The woman known as the “D.C. Madam” apologized to her mother and sister in suicide notes, saying she couldn’t bear going to prison and saw killing herself as the only “exit strategy.”
Deborah Jeane Palfrey, convicted last month of running an elite Washington prostitution ring, 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.”
The notes were released by police Monday.
Palfrey, 52, hanged herself with a nylon rope Thursday in a shed outside her mother’s mobile home in the Florida Gulf Coast community of Tarpon Springs, northwest of Tampa. Her mother, 76-year-old Blanche Palfrey, discovered the body.
Deborah Palfrey was convicted of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington’s political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican. She 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 free while she awaited sentencing on July 24 and had been staying with her mother.
Her suicide appeared to have been planned for days. The note to her mother was dated April 25, nearly a week before she killed herself. Police said the notes were found on a night stand in the bedroom where she’d been staying. One of the notes said, “Do not revive. Do not feed under any circumstances.”
In the note to her younger sister, Bobbie, Palfrey expressed her love and told her to “be strong for mom.”
“Also, you must comprehend that there was no other way out, i.e., ’exit strategy,’ other than the one I have chosen here,” she wrote. “Know I am at peace, with complete certainty, I believe Dad is standing watch — prepared to guide me into the light.”
Also Monday, police announced that the medical examiner’s office officially ruled Palfrey’s death a suicide by hanging. A toxicology report is pending.
Her death last week had sparked widespread Internet chatter among those who speculated that someone killed her to keep her from identifying more prominent clients of the escort service.
“Tarpon Springs Police Department detectives, after following up on several investigative avenues, have not discovered any new evidence which would indicate anything other then a suicide by hanging in this case,” spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Young said.
Palfrey’s mother and sister identified her handwriting in the suicide notes, Young said.
A federal jury convicted Palfrey on April 15 of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Prosecutors said she ran the prostitution service for 13 years. The trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses but did not take the stand.
Palfrey had vowed that she would not go to prison, even telling a Washington writer that she would commit suicide first.