By Peg McEntee
SALT LAKE CITY, July 9 (Reuters) - A Utah doctor has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murdering his ex-wife in 2011 even as he continued to claim in court that he was not the killer.
"I did not kill Uta. I am innocent of this crime," Johnny Brickman Wall, 51, told a judge in Salt Lake City before his sentencing on Wednesday, local media reported on Thursday. "Our children have lost not only their mother, but now their father."
Uta Von Schwedler, a 49-year-old HIV researcher, was found dead by her boyfriend in an overflowing bathtub at her home in the city's fashionable suburb of Sugar House, with a near-lethal amount of the anti-anxiety drug, Xanax, in her system. Her death was initially suspected to be a suicide.
Third District Court Judge James Blanch said there was ample evidence to support the jury's verdict that Wall was guilty of a "chilling and despicable crime."
The pediatrician will serve at least 15 years in prison, but will get credit for the two years he has been in jail. Wall, who was convicted in March, said he will appeal his conviction.
Von Schwedler's family were in court for the sentencing, among them Pelle Wall, the couple's son. Pelle Wall, 21, had publicly accused his father of murder and gained custody of his three siblings.
"I never wanted to believe my father killed my mom," the couple's daughter, Malkie Wall, told reporters outside court. "But I also believe firmly in justice, and prison is the only recourse I know for my father."
Several of Wall's family members, however, wrote letters to the judge proclaiming his innocence. (Reporting by Peg McEntee; Editing by Daniel Wallis)