Investigators are still trying to determine what killed the young paralegal found dead in Philadelphia on Saturday morning. Julia Law, 26, was discovered facedown and naked in a bathtub full of water inside the home of her boyfriend and boss, high-profile defense attorney A. Charles Peruto, Jr.
The case of the paralegal found dead has several headline-ready elements. Julia Law, a beautiful dark-haired paralegal, had been dating her 58-year-old boss for six weeks when she died. Her death is still a mystery. There were no signs of trauma or struggle in the apartment, no drugs or alcohol on the scene. The young woman had been texting her family and co-workers late into the night leading up to her death. She had plans to visit her parents for Memorial Day weekend in her hometown of Absecon, New Jersey.
Furthermore, investigators have not conclusively determined why Law was in Peruto's apartment that night. They were dating, of course, but Peruto was not at home. The lawyer was spending the weekend on the Jersey Shore, overseeing the construction of a new house he was building there. It wasn't until after a maintenance worker found the paralegal dead in the bathtub and called 911 that Peruto heard of her demise, at which time he rushed back from New Jersey to confront the situation.
So why was Julia Law alone in Peruto's apartment? Much of the information surrounding her relationship with Peruto, her lifestyle and character, and her familiarity with his apartment has come from one Richard DeSipio, a friend and associate at Peruto's Philadelphia law firm. DeSipio said Law had a key to Peruto's condo, and "she loved his big bathtub." It was a "huge soaking tub" with a foot rest. DeSipio said Law had been texting her co-workers up until 1 a.m. the morning of her death, describing one text in particular that now seems haunting in light of where the paralegal was found dead: Peruto's place was a real bachelor's pad, she playfully complained to one colleague, because he didn't have any scented bubble bath.
"Julia was a beautiful, caring free-spirit hippy," Charles Peruto said in a statement released after the paralegal was found dead, "Who I was blessed to have known. Words can't express how sad I am to finally have met someone who I believed truly loved me. You should all have someone touch your life, like she did mine. Pray for her. She was an angel."
Peruto also said, "I'm especially sad for her 10-year-old brother, who was her life, along with her loving and close sisters, mother and step-father. Earth lost the best one ever."
The family members Peruto mentioned, as it happens, had no idea Julia Law and Charles Peruto were dating.
Another puzzling layer was added to the case of the paralegal found dead when her family released a statement referring to Law's "vulnerable and emotional" state in the wake of a recent devastating break-up.
"As a significant long-term and loving relationship was ending these last few weeks, Julia was at a very vulnerable and emotional time in her young life," the family's statement read. "Despite this, she had expressed all week, including Friday night, that she was looking forward to spending the holiday weekend with us, where we were all planning to celebrate her 27th birthday."
According to DeSipio, Law had tentative plans to reveal her relationship with Peruto to her family over Memorial Day weekend. "Julia was struggling," DeSipio said. "She was very much in love with Chuck."
But the paralegal's family never got to have that conversation with Law, and it seems they were under the impression that Julia was still reeling from a previous relationship -- not love-struck by a new one. And the family has not been pleased, it seems, by the heaps of quotes DeSipio and Peruto have supplied to the press in the wake of Julia Law's death.
"We especially want people to remember our daughter for who she really was -- a hardworking recent college graduate who was a loving gentle soul. We are particularly concerned about attempts to describe our Julia by people who claim to really know her. These ascribed quotations, as reported in the press, are both troubling and offensive to us."
Law's family has, perhaps tellingly, asked Peruto and DeSipio not to attend the funeral. When asked why, Law's stepfather simply said, "We just don't want him there."
How serious was Charles Peruto's relationship with Julia Law? At this point, so soon after the paralegal was found dead, it's a difficult matter to gauge. But we do know some things about the high-profile lawyer.
Charles Peruto Jr. is a prominent defense attorney in Philadelphia, known for his work defending high-profile mob figures. Just check out the Past Cases page on the web site of A. Charles Peruto Jr. Law Offices, where numerous clippings recount his accomplished courtroom career.
The bio page for Peruto describes how he "has been voted, by his colleagues, to be a Pennsylvania 'Super Lawyer' for the 9th year in a row!" According to the poll cited, lawyers in Pennsylvania have voted Peruto as one of the top 5 percent in his field throughout the area.
Peruto is famed for Not Guilty verdicts, which he has achieved in over 200 jury trials and 2,500 non-jury trials. Newspapers have referred to him as a "ferocious cross examiner," and the page claims that Peruto has been hired by other attorneys purely for the purposes of cross examining one or two witnesses.
With such an established career, it would be no wonder if Peruto impressed his young paralegal, who by all accounts was a passionate law student.
Investigators are still waiting for the return of toxicology reports, which may help to explain how Julia Law died so suddenly. Authorities are clearly leaning toward ruling out foul play given the lack of any suspicious evidence and the newly revealed fact that when the paralegal was found dead, investigators noted that she seemed to have been foaming at the mouth. That could indicate that the young woman suffered a seizure, leading her to drown in the bathtub.
Stay tuned for more details in this developing case.