Operator of D.C. Call-Girl Ring Is Dead in Apparent Suicide

Posted at 3:44 p.m. ETPolice in Tarpon Springs, Fl. held a news conference Thursday confirming that 'D.C. Madam' Deborah Jeane Palfrey appears to have committed suicide by hanging.Video by MSNBC
By Paul Duggan and Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 2, 2008

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla., May 1 -- Deborah Jeane Palfrey, facing a likely prison term of four to six years for running a Washington area call-girl ring, apparently hanged herself Thursday in a storage shed behind her mother's mobile home in this small Gulf Coast city, authorities said.

Dubbed "the D.C. Madam" after a grand jury in Washington indicted her 14 months ago on prostitution-related racketeering charges, Palfrey, 52, repeatedly told journalist Dan Moldea last year that she would rather die than live behind bars, Moldea said.

He said Palfrey -- who was incarcerated for 18 months in California in the early 1990s after being convicted of running a prostitution ring -- told him on three occasions: "I'm not going back to jail. I'll kill myself first. I'll commit suicide first."

"Those were her exact words," said Moldea, who interviewed Palfrey last spring and summer for a possible book.

After a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Washington that included graphic testimony by 13 former call girls, Palfrey was convicted April 15 of financial racketeering, money laundering and using the mail for illegal purposes. Allowed to remain free while awaiting her July 24 sentencing, Palfrey went to Tarpon Springs to stay with her 76-year-old mother, Blanche Palfrey, a widow.

Police in Tarpon Springs, 30 miles north of St. Petersburg, said Blanche Palfrey called 911 shortly before 11 a.m. to report a gruesome discovery in the white shed outside her residence in the Sun Valley Estates Mobile Home Park.

Capt. Jeffrey P. Young said at a televised news conference that the elder Palfrey awoke from a nap and began looking around for her daughter. He said she noticed a tricycle in the yard that was normally in the shed.

"Upon entering the shed located on the west side of the residence, Blanche Palfrey discovered her daughter, Deborah, apparently hanged herself using a nylon rope from a metal beam on the ceiling of the shed," Young said.

Young said police found "approximately two" suicide notes in the mobile home, along with "some type of notebooks that had just notes to the family and so forth."

According to neighbors, Deborah Palfrey did not socialize and rarely came outside the mobile home, where Blanche Palfrey has lived for 14 years.

Young said that when the mother and daughter woke up Thursday, "they were both kind of tired. The mother said, 'I'm going to go take a nap real quick.' And that was the last she had talked to her."

He said Blanche Palfrey -- the diminutive woman with short curly hair who often accompanied her daughter to court during her trial last month -- had "no indication" that Deborah Palfrey intended to end her life. Young said Blanche Palfrey told police that her daughter did not appear anguished "to the point of committing suicide."

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