SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A childhood friend of a Utah doctor charged with killing his ex-wife testified Wednesday that John Brickman Wall blamed the woman for ruining his life.
Klaus Fiebig said he spoke to his old friend several months before her death, and the pediatrician seemed centered around his hate for ex-wife Uta von Schwedler.
"At the end he said something peculiar: 'Would it be bad if Uta wasn't here anymore?' " Fiebig said. "She didn't plan to move away."
Von Schwedler, a 49-year-old cancer researcher, was found dead in a bathtub full of cold water in September 2011. A medical examiner found that she drowned, but she also had a fatal dose of anti-anxiety medication in her system. He stopped short of ruling her death a homicide or a suicide.
After her death, Fiebig spoke with Wall again following a memorial service. Wall had shaved his head in mourning, but he was still fixated on how much he hated her, Fiebig said.
The day she was found, Wall came into work with a bloodied eyeball and scratches on his face, his former office manager testified Wednesday.
Wall said he'd slept outside on his porch, and his dog got spooked and stepped on him, Kathi Newman said. "I remember looking and thinking that just seemed strange to me," she said.
Von Schwedler's death was initially treated as a suicide, but her family and friends pushed for more investigation. Wall was arrested more than a year after her death.
Prosecutors allege the 51-year-old Wall killed his ex-wife during a bitter custody battle. Defense attorneys counter that she could have killed herself. His trial began last week and is expected to last a month.
Fiebig said Wednesday that he introduced the couple, who wed in Malibu in 1990 and moved to Salt Lake City a few years later. The relationship went downhill after the move, with fights that grew increasingly ugly on both sides.
"They didn't stop where it hurt," he said. Von Schwedler eventually started another relationship before their divorce, he said.
After the 2006 split, Wall became increasingly difficult at work, his former medical assistant testified Wednesday. "He just slowly became disconnected," Christina Gardner-Smith said.
Wall was very well liked when she first started working for him, she said. She went through a divorce around the same time, and the two used to joke about hiring a hit man to take care of their respective ex-spouses.
But later, he started lashing out at her if something went wrong. Gardner-Smith stopped working for him about three years later.
"I just couldn't do it anymore," she said.