May 1, 2008 / 6:51 PM / 12 years ago

"D.C. madam" hangs herself in shed: Florida police

Convicted Washington escort service operator Deborah Jeane Palfrey departs after a hearing at a federal courthouse in Washington, in this April 30, 2007 file photo. A woman believed by police to be Palfrey, has committed suicide, according to media reports. Police said the body was discovered in a shed near Palfrey's mother's home. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) - A woman who ran a prostitution ring catering to Washington’s elite hanged herself in a storage shed at her mother’s home in Florida on Thursday while awaiting sentencing, police said.

Police in the Gulf Coast town of Tarpon Springs said the 76-year-old mother of Deborah Jeane Palfrey woke from a short nap and began to search for her daughter. She found Palfrey’s body hanging from a nylon rope looped around a metal beam in the shed alongside her mobile home, police said.

“Hand-written notes were found on scene that describe the victim’s intention to take her life, and foul play does not appear to be involved,” Capt. Jeffrey Young said in a statement.

Palfrey, 52, was found guilty last month of running an escort service that earned her at least $2 million. She had not yet been sentenced but media reports said could have faced up to 50 years in prison.

The scandal over the woman dubbed “the D.C. madam” ensnared Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, whose number was discovered in her telephone records.

Vitter apologized publicly for committing a “serious sin” in his past.

Palfrey had insisted her company, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legal sexual fantasy business and initially considered selling her phone records to raise money for her defense. When she later released her phone records for free, they ended up shedding little further light on her clientele.

Her attorney, Montgomery Sibley, said he did not have any additional information about her death.

“My only comment is that I regret the loss of a good woman who deserved better,” he said.

Reporting by Robert Green; Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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