The DC madame speaks from the grave

by Diane Dimond on May 3, 2008

There are surely those who are glad to see her gone. Deborah Jeane Palfrey aka “The D.C. Madam.” She led a complicated life, a life on the edge, and it included some very powerful personalities.

But an e-mail Palfrey wrote to a spiritual advisor during the peak of her latest run in with the law reveals she was more than a hard-bitten purveyor of flesh. She had a real spiritual side and a knowledge of the bible that might surprise some given her line of work.

Her words, read here for the very first time and just days after her death, are a chilling reminder for investigators to keep an open mind. It might not have been a suicide after all.

Palfrey was a slim, striking looking brunette with a sharp business sense that served her well over the years. No telling how long she’d earned her living selling sexual favors, both her own and those of other women. We know Palfrey had served 18 months for prostitution in California decades ago.

We also know, as she waited to learn her sentence in the federal prostitution based RICO case the federal government brought against her, Deborah Jeane Palfrey did what so many daughters do in times of trouble. She sought solace with her Mom.

Her death by hanging in a shed outside her mother’s Florida home this week became immediate fodder for cable news talk shows. Some pundits speculated about whether one of the powerful men caught up in her latest escort business might have had something to do with her death. Others who didn’t even know Palfrey waxed poetic about why she took her own life.

On CNN’s Nancy Grace show on May 1st a psychoanalyst named Bethany Marshall weighed in to say if it was suicide it might have been Palfrey’s way of acting out her extreme rage against her prosecutors. “Someone who has an overdeveloped sense of having been wronged can sometimes hurt themselves to get back at other people. As strange as it sounds, it does happen,” Marshall said.

Also on the program was trial attorney Joe Episcopo who disagreed. He concluded Palfrey did, indeed, commit suicide because she was a woman wrapped up in all things material and couldn’t stand the thought of going back to prison.

“Everything in her world is in this world,” Episcopo opined. “She doesn’t believe in heaven or hell. She did not want to live (without). She killed herself because, in her opinion, there was nothing anyway. She was too old to get back into business and make a living … She killed herself not because of rage but because she’s material and everything was taken away from her.”

That simply does not square with the facts.

In July 2007, at the height of the screaming headlines and dire speculation about her ultimate fate a stranger reached out to Deborah Jeane Palfrey via e-mail.

“I hope that I can encourage you to stand for yourself. I want you to know that my wife and I are praying for you and yours. I cannot send money to your defense … I was injured in December of 06 and haven’t worked since and am having to manage my resources carefully. But I am praying for you in these matters for you to have favor, wisdom, to know when to speak, what to speak, and how to speak …. We’re in your corner. God bless and good luck.”

The e-mail was signed by an ordained Church of God minister from Lake Park, Georgia. Jim Harnage recounted to Palfrey some of his life’s trials and tribulations and sent encouragement and God’s peace to her through the internet.

Two days later, at 10:34 at night, Palfrey wrote back. Here’s an exact duplicate of her message (minus complete e-mail addresses)

Subj: RE: List and We’re Praying For You

Date:7/18/2007 10:34:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time


Sent from the Internet (Details)

Jim… what an absolutely lovely letter. It is greatly appreciated. Now, in my opinion you are the archetypical Christian. I believe there is something in the Bible which speaks specifically to the identification of the truly righteous, i.e. how most would be surprised to discover who these persons/souls really are in this world. Something as well about only a few ultimately inheriting the Kingdom of God, as I recall. And I do believe these chosen few sure as heck aren’t the persons/entities you have spoken of here.

–Sincerely, Jeane Palfrey

PS I am no longer accepting donations. In fact, the cc is to remind my attorney one more time to delete any such reference to the website.

When Reverend Harnage heard about Palfrey’s death this week he tuned in to cable TV to see what he could learn. That’s when he saw the Nancy Grace Show which featured a long segment about his one-time pen pal, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. The program began with an eerie video clip of the D.C. Madam herself.

“There’s no thousand-dollar fine, year’s probation, slap on the wrist and wink from the judge as I exit the courtroom. I am looking at 55 years in a federal penitentiary, and at my age, that is virtually a life sentence. Realistically, we estimate between 8 and 15 years. I am also looking at the complete forfeiture of my entire life’s savings and work.”

And, when the Rev. Harnage heard the conclusion about her death from attorney Episcopo he felt a certain outrage. He felt Palfrey deserved better and certainly her 76 year old mother, Blanche Palfrey, who discovered her daughter’s dead body deserved better too. The Reverend says he knew the woman was not the material grubbing persona being described on television. He said he came to know a much more spiritual Deborah Jeane, one who spoke of Christianity, the Bible, righteousness and the Kingdom of God.

He concluded, “The tenor of her e-mail is strongly suggestive of one who believes in a life hereafter…This is why I have some doubt as to her ability to commit suicide by hanging. She did believe in a life hereafter. And as my wife pointed out the most preferred method of suicide among females is by overdose of pills. Ms. Palfrey’s decision to take her life should not easily and quickly explained away.”

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