A devoted mother is found dead. Her sickly, wheel-chair bound daughter is missing.
And that’s just the beginning of the story of Dee Dee Blancharde and her daughter Gypsy Rose. The mother and daughter are the subjects of the true crime documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest – which premieres this month on HBO. The story of Dee Dee Blancharde’s murder and Gypsy’s disappearance received lots of attention and made lots of headlines in 2015 for its insane (but completely true!) plot twists.
Dee Dee Blancharde was a single mom who many friends and neighbors considered to be a hard-working, devoted mother to her daughter Gypsy. Gypsy was born with a chromosomal defect and suffered from a long list of ailments: spina bifida, epilepsy, leukemia, to name a few. Gypsy was a frail, thin girl with thinning, missing hair; sitting feebly in her wheelchair, often using an oxygen tank. It would seem like the mother and daughter had their share of struggles, but they made the best of it.
And then one day in the summer of 2015, a frightening status update appeared on Dee Dee Blancharde’s Facebook account, announcing that someone had been killed. Friends called Dee Dee frantically. Neighbors tried knocking on the door. The police came and discovered Dee Dee’s body. She had been stabbed multiple times. And poor, fragile Gypsy was nowhere to be found.
So imagine everyone’s shock when she was discovered across state lines a few days later with her secret boyfriend. What was Gypsy capable of? Did Dee Dee deserve to be murdered? The HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest will uncover all that and more. Before watching, here’s a little background information on the crazy but true story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blancharde.
15The Story Begins
Dee Dee Blancharde’s legal name was Claudine Blanchard (no E.) Born in Lafource Parish, Louisiana, she eventually ended up in Missouri. Over the years, she used lots of different names: Claudine, DeDe, Deno, and Clauddinnea. She added an E to her last name.
When Dee Dee was 24, she was dating high school student Rod Blanchard and found out that she was pregnant. The two got married because it seemed like the right thing to do, but they separated shortly before their daughter, Gypsy, was born in the summer of 1991. Although Dee Dee and Rod tried to reconcile and make things work, it never happened.
Dee Dee would tell people stories about Gypsy’s father, making him sound like a deadbeat dad who had abandoned her and the new baby. The truth is, Rod paid child support - $1,200 a month – even after Gypsy turned 18.
When Gypsy was just a few months old, Dee Dee became convinced that her daughter had sleep apnea and that she would stop breathing in her sleep. Doctors did several tests and found nothing wrong with Gypsy, but over the years, Dee Dee would continue to contact Rod about more medical crises.
14Gypsy's Myriad Illnesses
Gypsy seemed to be a sickly child, with a wide array of health problems that Dee Dee would explain were caused by a chromosomal defect. She had leukemia as a toddler. She suffered from epilepsy and had seizures. Dee Dee was tested for muscular dystrophy. She had brain and spine scans and a muscle biopsy. She was eventually confined to a wheel chair because she couldn’t walk. She was treated for different vision, hearing, sleep, and salivation issues that stemmed from the muscular dystrophy. She had a feeding tube. Sometimes she used an oxygen tank. She had asthma and eye problems. She had tubes placed in her ears for recurring ear infections. Her teeth were a crumbling, rotting mess and had to be extracted.
Dee Dee always had ideas on how to help Gypsy. She would take her to see new doctors and try to get new drugs. She would do anything for her child.
13Gypsy's Many Surgeries
Over the years, Gypsy was on several medications and underwent several surgeries to alleviate the symptoms of her illnesses. She had repeated surgery on her eye muscles because they were thought to be weak. She could eat very little by mouth, so she was given a feeding tube; she also used the meal replacement drink PediaSure well into her twenties to augment her nutrition. Gypsy’s salivary glands were injected with Botox, but then were removed because Dee Dee was concerned that she drooled too much.
Dee Dee and Gypsy spent years living in Slidell, Louisiana, in public housing. Dee Dee didn’t have a job, and instead worked as her daughter’s full-time caretaker. They visited Tulane University Hospital and the Children’s Hospital frequently. If Gypsy had a cold or cough, she went straight to the emergency room.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Slidell. Dee Dee and Gypsy lost everything and ended up living in a temporary special-needs shelter. They would eventually move to Aurora, Missouri, and live there for a few years until Habitat for Humanity built them a house in 2008.
12Gifts of Charity
The Habitat for Humanity house was specially built for Gypsy. There was a ramp up to the front door for her wheelchair. The house, which was painted pink, came fitted with a jacuzzi tub to help with Gypsy’s muscles. Sometimes, on summer nights, Dee Dee would set up a projector to play movies for the kids of the neighborhood. She would charge a small fee for snacks, telling neighbors and friends that the money would go towards Gypsy’s treatments.
Gypsy had been involved with other charities for children with disabilities from the time she was little. She visited the Special Olympics. Dee Dee often stayed at Ronald McDonald houses while Gypsy received treatments. The mother-daughter duo benefited from free flights from a volunteer pilot organization. They received free trips to Disney World which were arranged through different charity organizations. They met country singer Miranda Lambert through the Make A Wish Foundation.
11Friends of the Family
Dee Dee became close with a few friends in the neighborhood. She would tell people that she was from a small town in Louisiana, but had to leave town with Gypsy to get away from her abusive family. She told friends that Gypsy’s father was a deadbeat, who never sent them a dime, not even after Hurricane Katrina. Dee Dee would credit a doctor at the special needs shelter for suggesting they move to Missouri. One of the neighbors that Dee Dee had grown particularly close with was a single mom named Amy Pinegar. Amy had four children, one of whom was named Aleah. In some ways, Aleah felt like she was a big sister to Gypsy. They were rarely alone together, however, because Dee Dee was always by Gypsy’s side.
The two girls would eventually begin communicating on Facebook. Gypsy set up a secret account and used it to send messages to Aleah, where they would talk about boys and how Gypsy wished her mom would let her go on dates, like Aleah did. In 2011, Dee Dee even confronted Aleah about her online chats with Gypsy, telling her that she didn’t want the two to continue their girl talk. Although Gypsy would continue to sneak online from time to time to talk to Aleah, even confiding that she’d somehow managed to meet a secret boyfriend online, the girls would talk less and less, and the last Aleah would hear from Gypsy was in the fall of 2014.
10A Chilling Status Update
On a hot June day in 2015, a chilling status update appeared on Dee Dee Blancharde’s Facebook wall: “THAT B IS DEAD.”
The first few comments were from friends expressing disbelief and worry. Maybe the page had been hacked? Was it a line from a movie or something? Maybe someone should call? The post was quickly commented on over a hundred times by friends and neighbors, worrying and wondering about what was going on. In the midst of everyone’s comments, a comment from Dee Dee’s account appeared:
“I ****** SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET AND INNOCENT DAUGHTER…HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO ****** LOUD LOL.”
A friend of the family, Kim Blanchard (no relation) tried calling Dee Dee, but there was no answer. Kim and her husband David drove to the Blanchardes' house. They knocked on the door, but again, there was no answer. Dee Dee’s car was still in the driveway. Neighbors had begun to gather, growing more panicked about the mother and daughter.
9Dee Dee Murdered, Gypsy Goes Missing
The police arrived and began taking statements. They couldn’t enter the house without a search warrant, which wouldn’t come through until later that evening. Kim Blanchard tried to relay information to all the concerned friends who were asking questions on Facebook, but as Kim pointed out, whoever posted the message could also read everything that was being shared.
When the police eventually entered the house, they found that all of the lights had been turned off and the air conditioning was running on high. There were no signs of a forced entry, robbery, or struggle. Everything seemed to be normal.
But Dee Dee was found murdered in her bedroom. She’d been stabbed and left for dead for several days.
Gypsy was gone, but her wheelchairs and oxygen tanks were still in the house. It was alarming to think that the helpless girl had been taken from her home without her medical equipment.
Fearing the worst, Kim organized a vigil and a GoFundMe account for Dee Dee’s funeral expenses – and possibly for Gypsy’s.
8The Police Get Involved
While all of this was happening, it occurred to Aleah, Gypsy’s friend and confidant, that the police might need to know about Gypsy’s secret Facebook account and the mention of her boyfriend from several months earlier. Gypsy had told Aleah in the fall of 2014 that she had a secret Facebook account under a fake name that Dee Dee didn’t know about. She also admitted that she’d met a man on a Christian dating site and had fallen in love with him. Even though Dee Dee wouldn’t allow her to date, Gypsy wanted to have a boyfriend like other girls her age. She hoped that she could introduce Dee Dee to her boyfriend so that she wouldn’t have to hide their relationship any longer.
Aleah showed the police the Facebook messages from Gypsy, and they took note of his name. The police also put a trace on the Facebook posts from Dee Dee’s account. The IP address was registered to a Nicholas Godejohn in Big Bend, Wisconsin – Gypsy’s secret boyfriend.
7Gypsy Had A Secret Boyfriend
Gypsy and Nicholas Godejohn had been communicating for over two years. He didn’t care that Gypsy was sick or in a wheelchair. They planned to get married someday. They had already agreed on names for their children.
Nicholas Godejohn never had a violent history. His only trouble with the law was an arrest for lewd behavior in 2013, when he had been watching porn on a tablet in a McDonald’s.
Gypsy and Nicholas carried out their bizarre online fantasy life through multiple Facebook accounts and text messages. The couple had a thing for BDSM imagery. They had nicknames and roles for each other. They took pictures of themselves dressed up and sent them to each other. Gypsy dressed up as the comic book character Harley Quinn, with a wig and everything, and posed for a picture with a knife.
It might seem like Godejohn had somehow taken advantage of a disabled young woman, tricked her into thinking they had some sort of relationship, murdered her mother, and lured her several hundred miles away from home… But that’s not the whole story. It’s about to get even more strange.
6Gypsy Found With Boyfriend
After a short standoff with police in Big Bend, Wisconsin, Godejohn surrendered, and Gypsy was found unharmed and in good health, which was a relief to everyone waiting for news back in Missouri. But the news that Gypsy was found safe and sound would come with a shocking revelation.
Gypsy’s wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and feeding tubes had been left behind in Missouri…
Because she didn’t need any of them. Gypsy was not the sick little girl that everyone thought she was.
Gypsy had allegedly asked Godejohn to kill her mother. Godejohn promised that his “evil side” would take care of her. Godejohn came to Missouri and was accused of stabbing Dee Dee in the back multiple times, while Gypsy waited in the other room, listening. Gypsy then reportedly helped Godejohn clean up the blood and asked to post messages on Facebook to hopefully help the police find her mother sooner.
When Gypsy left with Godejohn to get on a bus and return to Wisconsin, she walked out of her house on her own.
5Gypsy Was Never Sick
How is that even possible? It turned out that Gypsy could walk just fine. There was nothing wrong with her leg muscles. She didn’t need any of her medications or an oxygen tank. Her hair was short and spiky, but she hadn’t ever gone bald from leukemia or any treatments. Her hair had simply been kept short, all her life. She had never been as ill as her mother had made her out to be.
It had all been a fraud, Gypsy told the police. Everything was fake. And Dee Dee had made her do it.
None of their friends and neighbors had ever really questioned Dee Dee; if any questions were raised about Gypsy’s illnesses, doctors, and treatments, Dee Dee had no problem giving them answers and throwing around medical lingo. Mostly, people just felt bad for Dee Dee and Gypsy, the poor single mom who had spent her whole life devoted to taking care of her frail, sickly, little girl.
4Munchausen by Proxy
Although Gypsy was the one who was made out to be ill her whole life, it was likely Dee Dee who had the real issue. It is thought that Dee Dee had what is known as factitious disorder, more commonly referred to as Munchausen by proxy. A person with Munchausen by proxy will fake symptoms in a victim, or even go so far as to induce physical and psychological symptoms in their victim, in order to gain attention and sympathy from others.
A Munchausen by proxy diagnosis is connected to the one inducing the symptoms, not the one suffering. Because Dee Dee Blanchard is gone, there’s no way to diagnose her now. But she did fit certain characteristics for Munchausen Syndrome. She had some medical training and knowledge. She took Gypsy to several doctors over the years and changed locations so often, often claiming to lose track of medical records. Oftentimes, those with Munchausen by proxy are mothers, but there are also cases of fathers making their kids, sick, too, and spouses doing it to spouses. What’s really shocking is that it can go undetected for months or years.
3How Did Nobody Know?
Gypsy had seen several doctors for many different illnesses over the years. She’d had tests done, she’d been on several medications, and she’d even had multiple surgeries. How did nobody know that she was never actually sick? Even Gypsy’s own father, Rod Blanchard, had no idea. He didn’t even know that Gypsy could walk until he saw her story on the news!
It’s not unusual for family members, even immediate family members, to be completely unaware that any illnesses due to Munchausen by proxy are fake. Even doctors can overlook the signs. Doctors often rely on what their patients will tell them. And even if a doctor thinks that a patient may be feigning symptoms or lying about an illness, it’s difficult to refuse treatment based on doubt alone. What if the doctor’s suspicion is incorrect and the patient suffers because they were refused treatment from their physician?
There was one doctor in Gypsy’s case who had his doubts about the girl and her mother. His name was Bernardo Flasterstein, a pediatric neurologist in Springfield, Missouri. He sent Gypsy for tests, MRIs, and blood work, which all came back normal. He had Gypsy stand up and found that she could hold her weight, but he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t, or didn’t, walk. Flasterstein wrote in his notes that things didn’t seem to add up, and that this could be a possible case of Munchausen by proxy. Dee Dee and Gypsy didn’t visit Dr. Flasterstein again after that.
2So What Happened To Gypsy?
Gypsy and Nick were both charged with first-degree murder, with the prosecutor declining to go for the death penalty. As the murder investigation deepened, it turned up messages between Gypsy and Godejohn that discussed the plan for Dee Dee’s murder. The prosecution also claimed to have found social media evidence that supposedly showed that Gypsy had asked Godejohn to kill her mother. Godejohn said that he hated Dee Dee, that he was ruthless, and that he had an “evil side” that enjoyed killing.
According to criminal reports, both Gypsy and Godejohn confessed that Dee Dee had died at the hands of Godejohn. He admitted to stabbing Dee Dee several times in the back. He told investigators he knew what he had done was wrong, but he did it for Gypsy, because she asked him to. Gypsy was in the house at the time of the murder, and even helped clean up the blood. After the stabbing, Gypsy and Godejohn stole several thousand dollars from a safe inside Dee Dee’s bedroom and left the house in a cab before getting on the bus to Godejohn’s house in Wisconsin.
1A Plea Deal
The process of figuring out what happened throughout Gypsy’s life was confusing. When she was found with Godejohn and arrested, Gypsy told the police that she was 19. Her father and stepmother gave police Gypsy’s birth certificate, which proved that she was actually 23. Gypsy thought that perhaps she really did have cancer, because Dee Dee told her that was what her medicine was for, except she wasn’t sure what medications she had been given. And how does a child, especially in a case where Munchausen by proxy seems to be evident, question their parent, even when they have their suspicions that something just isn’t right? And even though Gypsy was over the age of 18, she couldn’t have access to her medical records because Dee Dee had set up a power of attorney over her medical decisions.
Because Gypsy, her father, and her stepmother had no money to cover legal expenses, Gypsy was assigned a public defender named Michael Stanfield. It took awhile, but he was finally able to get Gypsy’s medical records. The evidence against Dee Dee was so revealing that he was able to work out a plea deal. Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and the judge gave her the minimum sentence of ten years. She’ll be eligible for parole in about seven and a half years, in 2023.
BuzzFeed contributor Michelle Dean wrote a lengthy piece detailing the chilling story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard. In the upcoming HBO documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest, director Erin Lee Carr will explore Dee Dee and Gypsy’s lives, their bizarre web of lies, and the events leading up to Dee Dee’s murder. It airs on HBO May 15, 2017… right after Mother’s Day. You can watch the trailer here.
Sources: BuzzFeed, HBO, Business Insider, In Touch Weekly, Variety, NBC News, Hello Giggles
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