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Suicide only way out, D.C. Madam says in note

TARPON SPRINGS — In the end, the D.C. Madam never really portrayed herself as a D.C. personality.

And in her suicide notes, released Monday, Deborah Jeane Palfrey addressed her final farewells not to the public or posterity but to her mother and sister.

"You must comprehend there was no way out, i.e., 'exit strategy' for me other than the one I have chosen," she told her sister, Roberta Palfrey.

"I cannot live the next 6-8 years behind bars for what both 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," she wrote to her mother. "I love you + Bobbie very much. Dad and I will be waiting for each of you on the other side."

Palfrey, 52, hanged herself Thursday in a shed at her mother's mobile home in Tarpon Springs.

It was a private end to a public scandal, and Tarpon Springs police said their investigation found nothing to suggest her death was anything but a suicide.

The two notes, dated April 25, were discovered on the night stand by Palfrey's bed, penned in a slanting, looping handwriting.

Throughout, loneliness pervades the text.

"I envy your happy-go-lucky attitude and the bounty of friends which constantly have surrounded you throughout your life," Palfrey wrote to her sister. "Fortunate, fortunate you!"

In the notes, Palfrey said she was convinced her 76-year-old mother would be dead by the time the prison term ended and her sister would not be able to support a sister who would be "nothing but a mere shell of her former self."

Palfrey had spent time behind bars before and didn't relish the experience. She spent 18 months in state prison after being convicted of prostitution charges in 1991 and her health deteriorated as a result.

In addition to the personal notes, Palfrey left explicit instructions not to resuscitate or force-feed her under any circumstances.

Tarpon Springs police said Palfrey's mother and sister confirmed the letters were authentic.

Palfrey had been staying with her mother for about a week and a half, her sister said Monday. The white and pink home where her mother lives in the Sun Valley Estates mobile home park has been deluged with phone calls since Palfrey's death.

"She was a beautiful sister, a beautiful daughter and a beautiful friend," Roberta Palfrey said.

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.

Palfrey 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.

The scandal commanded national attention when phone records of her client list were released. A deputy secretary of state resigned and 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 her employees, former University of Maryland at Baltimore County professor Brandy Britton, committed suicide in January before her trial on prostitution charges.

That 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 Beltway clients.

Dan Moldea, a Washington writer who collaborated with Palfrey on a book proposal, said she was ignorant of the political connections of her clients.

"She really didn't know anything," he said. "She ran an escort service that operated in Washington, but you … call a 202 number forwarded to her home in San Francisco."

He added that she was a very private person.

Vicki Briggs, 51, of Charleroi, Pa., had known Palfrey since the two were about 5 years old. Mother supported daughter throughout her legal troubles, Briggs said.

"Her mother stood by her 150 percent," said Briggs, who believed the prosecution unfairly targeted Palfrey. "There are so many other bad things that are going on in this world today. This was petty."

Staff writer Rita Farlow contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Suicide only way out, D.C. Madam says in note 05/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 1:23pm]

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