Where Is Mrs. March?

<B>48 Hours Investigates:</B> Murder? Mishap? Abandonment?

When it came to the important things in life, including family, friends and a comfortable home, Janet March had it all. Then, suddenly, she was gone.

48 Hours began covering this story five years ago. Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports, in a broadcast that last aired on May 28, 2003.

In the early '90s, Arthur March became one of hundreds of American retirees who settled in the lakeside town of Ajijic, in central Mexico.

At the time, his son, Perry, was a successful Nashville attorney in the prime of his career. But today, these two Americans, father and son, are using that Mexican paradise as a haven.

"I brought Perry down here because he didn't have any other place to go," says Arthur Perry.

In 1996, Perry March's wife mysteriously disappeared.

Ever since, Perry says he's become a target, too, pursued by people he says are determined to destroy him. He says these same people are trying to kidnap his two children, Sammy, 12, and Tzipi, 8.

"They're very concerned," says Perry. "We're taking a lot of extra security measures ... we have to deal with it every time we go out."

To understand Perry March's life, you have to go back to his former life, back to Nashville and that summer night in 1996 when his wife, Janet Levine March, simply vanished.

The story begins more than a decade ago. College sweethearts Janet Levine and Perry March were married in 1987. They lived in a house just a few miles from her parents.

Janet's mother, Carolyn Levine, became almost a surrogate mother to Perry, whose own mother died in an accident when he was 9.

"Janet loved him, and as long as she did, then we wanted to do everything we could to help him," says Janet's father, Larry Levine.

Larry Levine paid March's way through Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville. When Perry began practicing law, he ended up working in his father-in-law's firm.

Meanwhile, Janet pursued her art, painting and illustrating. Three years after they married, Sammy was born; four years later came their daughter, Tzipora, known as Tzipi.

"Janet was really a wonderful mother," says Perry.

Just a year before she disappeared, Janet and Perry moved into their dream home, which Janet had designed. This seemed to be Janet's paradise - her dream home, two beautiful children, an art career and successful husband.

But something must have gone terribly wrong, because around 8 p.m. on Aug. 15, 1996, Perry says she just walked out.

On a warm August night in Nashville, Perry says, Janet packed some bags, walked out the door and drove off. She didn't say where she was going, but he says it was the last time he saw her.

Since that night, no one has ever reported seeing Janet March again.

What happened that night?

"That night was relatively normal through dinner. We had a nice quiet dinner with the kids. Janet was working. I put the kids to sleep," Perry says.

After he put their two children to bed, Perry says that he and Janet began to argue. "It's the kind of argument that you have when you're both tired of the arguments. She had made a decision that she was going to take a vacation."

His wife was going away for 12 days. Perry said she would be back on Sept. 27, just in time for their son, Sammy's, 6th birthday.

"She had prepared a list for me of a lot of things that needed to be done, change the light bulbs, balance my checkbook, clean the basement, you know, just a various list of things that I had seemed to have dropped the ball on in the course of my 10 years with her," says Perry.

"She made me sign her list, that I would have these things done when she got back and she said, 'See you,' and the door turned and she started her Volvo and she drove off."

No one else, not even Janet's parents, knew she was going away. Perry called the Levines around midnight and told them she had left.

Carolyn Levine told him not to worry: "I said, 'Perry, don't worry about it. I'm sure if you had an argument, she's upset. She's probably driving around to cool off. She'll be back. Call me when she comes home.' "

But Janet didn't come back in the morning. Carolyn got worried.

"She has never, in my knowledge, ever left the house at night and not come back overnight. Ever," remembers Carolyn.

When Janet didn't call home, Perry and the Levines started looking for her. They called her friends. They went to the airport parking lot and looked for her car. They called hotels in Nashville and out of state. What they didn't do, oddly enough, was call the police.

Perry says the Levines forbade him from calling because they were concerned that it would end up embarrassing their daughter and make the situation between Perry and Janet even worse.

But Larry and Carolyn Levine say it was Perry who didn't want to call the police. "Perry insisted he didn't want to go to the police," says Larry Levine. "He wanted to see a private investigator."

After two weeks, Perry March and his father-in-law walked into a Nashville police station and reported Janet missing.

"It was the biggest mistake we ever made," says Larry of the delay. "But Perry kept telling us, 'Maybe she went here, maybe she went there' ... We believed him."

Part II: The Search For Evidence