Friday, August 18, 2006 Print This | Email This     

Perry March: A lawyer who had it all, then became a killer

By Jessica Su, Court TV

(Court TV) — Ten years ago, a wealthy painter mysteriously disappeared from the home she shared with her successful lawyer husband and their two children. In her local community of Nashville, rumors spread, but there was no definitive proof that a crime had occurred.

To this day, Janet March's body has never been found, but on Thursday, her husband was found guilty of killing her. Prosecutors say that he killed her when she learned of an office scandal and threatened to divorce him and take the kids. He buried the body, they said, and then moved to Mexico.

As mysterious as the circumstances of the case is Perry March himself. He was once a successful corporate lawyer, with a nice home and family, but his personal life was shrouded in secrecy.

"I don't want the bad karma of talking about Perry," said Bruce Zeitlin, the husband of Janet March's longtime friend, Beth Zeitlin. "I have nothing to say about him, other than I think he killed his wife."

According to a 1997 article from the Nashville Scene, a pattern became apparent in Perry March's life: he came from humble beginnings but made enemies as he climbed the social ladder.

"He is extremely smart, capable and aggressive, but his dysfunctional background turned him into a troubled human being," said former Nashville Scene reporter Willy Stern, who interviewed Perry March for seven hours in 1996.

The son of a military pharmacist, Perry March was born in 1961 in the industrial town of East Chicago, the oldest of three siblings.

His sister, Kathy Breitowich, would not comment, and his brother. Ron March, a lawyer, did not return calls.

Tragedy struck Perry March at age 9, when his mother, 32, died of a barbiturate drug overdose. He grew up believing it was an accident, until Stern interviewed him on Christmas day 1996 and told him it was likely a suicide, Stern said.

Perry March earned his undergraduate degree in Asian studies at the University of Michigan. He was also fluent in Chinese and had a black belt in karate.

He met his wife Janet while they were students at the university in 1982, one year before he graduated. Her friends described her as both passionate and compassionate, according to The Tennessean newspaper.

A few years later, Perry March enrolled at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville.

"My theory is that he was hungrier for money for material success," Stern said. "He did not come from money. To rise up, the choices for him were law school, business school or medical school, and law school was conducive to his personality."

One year before Perry March graduated from law school, he married Janet. Her parents, Larry and Carolyn Levine, treated Perry March as a surrogate son, paying for his education, The Tennessean reported.

While the Levines were wealthy, Perry March's father struggled with his finances. Arthur March lost the lease for his home in 1987 and filed for personal bankruptcy protection in 1991, the Scene reported.

Meanwhile, as an associate editor member of the Vanderbilt Law Review, Perry March excelled. Fresh out of school, Perry March landed a job at one of Nashville's top law firms, Bass Berry & Sims in 1988.

He left the firm after three years, when a security camera caught him leaving two sexually explicit notes for a young paralegal.

Perry March agreed to pay the woman $25,000 to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit, but by the time his wife disappeared, he had only paid half that amount, according to the Levines' November 1996 filing in Davidson County Probate Court in Nashville.

In the early 1990s, Arthur Levine took Perry March under his wing again, letting him work at his firm, Levine, Mattson, Orr & Geracioti.

There, Perry March took on high-profile clients, such as Paul Eichel, an owner of five popular nightclubs.

"He was an excellent corporate lawyer. He had a very promising future," Ed Fowlkes, Perry March's attorney for in another case, told Court TV.

As a family man, Perry March's life also seemed ideal. His son, Samson, was born in 1990, and his daughter, Tzipora, named after his mother, was born in 1994. Two years later, the family settled into a four-acre home in the stylish Forest Hills neighborhood.

Janet March customized the home, all the way down to the cabinets and light fixtures, architect Mitchell Barnett told The Tennessean. Her career as a painter flourished; her work appeared in local restaurants.

But then Janet March vanished, and Perry March's reputation began to crumble.

Amid investigations into his wife's disappearance, Perry March was fired from Arthur Levine's firm in September 1996.

Because of the intense scrutiny, March and his children briefly lived in Chicago that year with his brother Ron, another lawyer. In May 1999, Perry March and his children settled in Mexico, where his father had retired.

In March 2000, Perry March married Carmen Rojas Solorio in Mexico. The two opened a restaurant in Ajijic, a lakeside town where Col. Arthur March had a retirement home.

In December 2004, a grand jury indicted March for second-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. In August 2005, Perry March was extradited from Mexico to face the charges.

As he sat in jail last fall, he asked inmate Russell Farris to kill his in-laws, allegedly so he could beat the murder charge. In June, Perry March was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and two counts of soliciting first-degree murder.

In April, Perry March was also convicted of felony theft for stealing $23,000 from the Levine law firm between from May 1, 1996, to Aug. 1, 1998.

His father, who admitted helping him move Janet March's body, is also serving prison time, having agreed to testify against his son in a plea deal with prosecutors.

March will be sentenced for the second-degree murder charge on Sept. 6. He faces up to 63 years on all charges.