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D.C. Madam Commits Suicide

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'D.C. Madam' dead in Florida

Woman convicted of running $2 million prostitution ring


The Associated Press

updated 3:10 p.m. ET, Thurs., May. 1, 2008


TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Police confirmed that the woman convicted of running a high-end prostitution ring in Washington has committed suicide in a Florida Gulf Coast town.


The body of 52-year-old Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found hanged in a shed near her mother's manufactured home Thursday morning, police in Tarpon Springs said. Palfrey left a suicide note but police did not disclose its contents. Police said Palfrey's mother found the body.


A federal jury convicted Palfrey two weeks ago of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite. One of her clients was Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.


Palfrey's mother, Blanche Palfrey told police she had awakened from a nap and began to search the home for her daughter. The mother then went outside when she noticed a bicycle had been moved outside from the shed.


She discovered Palfrey and the nylon rope she had used to on a metal beam on the ceiling of the shed, police said. She called 911.


Police planned to release more details at a news conference. Officers were outside the mother's white and pink home in the community of mostly retirees.


"This is a tragic news and my heart goes out to her mother," defense attorney Preston Burton said.


Montgomery Blair Sibley, who served for a time as Palfrey's civil attorney, said he was shocked. "I'm personally devastated by this. All I can do is mourn the tragic loss of her life," he said.


A man who answered a phone listed for Palfrey's mother declined to comment. Officers were outside the mother's white-and-pink home in the community of mostly retirees.


"Although we're aware of the media reports, we're still waiting for confirmation from law enforcement authorities," said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the District of Columbia U.S. attorney's office, which spent years investigating and prosecuting Palfrey.


She had awaited sentencing

Palfrey was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.


She had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.


She was convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.


"I am sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years here, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC last year when she released phone records that revealed some of her clients. "Not for a second. I'll bring every last one of them in if necessary."


Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.


Her trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses, but did not take the stand.


Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and has apologized for what he called a "very serious sin." But he avoided commenting further.


One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.


Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."



Not all that surprising, considering that she was looking at likely spending the rest of her life in jail.

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