Monday, May 05, 2008

Police, medical examiner rule 'D.C. Madam's' death a suicide

May 05, 2008

TARPON SPRINGS -- Last week's death of 52-year-old Deborah Jean Palfrey -- the woman known as the 'D.C. Madam' -- has been ruled a suicide by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiners Office, police said today.

Police said they had no reason to believe that Palfrey's death on Thursday was anything but a suicide. Palfrey's body was discovered hanging in a shed beside the home of her mother, Blanche Palfrey, in the Sun Valley Estates mobile home park on U.S. 19.

In suicide notes released by police this morning, Palfrey told her family she regretted leaving them to deal with her death, but was unable to face prison and saw no other way out. She also left a short note saying she was not to be revived or, if found alive, fed under any circumstances.

"I sincerely apologize for any pain which I have caused you in this lifetime," Palfrey wrote to her mother (PDF link) in a note dated April 25. "Additionally, I can't sufficiently express to you how badly I feel for this burden I am leaving you with here."

"However," she added, "I cannot live the next 6-8 years behind bars for what both you + I have come to regard as this 'modern day lynching' only to come out of prison ... a broken, penniless + very much alone woman. Surely you will not live long enough to see any possible release + Bobbie (Palfrey's sister) like will be unable to shoulder the responsibility of a sister who will be nothing but a mere shell of her former self."

After telling her mother there was money in a bank account for her final arrangements, Palfrey wrote, "Again, I love you + Bobbie very much. Dad + I will be waiting for each of you on the other side."

The notes to both Palfrey's mother and sister were left on a night stand in the bedroom at Blanche Palfrey's home where Deborah had been staying, police said. Investigators showed them to Palfrey's family, who confirmed that she wrote them.

A federal jury convicted Palfrey on April 15 of racketeering, money laundering and using the mail for illegal purposes while running a prostitution service in the nation's capital. She was expected to receive about six years in prison at her sentencing on July 24.

She had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women she employed in her "legal, high-end erotic fantasy service" engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.

When phone records of her client list were released, a deputy secretary of state resigned and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is married and has four children, acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and apologized for what he called a "very serious sin."

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland at 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.

That death led some bloggers and others to speculate online last week that Palfrey did not take her own life but was silenced to keep her from releasing the names of more inside-the-Beltway clients.

But Tarpon Springs police detectives, "after following up on several investigative avenues, have not discovered any new evidence which would indicate anything other than a suicide by hanging in this case," police Capt. Jeffrey Young said in a statement released today.

In a note to her younger sister (PDF link), Palfrey expressed her love and urged her sibling to be strong for their mother.

"Also," she added, "you must comprehend there was not way out, I.E. "exit strategy" for me, other than the one I have chosen here," she added. "As you read this letter, probably repeatedly in time -- know that I am in peace, with complete certainty, I believe Dad is standing watch -- prepared to guide me into the light.

"I will see you + Mom again someday," Palfrey concluded. "Rest assured if possible I will watch over each of you from the other side.

"Until we see each other again,

"Love always."