Published May 01, 2008
Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the 52-year-old woman known as the "D.C. Madam," committed suicide Thursday morning at her mother's home in a trailer park near Tampa, according to police.
"It was her, and she's deceased," Frank Ruggiero, a public information officer with the Tarpon Springs Police Department, told FOXNews.com. "There's no question that it was a suicide."
Palfrey apparently hanged herself with a nylon rope that she wrapped around a metal beam in a shed on the property, according to police. Suicide notes were found inside the mobile home, but their contents were not disclosed.
Authorities said her 76-year-old mother, Blanche Palfrey, positively identified the dead woman as her daughter.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found guilty on April 15 by a D.C. jury on charges of racketeering and money laundering related to her operating a prostitution ring.
She had threatened to reveal the names of her clients — many believed to be high-profile political and business figures — if prosecutors went forward with their case.
Ruggiero said police arrived at the scene at 10:52 a.m. Thursday and Palfrey was pronounced dead at 11:01 a.m.
She was reportedly staying at the mobile home of her mother Blanche, who awoke from a nap and searched the premises before noticing that a bicycle had been moved. She went to the shed to investigate and found her daughter hanging from a ceiling beam, according to police. She immediately called 911.
A man answering the phone at Blanche Palfrey's residence who identified himself as a family spokesman said Palfrey wasn't able to speak to the media.
"We have no comment at this time," he told FOXNews.com. He declined to give his name.
The attorney who represented Palfrey at her trial, Preston Burton, was not available for comment, but released a statement through a colleague at his Washington, D.C., firm.
"This is tragic news. My heart goes out to her mother," Burton said, according to Orrick attorney John Pitts.
Police said Blanche Palfrey had no indication that her daughter was depressed to the point of being suicidal or planned to kill herself.
"Obviously the mother's very distraught and despondent," said Capt. Jeffrey P. Young during a news conference.
There was no early indication that alcohol or drugs were involved in the death, he said.
"Handwritten notes were found on scene that describe the victim's intention to take her life, and foul play does not appear to be involved," Young said earlier Thursday in a statement.
Pinellas County Medical Examiners will conduct the autopsy, and are working with the FBI on the case.
The medical examiner's office said Thursday that it wasn't releasing any information on the case.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and former deputy secretary of state Randall L. Tobias both were tied by investigators to Palfrey's high-end prostitution ring.
She had repeatedly denied the escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.
Hustler magazine publisher and free-speech advocate Larry Flynt -- who worked with Palfrey and investigative reporter Dan Moldea to publicize her case -- told FOXNews.com he does not believe Palfrey's death was a suicide, citing a number of high-powered clients' names that never became public and his hunch that Palfrey's intended to out them.
"I think the media should be very cautious in treating this as a suicide," Flynt said. Asked if he believed she was murdered, he said: "I personally believe that's what happened, but I have no proof."
Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.
FOXNews.com's Catherine Donaldson-Evans in New York and Sharon Liss in D.C. contributed to this report.