it was a murder.
13 Considering that suicide is an indicator of instability, a person should wonder if there might have been something that destabilized both of them, and would explain both her suicide and his obvious poor spirits at the time. Very obviously there is an abundance of material to explain those things. The planned trips to the east and west were enough to explain it. But pending changes in custody were also a strong factor.
She wanted to be a full time mother, but she also wanted things that conflicted with that, such as being a full time researcher and other things. She felt obliged to play the role of mother by seeking custody, but she probably felt that her kids would have been better with their father. There are a few pieces of evidence for that, including both the type of partners she chose, her behavior, and the physical 'crime' or suicide scene evidence.
14 One of the more tragic, but interesting, parts of the case is his oldest boy's eagerness to leave his family and play a common melting pot role. He is following in the footsteps of a) His mother's last boyfriend, who was pretending that he had some deep attachment to Uta when it actually was something less than that, and b) The prosecutor, who sees ambition as more important than truth and makes a very clear unhealthy path for the boy, and c) others.
Instead of looking for individuality, as somebody that age should, he is basking in the artificial 'success' of having overpowered his father by joining a group of people who have the power to make him more powerful than his father. Throughout the interview he is using cliched mannerisms, motives etc that he has been trained to use by the people that control the role he is trying to play. They will continually reinforce the role and he will progress amongst them for a while.
15 The blurb or 'teaser' promoting the CBS article was the phrase “He asked me, would it be bad if Uta wasn’t around anymore?”. Most articles mention that the quote is by 'a childhood friend' of the ex husband. In fact the person who said that, Klaus Fiebig, is a researcher and colleague of Uta who introduced the two. In other words he introduced them, they had kids, they separated, then the ex husband spoke poorly of her to him, something which is not surprising.
Worth adding that Mr Fiebig seems to have an unusual number of overlaps in his life with Uta, and it's very possible, even likely, he has a relationship history with her. This would make him feel some guilt about the death, but also put pressure on him to hold the ex husband responsible, regardless of circumstances. It isn't clear whether Mr Fiebig was ever quizzed about a past relationship with Uta during the trial.
16 One interesting similarity between this case and the Esar Met case is the smoothness with which so many people involved in the prosecution disregard common sense. They seem not to be able to make simple deductions, but are quick to follow nonsense trails. An example is this detective explaining on Youtube how DNA was helpful in deciding to prosecute. https://youtu.be/UeCyrmbiRHE The detective explains that the ex husband's DNA was found in her bedroom, therefore he killed her. This makes no sense of course. It's like saying that if somebody dies at your place of employment, or at some building you visit, and your DNA is there, then it was a murder and you are guilty. Obviously he had some contact with his ex wife's bedroom, possibly substantial contact according to some of the reporting. The detective knows that his job 'authority' when he speaks causes some people to ignore obvious doubts that would be raised otherwise.
The DNA was gotten using a certain type of collection tool on 'a bloody pillow' and 'a bloody comforter'. https://www.m-vac.com/why-mvac/casework/bedding The implication that the detective is pushing is that the DNA is associated with the blood, but that is just plain stupid. The collection tool does not retrieve any DNA from the blood. It retrieves faint traces from the pillow and the comforter. Much worse are indications of close connections between the detective in the video, the company that made the video, and several other entities including Sorenson.
17 The most underreported aspect of the CBS piece, and something completely ignored by the prosecution, is the boyfriend's connection to the death. At the trial the prosecutor tried to pretend he understood this by asking the boyfriend if he killed her, rather than raising specific issues. The prosecutor was trying to get the jury to think there was nothing to look at with regard to the boyfriend, but in fact there is. The boyfriend is a mental health counselor, and most likely met her in a professional setting. He is also the most likely source of the Xanax and probably removed things from the suicide scene that would have created problems for any professional licenses he has.
When a licensed therapist gets into a sexual relationship with a client, or customer, and that client then commits suicide, the therapist is generally forced by licensing authorities to retrain for a completely different field, like dishwasher. He probably has been prescribed Xanax in the past and gave her some.
Speculation There was no Xanax bottle found at the house and it's very unlikely a woman like that would have kept the Xanax in a baggy. The boyfriend found the body, probably realized what happened and did what most people do in that situation. He removed evidence of his involvement. Up to that point his actions were not especially offensive, but he then told the police to consider her ex husband a suspect, when he in fact probably knew what had happened and who would have been held legally accountable.
Worth noting about the Xanax though, it’s possible the accused, John Brickman Wall, gave the Xanax to her. The prescription he supposedly bought for his mother may have been for his ex wife, and maybe he did not want to admit that. Either way, the boyfriend most likely took the bottle when he found the body.
18 Uta's sister writes at https://web.archive.org/web/20161027111737/http://justiceforuta.com/ "My family and I, we are so happy to have spent 12 days in August 2011 in Uta’s house in , to be part of her life there and had time for long talks. Uta was very sad about the fact, that the children were not allowed to be with us at Yellowstone Park and to the river rafting trip in Moab."
So a few weeks before she died, she was visited by family members who were more successful at 'raising a family'. Her sister uses the phrase "not allowed to..." Of course in the U.S. custody is often determined by a mix of courts and the couple themselves. There is little doubt that Uta was humiliated by being less successful in that aspect of her life than her siblings. Her sister uses polite language to carefully say that. A few weeks after that she is found in a bathtub with running water, a knife and minor cuts, and two times the therapeutic dosage of Xanax, with the water running and a photo album of her kids.
19 Another quote on the page is from Uta's mother. No doubt more affected than the others, there isn't a worse stress than a person's child dying before them. Her mother uses some of the rationalizations that other people used. She has been offered a chance to 'blame the ex husband for the suicide', and the extent to which she relies on others' rationalizations and words points to her internal doubts about the 'murder'. An example is her use of the word narcissism. She appears to be copying the word from a psychologist at trial. http://www.ksl.com/?sid=25219123§ion=local Most people with some education would discount the nonsense from the psychologist, but he has managed to worm himself into a position of respectability and there are people who believe fake experts like that.
There is no doubt that her daughter's suicide was extremely hard on Uta's mother. The issue though is whether anybody is served by pretending that the death was a complicated murder plot. The children are obviously harmed. They will spend years, perhaps their whole lives, in a Potemkin world with others who have been trying to grow their group through similar ploys. The prosecutor benefits, in a professional way. The last 'boyfriend' benefits by having scrutiny diverted from him. There is nothing more awkward for a mental health professional than having a 'relationship' with a patient who then commits suicide using Xanax which was improperly 'gifted'. The family who 'helped rescue the siblings' benefited by having their 'heroics' validated by the court.
All of the benefits those people found ultimately will only push them further and further into an unsustainable world. The boy will fail anywhere he does not have a group to support him, so he will go further and further into roles that compensate for that. The others likewise require a powerful group to prop up their reality. A thousand or a hundred years ago they could have used geography, but today that is difficult.
20 There are a lot of other indications that the death was a voluntary suicide, rather than murder. Most of these have been ignored by the public and those involved in the trial, out of respect for the deceased, but in the interest's of the couple's children and the truth, these items should be discussed to the extent necessary to fix the current situation. One example of these is the fact that antihistamines capsules or tablets were found spilled on the floor.
A pretty common feature of female suicides and attempted suicides is the use of a moderately heavy amount of a common drug. There are countless examples every year of people, mostly women, taking ten or twenty Tylenol extra strengths and either dying or melting their liver. In this case, although antihistamines are usually not fatal in large doses, the spilled bottle shows her state of mind and corresponds to a lot of similar suicides and attempted suicides. This is not something that would likely appear in a staged suicide. A person could probably test her for antihistamines, she probably took a handful, and that would further disprove the ‘Xanax injection’ prosecution fantasy.
21 Four years before Uta's death, and a short distance away, also in Utah, there had been a similar high profile case involving a doctor, a dead wife in a bath tub and assorted family scandals. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Michele_MacNeill In that case the husband was involved in various criminal acts and may have killed his wife, it's not clear if he did, but he also had an extensive LDS history. LDS is the main religion in Utah and to have a prominent member of that group involved in so many scandals may have made some people defensive. Many or most of the people involved in the John Brickman Wall prosecution belong to that group.
The Uta von Schwedler death gave some people the chance to project that sort of crime onto an outsider, and then step in and 'rescue' the children. This would not have been a conscious plot, just a common human tactic observed in this specific case. Every religious and national group does that. If you look at any homogenous sub group in any melting pot you will see the same pattern. This wasn't enough by itself to 'convict' the husband, but once the process started it made villainizing him much easier so the necessary 'facts' could be created to make the villain.
Many places which have a hidden segregation between groups have a ‘Stepford Wives’ quality https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stepford_Wives_(1975_film). It’s very obvious to outsiders in Indigenous areas that have been colonized by subtle force, but also in places where there is a locally powerful group that has to compete for influence within an area controlled by a more powerful group.
22 One of many examples of how the Michele MacNeill murder was re enacted, whether deliberately or instinctively, to develop the Uta von Schwedler 'murder' was the transfer of negative traits from Martin MacNeill onto John Wall by the prosecution. Martin Macneill had used falsified transcripts to get into medical school, forged various financial documents, threatened his child when she found out he was having an affair, coerced his wife into plastic surgery so she could compete with his mistress, etc. Mostly not really big issues in mainstream U.S. society, but among LDS followers things like that are completely unacceptable, and MacNeill was a prominent person.
John Brickman Wall, however, was very much the opposite and was not inclined to any criminal activity whatsoever. On April 11, 2007 Michele Macneill died, whether it was natural, or murder, who knows. Her children then accused him of murder based on his very clear moral failings, and he was convicted. In January 2010 the MacNeill's son commited suicide. On September 27, 2011 Uta von Schwedler is found dead, pretty clearly of a suicide. One of the children of Uta and John then has a crisis of sorts. He was aware of the stresses in his parents' lives and normally his father would have made the suicide comprehensible, but in this case the death of Uta was 'useful' in resolving problems created by the various MacNeill scandals, and other people stepped in to 'guide' the boy into playing the proper 'local' role.
If it isn't fixed it's only a matter of time until he conflicts with some local element and loses the support that maintains his worldview, or until he goes elsewhere and learns that the 'role' he accepted is not sustainable. Various people in Utah convinced him to build his world around group fictions and when it comes time for the price to be paid, he is already in place to be the sacrificial lamb.
23 A lot of people die with Xanax or other benzodiazepines in their system every year, but it's almost always with alcohol or other drugs mixed. It's not easy to die from Xanax by itself. https://www.thedailybeast.com/whitney-houstons-death-xanax-and-alcohol-lethal-duo The prosecutor knew that 'Xanax' indicated a voluntary suicide considering the overall circumstances. However, mixed with alcohol it does become dangerous. But the synergy between the Xanax and the alcohol would depend on the quantity of each.
The prosecution needed to add alcohol to the mix to make it plausible as a murder, but there was little or no alcohol in her system, so the prosecution fabricated a scenario in which the husband mixed alcohol and Xanax in a syringe and injected her with the mix. Unfortunately for the prosecutor, she would have needed many dozens of injections of alcohol for it to have had a synergistic and potentially fatal influence. The doctor of course knew that Xanax is not fatal by itself. He would not mix a 'murder syringe' of a fraction of an ounce of alcohol and Xanax.
The Xanax found in her system was two times the therapeutic level according to news articles, so speculation that involves calling it a 'near lethal dose' requires a vast amount of alcohol, which did not exist. The fact that she died with little Xanax in her stomach, and her 'cause of death' was drowning, means she died several hours after taking the Xanax. Did her ex husband visit her that night? It's possible but very unlikely. Immediately on finding the body police questioned him aggressively and would have asked neighbors if they saw such and such kind of car in the driveway in the last day. She was a gregarious person and probably known to her neighbors.
24 Was Uta a brilliant scientist and great mother, as the prosecution tries to portray?
A lot of facts and fictions were given about her family life but that's more for her family to decide. A parent is usually an example not an ideal. Should anybody be an example of a parent that made only good decisions? As for being an outstanding scientist on the verge of a child leukemia breakthrough https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=von+Schwedler+U%2C+leukemia she has published two articles that contain the word leukemia. Most of her articles involve hiv. Her first two articles in the 90s look not really that impressive but more than many people could do. Her remaining articles almost all have a bulk of authors, most of which have written more highly cited articles than her, so she probably wasn't the main force behind any of them.
She looks like a woman who worked hard at a lot of things, had some success, but at the end of the day realized she had bet too heavily on the wrong horse i.e., career over family, and decided to call it quits. Her colleagues, her professional friends, decided to use their abilities and resources to paint her as a person other than who she really was, for whatever reason. For the people around her it may have been a tragedy, but the tragedy is not improved nor solved by sacrificing her children and husband to the local deity.
It's hard to believe any psychologist would draw these conclusions. https://www.ksl.com/?sid=25219123§ion=local
An example of the way the case developed.https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=54210765&itype=CMSID
Another example. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=54010258&itype=CMSID