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Palfrey Described 'Exit Strategy'

Suicide Note Calls Trial a 'Modern Day Lynching'

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008; Page B03

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the Washington escort service operator who hanged herself last week, left behind two suicide notes, including one that described her recent racketeering trial as a "modern day lynching."

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Palfrey, 52, who faced a likely prison term for running a call-girl ring, viewed suicide as her only "exit strategy," according to notes left at her mother's residence in Tarpon Springs, Fla., where her body was found Thursday. She had been free pending sentencing July 24 in U.S. District Court.

Officials released the suicide notes yesterday. Written in looping, large capital letters on yellow legal paper, they were found on a nightstand in the Sun Valley Estates Mobile Home Park. One note had "Do not revive, do not feed under any circumstance" written on the back, signed and dated April 25.

Palfrey's mother found her body in a storage shed behind the home. The Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a suicide. It will issue a final report once toxicology tests are finished. Detectives from the Tarpon Springs Police Department followed several investigative avenues but found no evidence that "would indicate anything other than suicide by hanging," Capt. Jeffrey P. Young said.

Palfrey's mother and sister identified Palfrey's handwriting.

The note to Palfrey's mother, Blanche Palfrey, 76, asked for forgiveness:

"Mom, I want you to know how very much I love and appreciate you," the note began. "I sincerely apologize for any pain which I have caused you in this lifetime. Additionally, I can't sufficiently express to you how badly I feel for this burden I am leaving you with here.

"However, 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.

Palfrey had been staying with her mother in Florida since a jury convicted her last month of running a prostitution ring that masqueraded as a high-end erotic fantasy service. Palfrey argued that for 13 years she had no idea that the call girls working for her were getting paid $250 an hour for sex.

Palfrey, who did not testify during her trial, had said she insisted that her employees -- socially polished, college-educated women -- engage in only legal, "quasi-sexual" fantasies. Her case drew national attention when, shortly after her indictment last year, Palfrey provided volumes of phone records to ABC News. ABC posted them on the Internet, resulting in public identification of some prominent clients.

Palfrey's notes to her family said that she couldn't bear to go to prison. She served an 18-month term in California in the early 1990s for running a prostitution service.

In her note to her sister, Bobbie, Palfrey wrote: "You need to be strong for Mom. Help her in any way possible. Also you must comprehend there was no way out i.e. 'exit strategy' for me other than the one I have chosen here. As you read this letter (probably repeatedly in time), know I am in peace, with complete certainty, I believe Dad is standing watch, prepared to guide me into the light."

She concluded her letter to her mother by stating, "Again, I love you and Bobbie very much. Dad and I will be waiting for each of you on the other side. Love Always, Debbie."

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