Paralegal, girlfriend of well-known Phila. attorney may have died from drowning after possible seizure in bathtub

By Jon Campisi | Jun 3, 2013

A young paralegal found dead recently in a bathtub in her lawyer boyfriend’s apartment

A young paralegal found dead recently in a bathtub in her lawyer boyfriend’s apartment

likely died from drowning, possibly after suffering a seizure, according to local media reports.

Julia Papazian Law was found dead May 25 in the Center City, Philadelphia apartment of high-power criminal defense attorney A. Charles Peruto, Jr., the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported.

Citing unidentified law enforcement officials, the newspaper reported that Law, 26, who worked as a paralegal at Peruto’s firm, might have had some type of seizure just before her death in the bathtub, in which she was found facedown by a maintenance man who had gone to the apartment to perform some work for Peruto, who was out of town at the time.

The officials told the Inquirer that no drugs or alcohol were found at the scene, and that toxicology reports are still pending.

Peruto was apparently visiting the Jersey Shore when he learned his girlfriend had been found deceased in his apartment.

Law, who died just shy of her 27th birthday, was born in Somers Point, N.J., and was a graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, according to her obituary, which was published in The Press of Atlantic City.

She was described in the obituary as having been artistic, with her drawings always capturing her subjects with a “unique humor and wit.”

The death notice says Law, who went by the nickname “Jules,” is survived by her mother, Laureen Law, and stepfather, Joseph Casella, as well as her father, Frank Law, and two siblings.

The Inquirer reported that Law worked as a paralegal in Peruto’s Philadelphia firm for about two years, and that she once joked on social media that she decided not to pursue a career as an attorney “because everyone would think I became a lawyer just because my last name is Law & then they’d really judge me.”

The paper also quoted family members as saying that Law had been going through a rough time following the demise of a relationship, although it didn’t appear that Peruto was the one she had broken up with, but rather a previous paramour.

Peruto, 58, has had a 25-year law career, specializing mostly in criminal defense work.

He is perhaps best known locally for representing a cast of controversial characters, such as mob figures and other notorious defendants.

One of Peruto’s former clients, according to past news reports, was Gary Heidnik, the infamous torture-murderer of Philadelphia, and the last person to face capital punishment in Pennsylvania.

Heidnik, who was put to death in the early 1990s, had been convicted of killing women he had kept captive in his North Philadelphia rowhome.

The case, which made national headlines, was known for its gruesome details; Heidnik had once reportedly ground up the remains of one victim, mixed it with dog food, and forced another victim to consume the concoction.

Peruto has been consistently voted a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer,” having secured acquittals in more than 200 jury trials and 2,500 non-jury trials, according to the biography on his law firm’s website.

While he is well-known for his criminal defense work, his bio states, Peruto has focused in recent years on civil litigation, handling matters such as contract disputes, large personal injury claims and fraud cases.

Richard L. DeSipio, an attorney working at Peruto’s firm, told the Inquirer that Law’s relatives requested that Peruto and other lawyers from the firm not attend Law’s funeral, presumably due to the media attention that it could possibly garner.

Law’s family members released a statement to the media last week, calling the woman’s death shocking and untimely.

“The vacancy left by her loss is overwhelmingly heavy as we prepare to lay Julia to rest, and begin what we expect to be our never-ending journey of healing,” the statement read.

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