'D.C. Madam' found dead in Fla.


Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. A woman police believe to be convicted Washington escort service operator Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed suicide, officials said Thursday.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey
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Deborah Jeane Palfrey

In this March 9, 2007 file photo Deborah Jeane Palfrey reads a statement outside federal court in Washington. A woman police believe to be convicted Washington escort service operator Palfrey committed suicide, officials said Thursday May 1, 2008. Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press

Police said the body was found in a shed near Palfrey's mother's home Thursday morning. There was a suicide note, but police did not disclose its contents or how she killed herself.

Police did not immediately have additional comment when reached by telephone. Palfrey's attorney, Preston Burton, did not return a telephone call and e-mail message.

Palfrey was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

She had 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 convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.

Her trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses, but did not take the stand.

Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and has apologized for what he called a "very serious sin." But he avoided commenting further.

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."

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