This disturbing story begins when Dee Dee Blancharde at the age of twenty-four, became pregnant with her daughter to be, Gypsy Rose. The father, only seventeen at the time, Rod Blancharde married Dee Dee but shortly after the birth of their daughter, he realised he had “married for the wrong reasons” and left Dee Dee. She desperately tried to get him back but ultimately failed, Rod was gone and wasn’t coming back.
Unfortunately Gypsy wouldn’t be raised as a normal child. Her mother was overly protective. At first glace it would make sense as her mother began telling people, including the father Rod, that Gypsy was suffering from many complicated medical problems. According to Rod, who remained involved with his daughter at this point, by the time Gypsy Rose was three months old her mother was convinced the infant girl suffered from sleep apnea and began taking her to the hospital, where repeated overnight stays with a sleep monitor and other tests found no sign of the condition. Nevertheless, he recalls, Clauddine became convinced that Gypsy had a wide range of health issues, which she attributed to an unspecified chromosomal disorder. She spent many years in and out of hospital and became wheelchair bound at a young age. She claimed her daughters muscular dystrophy would only worsen over time.
Dee Dee removed Gypsy from public school very early on in her childhood, as she felt her illness was becoming to severe and that she needed to be home schooled. Gypsy later claims that she was able to learn to read on her own through her collection of Harry Potter books.
After some time Rod remarried, Dee Dee however did not and soon moved in with her father and step mum. During this time her step mother started to become ill and Dee Dee was arrested several times. Her crimes included shop lifting and writing “bad” checks. Her parents became concerned about the treatment of young Gypsy and expressed their suspicion about her role in her stepmother’s health problems. It was later discovered that while preparing meals for them, Dee Dee was lacing her step mothers food with Roundup weed killer, leading to her chronic illness during this period.
Dee Dee quickly packed and she disappeared with her daughter Gypsy. Her step mothers health soon improved and she was back to her usual self. It was clear that something wasn’t adding up…
By now Gypsy’s mother was giving her just about every medication available to treat her for seizures, her hearing and vision problems, her muscle dystophy and everything else that Dee Dee claimed was wrong with her. Gypsy at an early age had a feeding tube inserted into her stomach and her mother was able to dose her up even while she was sleeping. They continued regularly visiting A&E for minor ailments. They were forced to move again as a freak storm destroyed their home.
One of Gypsy’s doctors realised something wasn’t right. Many tests came back that showed there was nothing medically wrong with Gypsy. Despite this her mother insisted she was incredibly ill and needed treatment. She even claimed that Gypsy was suffering with cancer and would repeatedly shave her head. When her daughter questioned this, she would simply tell her that “it will fall out anyway, might as well keep it neat and tidy!”.
In 2008 Habitat for Humanity built them a small home with a wheelchair ramp and hot tub as part of a larger project on the north side of Springfield, to the east, and they moved there. The story of a single mother with a severely disabled daughter forced to flee Katrina’s devastation received considerable local media attention, and the community often pitched in to help the woman who now went by Clauddine Blancharde, and whom they knew as Dee Dee. The outpouring of support included a great deal of charitable contributions. In Louisiana, mother and daughter had at most availed themselves of occasional stays in Ronald McDonald Houses during medical appointments; in Missouri they received free flights to see doctors in Kansas City, free trips to Walt Disney World and backstage passes to Miranda Lambert concerts (where she was frequently photographed with the singer) via the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in addition to the house built for them by Habitat.
With all of their publicity, it would have been impossible for Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, a pediatric neurologist who saw Gypsy in Springfield, to report her. He became suspicious of her muscular dystrophy diagnosis. He nevertheless ordered MRIs and blood tests, which found no abnormalities. “I don’t see any reason why she doesn’t walk”, he told Dee Dee on a followup visit after seeing Gypsy stand and support her own weight. Flasterstein noted that Dee Dee was not a good historian. After contacting Gypsy’s doctors in New Orleans, he learned that Gypsy’s original muscle biopsy had come back negative, undermining Dee Dee’s self-reported diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, as well as her claim that all Gypsy’s records had been destroyed by flooding. He suspected the possibility of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Dee Dee contrived to gain access to Flasterstein’s notes and subsequently stopped taking Gypsy to see him.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental illness and a form of child abuse. The caretaker of a child, most often a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick. – MedlinePlus
Dr. Flasterstein did not follow up by reporting Dee Dee to social services. He said he had been told by other doctors to treat the pair with “golden gloves” and doubted the authorities would believe him anyway. In 2009, nonetheless, an anonymous caller told the police about Dee Dee’s use of different names and birth dates for herself and her daughter, and suggested Gypsy was in better health than claimed. Officers who performed the resulting wellness check accepted Dee Dee’s explanation that she used the misinformation to make it harder for her abusive ex-husband to find her and Gypsy, without checking this story out with Rod, and reported that Gypsy seemed to genuinely be mentally handicapped. The file was closed.
also continued to make monthly child support payments of $1,200, as well as sending Gypsy gifts and occasionally talking to her on the phone, during one call, on her 18th birthday he recalls Dee Dee telling him not to mention her daughter’s real age since “she thinks she’s 14”. The alarm bells were ringing.
Dee Dee was using physical abuse to control her daughter, always holding Gypsy’s hand in the presence of others. Whenever Gypsy said something that either suggested she was not really sick or seemed above her purported mental capabilities, Gypsy recalls that her mother would give her a very tight squeeze. When the two were alone, Dee Dee would then strike her with her open hands or a coat hanger.
Medical interventions continued. Dee Dee had some of Gypsy’s saliva glands treated with Botox, then extracted altogether, to control her drooling. Tubes were implanted in her ears to control her myriad purported ear infections. The treatments didn’t seem to be coming to an end, however Gypsy was starting to realise what was actually happening to her and was slowly becoming more independent from her mother.
Although believed by most to be a young teenager by 2010 she was in fact an adult, and began to test the limitations of her mother’s scheme. A neighbor recalls an incident either in 2009 or 2010 where Gypsy showed up at her door one night, without her wheelchair seeking a ride to a local hospital to visit a man with whom she shared a romantic interest. The man had been assaulted by a group of people familiar with Gypsy’s medical history, who felt that he was taking advantage of an underage, mentally challenged girl. At the hospital Gypsy produced a birth certificate that gave her correct date of birth, proving that she was of legal age. Dee Dee went to the hospital, where she said that that birth certificate was an incorrect version issued after Katrina, apparently proving it with the “real” birth certificate giving a more recent birth date. The record states that Gypsy was made to apologize to everyone who was present.
Since 2001, Gypsy had attended science fiction and fantasy conventions, sometimes in costume since she could blend in, even in her wheelchair. At an event in 2011, she made what may have been another escape attempt that ended when her mother found her in a hotel room with a man she had met online. Again Dee Dee produced the paperwork giving Gypsy’s false, younger birth date and threatened to inform the police. Gypsy recalls that afterward, Dee Dee smashed her computer with a hammer and threatened to do the same to her fingers if she ever tried to escape again; she also kept Gypsy leashed to her bed for a while. Dee Dee later told Gypsy that she had filed paperwork with the police claiming that Gypsy was mentally incompetent, leading Gypsy to believe that if she attempted to go to the police for help, they would not believe her.
Sometime around 2012, Gypsy continued to use the Internet after her mother had gone to bed to avoid her tightened supervision and made contact with Nicholas Godejohn online. Nicholas was a man around Gypsy’s age from Big Bend, Wisconsin. She claimed that they had met on a Christian singles group; a Facebook page from that year with their names, combined, confirms their status as “in a relationship”. Nicholas Godejohn had some issues of his own: a criminal record for indecent exposure and a history of mental illness, stated at times to be either multiple personality disorder or autism. Either way this would not be a good match and would ultimately lead to disaster.
The young couple fell in love. Both as lonely as each other and both equally disturbed in their own way. Before long Gypsy confided in Nicholas, confessing to him her mothers controlling nature. Nicholas reassured her that he would do anything to protect her, even if it meant killing someone. With nothing to compare their relationship to, Gypsy was convinced he was her prince, a knight in shining armor.
Gypsy arranged for her mother to meet Nicholas when he came to Springfield. Her plan was for him to just bump into her while she and Dee Dee were at a movie theater and apparently strike up a relationship that way, then for her to introduce him to her mother. As soon as they did meet for the first time in real life, Nicholas claims that Gypsy led him to the bathroom, where the two had sex. However, she apparently did not find him as desirable in person as he had seemed to be online, and she never introduced him to her mother. The two continued their Internet interactions, however, and began developing their plan to kill Dee Dee.
Nicholas traveled to Springfield again sometime in mid-June 2015. At some point before or on June 12, he went to the Blancharde house, where Gypsy allowed him in and allegedly gave him a knife with the understanding that he would use it to murder Dee Dee. Nicholas ordered Gypsy to hide in the bathroom and for her to cover her ears so that she would not have to witness her mother’s death. Nicholas Godejohn then stabbed Dee Dee several times in her sleep. The two took $4,000 in cash that Dee Dee had been keeping in the house, mostly from her ex-husband’s child support checks, and fled to a motel outside of Springfield, where they may have remained for several days while planning their next move.
They mailed the murder weapon back to Nicholas’ home in Wisconsin to avoid being caught with it. They then took a bus to his home. Several witnesses saw the pair on their way to the Greyhound station and noted that Gypsy wore a blonde wig and that she walked unaided and without her wheelchair.
On the afternoon of June 14, at Gypsy’s urging, Nicholas used his phone to post two updates to Dee Dee’s Facebook page, in the hope that people would discover her body. The first read simply “That Bitch is dead!”, followed 17 minutes later by a longer comment suggesting that whoever left it had violently killed Dee and raped Gypsy. Gypsy would later state that she was concerned that several days had passed without anyone discovering her mother’s body, and that she hoped that someone would report the ominous message to the police so that they would find the body.
Family friends responded to the first post and its language, uncharacteristic for Dee Dee, by asking if she was reacting to a movie she was watching, or speculating that her account had possibly been hacked. After the second post, they knew something was probably wrong. When phone calls went unanswered, several of them went to the house.
While they knew that the two often left on medical trips unannounced, they saw that Dee Dee’s cube van, modified to hold Gypsy’s wheelchair, was still in the driveway, making that explanation unlikely. Protective film on the windows made it hard to see inside in the low light. No one answered the door, so they called 9-1-1. When the police arrived, they had to wait for a search warrant to be issued before they could enter, but they allowed one of the neighbors present to climb through a window, where he saw that the inside of the house was largely undisturbed, and that all of Gypsy’s wheelchairs were still present.
When the warrant was issued, police entered the house and soon found Dee Dee’s body. A GoFundMe account was set up to pay for her funeral expenses, and possibly Gypsy’s. All who knew the Blanchardes feared the worst, even if Gypsy had not been harmed, they believed she would be helpless without her wheelchair, medications, and support equipment like the oxygen tanks and feeding tube.
A neighbor that Gypsy had confided in, Aleah Woodmansee, who was among those gathered on the Blanchardes’ lawn, told police what she knew about Gypsy and her secret online boyfriend. She showed them the printouts she had saved from Gypsy’s social media page, which included his name. Based on that information, police asked Facebook to trace the IP address from which the posts to Dee Dee’s account had been made. It turned out to be in Wisconsin; the next day police agencies in Waukesha County raided the Nicholas’ home. Both he and Gypsy surrendered and were taken into custody on charges of murder and felony armed criminal action.
The news that Gypsy was safe was greeted with relief back in Springfield, where she and Nicholas were soon extradited and held on $1 million bond. But, in announcing the news, Greene County sheriff Jim Arnott warned “things are not always what they appear.” The media in Springfield soon reported the truth of the Blanchardes’ lives: that Gypsy had never been sick, had always been able to walk, and that her mother had made her pretend otherwise, using physical abuse to control her. Jim urged people not to donate any money to the family until investigators learned the extent of the fraud.
The system had failed Gypsy in just about every way. The medical professionals in charge of maintaining her health, should have identified her as a vulnerable child that was possibly subject to abuse. However they allowed her mother to continually convince them that she was suffering from illnesses that repeated tests could not confirm or even contradicted. Her father was unable to help her and although suspicious of Dee Dee, was concerned for his ill daughter and always made sure that she was supported by making his child support payments. Although it is easy to judge when you have all the information, I’m sure you can appreciate the delicacy of the matter and the difficulties any authority would have faced challenging a single mother and her “incredibly ill” daughter.
After the disclosure of how Dee Dee had treated Gypsy all those years, sympathy for her as the victim of a violent murder rapidly shifted to her daughter as a long term victim of child abuse. While the charge of first-degree murder can carry the death penalty under Missouri law or life without parole, county prosecutor Dan Patterson soon announced he would not seek it for either Gypsy or Nicholas, calling the case “extraordinary and unusual”. After her public defender was able to obtain her medical records from Louisiana, he secured a plea bargain to second-degree murder for Gypsy. So undernourished was Gypsy that during the year she was in the county jail, he told BuzzFeed later, she actually gained 14 pounds (6.4 kg), in contrast to most of his clients who lose weight in that situation. In July 2015, she accepted the plea bargain agreement and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Nicholas Godejohn still faces the more severe charge as prosecutors contend he initiated the murder plot, and both he and Gypsy agree that he was the one who actually killed Dee Dee. Her plea bargain agreement does not require her to testify against him. In January 2017 his trial was postponed when prosecutors requested a second psychiatric exam; his lawyers contend that he has an I.Q. of 82 and is on the autism spectrum, suggesting diminished capacity. He had initially waived his right to a trial by jury, but changed his mind in June of that year.
I strongly recommend watching the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest.
What do you guys think? Did Dee Dee get what she deserved? Does Gypsy deserve to be in prison for her part in her mothers murder? Who is the real victim in this case? Comment below!