Image: Deborah Jeane Palfrey
Stefan Zaklin  /  EPA file
Deborah Jeane Palfrey in 2007.
updated 10/31/2008 4:50:15 PM ET 2008-10-31T20:50:15

Police in Florida closed the book Friday on the suicide of the so-called "D.C. Madam," confirming that she hanged herself with a nylon rope instead of facing prison time for running an elite prostitution ring.

Tarpon Springs police hoped the report would help squelch online speculation that someone killed 52-year-old Deborah Jeane Palfrey to keep her from identifying more prominent clients of the Washington-based escort service.

"It's unfortunate that a lot of people seem to be obsessed with the conspiracy theory notion here," said Preston Burton, the Washington lawyer who represented Palfrey in the trial. "I am aware of no information that would compel a conclusion other than she took her own life. It's a real tragedy that still affects her mother greatly."

Investigators determined that Palfrey had talked about suicide to Dan Moldea, a Washington writer who befriended Palfrey while considering writing a book about her. She also had transferred money from a bank account in Germany into her mother's account, apparently in preparation for her own death.

And the handwriting in the two suicide notes left by her bed matched the writing in her personal daybooks. A note to her mother was dated April 25, nearly a week before she killed herself.

In the notes, which police made public shortly after her death, Palfrey apologized to her mother and sister, saying she couldn't bear going to prison and saw killing herself as the only "exit strategy."

Palfrey wrote to her mother that she could not "live the next 6-8 years behind bars for what you and I have come to regard as this 'modern day lynching,' only to come out of prison in my late '50s a broken, penniless and very much alone woman."

One of the notes said, "Do not revive. Do not feed under any circumstances."

Palfrey, who was convicted of racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud, had denied that 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 said the business was an erotic fantasy service.

She was free while awaiting a July sentencing date and had been staying with her mother in the tidy mobile home park catering to seniors.

Her mother, Blanche Palfrey, 76, told investigators that her daughter seemed depressed the day before when she received some legal papers related to her incarceration. The night before, she and her mother watched a video of Deborah Palfrey's deceased father.

That morning, Palfrey told her mother she didn't feel well and was going to take a nap. Her mother found her hanging in the shed a short time later.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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