She was carefully watched over by her mother, but was her mother ultimately doing more harm than good?
There was something about Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother Dee Dee that you couldn’t help but love. A daughter, stricken by cancer, muscular dystrophy, and a host of other diseases but still smiling every chance she got, and a mother devoted to giving her daughter everything she ever wanted. They were the picture of inspiration and hope.
So, when Dee Dee turned up dead, bludgeoned to death in her own home, her sickly daughter nowhere to be found, the community descended into chaos. There was no way the girl could survive on her own, they thought. Even worse, what if the person who did this to Dee Dee had kidnaped Gypsy Rose?
A manhunt was ordered for Gypsy Rose, and to everyone’s delight, she was found just one day later. But the Gypsy Rose found was hardly the same girl who had gone missing. Rather than a bald, thin, wheelchair-bound cancer patient, the police found a strong young woman, walking and eating on her own.
Questions immediately arose about the beloved mother-daughter duo. How had this girl changed so rapidly overnight? Had she ever really been sick? And, most importantly, had she been involved in what had happened to Dee Dee?
When Gypsy Rose Blanchard was an infant, Dee Dee brought her to the hospital, convinced she was suffering from sleep apnea. Despite no sign of the disease, Dee Dee remained convinced, eventually determining herself that Gypsy had an unspecified chromosomal disorder. From then on, she watched her daughter like a hawk, fearing disaster could strike at any moment.
When Gypsy was around eight years old, she fell off of her grandfather’s motorcycle. Dee Dee immediately took her to the hospital, where she was treated for a minor abrasion to her knee, but Dee Dee was unconvinced. The accident, she said, had obviously resulted in something much worse and Gypsy would need several surgeries if she ever hoped to walk again. Until then, she decided, Gypsy would remain in a wheelchair as to not aggravate her knee further.
Dee Dee moved out of her parents’ house as soon as they began to question Gypsy’s condition, finding a run-down apartment and living on disability checks she collected from Gypsy’s illness.
After taking her daughter to a hospital in New Orleans, she claimed that on top of her chromosomal disorder and muscular dystrophy, Gypsy was now suffering from hearing and vision problems. Additionally, she claimed Gypsy had begun to suffer from seizures. While the tests showed no signs of any of the ailments Dee Dee claimed her daughter had, they nonetheless prescribed her with anti-seizure medication and generic pain meds.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina forced Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard to move north, to Aurora, Mo. There, the two became something of a pair of celebrities, acting as champions for the rights of the disabled and the sick. Habitat for Humanity built them a home with a wheelchair ramp and a hot tub, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them on multiple trips to Walt Disney World and gave them backstage passes to a Miranda Lambert concert.
Meanwhile, the press they received through the various foundations attracted the attention of doctors nationwide. Before long, specialists were reaching out to Dee Dee and Gypsy to see if there was anything they could do. One of these doctors, a pediatric neurologist from Springfield named Bernardo Flasterstein, offered to see her at his clinic.
While there, however, he discovered something startling. Not only did Gypsy not have muscular dystrophy, she didn’t have anything else that Dee Dee claimed she had.
“I don’t see any reason why she doesn’t walk,” he told Dee Dee. When Dee Dee brushed him off, he began to make calls to doctors in New Orleans. Though Dee Dee claimed the hurricane had washed away all of Gypsy’s records, Flasterstein was able to find doctors whose records had survived. After talking to them and confirming once again that Gypsy was, for all intents and purposes, a healthy child, he began to suspect that the real illness may lie with Dee Dee.
Unbeknownst to him, Gypsy had begun to suspect the same thing.
In 2010, though Dee Dee had told everyone she was 14, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was 19 years old. And, she knew she wasn’t sick. She’d known for awhile, and ever since then, she’d been attempting to escape from her mother.
One night she showed up at her neighbor’s door, standing on her own two feet, begging for a ride to a hospital. Dee Dee had quickly intervened and explained the whole thing away, a talent she had cultivated over the years.
Any time that Gypsy began to stray, become independent, or suggest that she was anything but a small, innocent child suffering from a deadly illness, Dee Dee would step in and explain that Gypsy’s mind was addled by disease. She’d say that she was mentally challenged, or that the drugs had rendered it impossible for her to know what she was talking about. Because of their loveable nature and their inspirational bond, people believed the story.
After the incident with the neighbor, Gypsy began using the internet after Dee Dee went to bed to meet men in online chat rooms. Though her mother chained her to her bed and threatened to smash her fingers with a hammer when she found out, Gypsy continued to chat with the men, hoping one of them could save her.
Finally, in 2012, she met Nicholas Godejohn, a 23-year-old from Wisconsin. Godejohn had a criminal record for indecent exposure and a history of mental illness, though neither of those dissuaded Gypsy. A few months after meeting, Godejohn came to visit Gypsy, and while Dee Dee was on a rare solo outing, the two had sex. After that, they began to plan Dee Dee’s murder.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard had been waiting for someone to come along and save her, and Godejohn seemed just the one to do it. Through Facebook messages, the two planned the demise of Dee Dee. Godejohn would wait until Dee Dee had gone to bed, and then Gypsy would let him in and he would do the deed.
Then, one night in mid-June 2015, it was done. While she was sleeping, Godejohn had bludgeoned Dee Dee in bed, while Gypsy listened at the door. After she was dead, the two fled, separating at a Greyhound station.
After Gypsy Rose Blanchard was found and her story was shared, the sympathy that had followed Dee Dee shifted to Gypsy. Those who had expressed sadness over Dee Dee’s death were now enraged that she could treat a child like that for so many years. Eventually, psychiatrists labeled Gypsy Rose Blanchard a victim of child abuse, citing Munchausen’s-by-proxy as the root of Dee Dee’s behavior. However, though public opinion had all but shifted against her, the issue of her murder still stood.
Eventually, Gypsy confessed that she had hired Nicholas Godejohn to kill her mother. The 24-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree murder, while Godejohn still awaits his sentencing. In prison, Gypsy researched her mother’s condition and has since come to terms with the abuse she suffered. She is remorseful for the murder but maintains she is better off without her.
“I feel like I’m freer in prison, than living with my mom,” she said in an interview in 2018. “Because now, I’m allowed to… just live like a normal woman.”