Four days ago, the woman known as the "D.C. Madam" stood in the lobby of her condominium building near downtown Orlando, musing about the future.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey said she was preparing for federal prison. She hoped she'd get time off her sentence for good behavior. She thought she might buy a place in Germany one day.
On Thursday, Palfrey was found dead, hanging by a nylon rope from a metal beam in a backyard shed near her mother's home in Tarpon Springs, on the coast 100 miles west of Orlando. Police said it was an apparent suicide.
"It's hard to believe," said Joseph Strizack, a condominium association manager at Park Lake Towers, who got to know Palfrey over the last 10 years.
"She did not seem the least bit distraught."
Palfrey's 76-year-old mother, Blanche Palfrey, found her daughter after waking from a nap, Tarpon Springs Police Capt. Jeffery Young said. She was searching for her daughter when she noticed a three-wheeled bicycle had been moved outside the shed where it was kept.
Deborah Palfrey, 52, left two notes and a notebook with other messages to family, Young said.
Palfrey became notorious from Pamela Martin and Associates, her upscale escort service that federal prosecutors said made $2 million during its 13 years in business.
Her client list included Washington's political elite. Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican and married father of four, apologized publicly last year for using Palfrey's services.
Senior State Department official Randall Tobias also was on the list and resigned after the scandal broke.
Last month, a federal jury convicted Palfrey of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Palfrey had denied her business engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.
The trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses but did not take the stand.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia said that under sentencing guidelines, Palfrey faced five to six years in prison. She was free until a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 24.
Palfrey's death was the second suicide associated with the case. A woman who worked for the escort service, former University of Maryland professor Brandy Britton, killed herself in January 2007 before she was scheduled to go to trial on prostitution charges.
There was no evidence Palfrey had been using drugs or alcohol before her death, but blood-test results are pending, police said. Blanche Palfrey had not noticed that her daughter was despondent, nor had she seen any signs of suicidal behavior, Young said.