Eight-and-a-half years ago, Gypsy Rose Blanchard could be described as a charming, severely disabled girl who lived with her doting single mother in southwestern Missouri.
Her story had become widely recognized in Midwestern circles by then: The nearly toothless girl with a childlike voice and shaved head, fed by a feeding tube and confined to a wheelchair. Her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, told neighbors and charitable organizations alike that these traits were the result of her daughter's wide array of terminal illnesses, from developmental issues to muscular dystrophy and leukemia.
But that was in 2015, before Gypsy Rose Blanchard orchestrated the murder of her mother.
Now describing the once-sick girl takes on a whole different genre of words: a victim, a murderer, brave, troubled.
The public's perception has widely switched from praising the young daughter who remained resilient through illness to applauding the healthy woman who escaped the one true sickness that had been there all along: a relatively under-recognized disorder called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, of which Dee Dee Blanchard has become a global case study.
Those with the condition, now professionally referred to as factitious disorder imposed on another, are characterized as caregivers who make a dependent person, like their child, appear ill so that they can gain attention for themselves. This can be marked by actions from misrepresenting symptoms all the way to the purposeful harm of the dependent by ways of poisoning or infection.
This disorder was present throughout Gypsy's life, if not given a name. Now, since being able to fully research it, she believes her mom had every known symptom — symptoms that led to abuse and, in the end, death.
As Gypsy prepares to be released from prison, where she's spent the last eight years for the murder of her mother, here's a look back on her life thus far.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard's life of "illness"
Gypsy was born in July 1991, though her birth year was unknown to her for most of her life.
By the time her daughter was three months old, Dee Dee began to claim her infant had sleep apnea, forcing doctors to administer tests that found no indication of the condition. This led Dee Dee to begin claiming that an unspecified chromosomal disorder was causing her daughter a range of alleged health issues, including that her daughter would permanently have the mental capacity of a 7-year-old due to brain damage from her premature birth.
By the time she was 8 years old, Dee Dee said her daughter had cancer, muscular dystrophy, seizures, asthma, hearing and vision problems, chronic ear infections and other ailments. These "illnesses" led to tons of medical appointments, with surgeries even being performed on the "sick" girl.
While living in New Orleans, Dee Dee claimed Gypsy's birth certificate and medical records were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina's wake. She relocated to her native Missouri, where her story started to gain traction.
Habitat for Humanity built the duo a small home in Springfield, they received free flights to medical appointments, all-expense-paid trips to Walt Disney World and more.
Dee Dee was consistently able to fool the public and doctors alike, securing treatment for issues even after biopsies, testing or X-rays found no signs of the illnesses the mom insisted her daughter had.
Dee Dee shaved Gypsy's hair, allegedly saying her hair would fall out anyway due to her medication. She had some of Gypsy's saliva glands extracted due to drooling, which the girl later said her mom induced before medical appointments. Dee Dee gave her daughter anti-seizure medication, causing tooth decay and later extraction, and had tubes placed in Gypsy's ears to control ear infections.
One doctor did become suspicious of the wheelchair-bound Gypsy, saying he found no signs of a reason she couldn't walk after seeing her support her own weight and conducting a myriad of tests. After discovering her history, the pediatric neurologist suspected Munchausen syndrome by proxy could've been the culprit, but he didn't think authorities would believe his word against that of Dee Dee, and later claimed he didn't have enough evidence.
Dee Dee Blanchard's growing signs of abusive behavior
Dee Dee changed the date of her daughter's birth at least once in order to continue claiming she was a teenager.
She was known to be the only one speaking during medical appointments and was known to stop seeing any doctor who questioned her daughter's condition.
In public, if Gypsy ever suggested she was older or stronger than her mother claimed, Dee Dee would allegedly tightly squeeze her hand as a signal to stop. When they were alone, she would slap her or strike her with a coat hanger.
In 2011, Gypsy, who now knew her capabilities despite her mother's insistence, attempted to run away with a man, but Dee Dee found her and convinced her partner she was a minor.
Gypsy claims her mom later shattered a computer with a hammer and said she would do the same to her daughter's fingers if she ever tried to escape again. After this, Gypsy was physically leashed to her bed for two weeks.
The murder of Dee Dee Blanchard
Some time in 2012, Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn on a Christian dating website. They began a relationship online, discussing plans to elope. But those plans soon became violent, with Gypsy asking Godejohn to help her kill her mother due to the abuse.
In June of 2015, Nicholas came to the Blanchard home while Dee Dee was asleep. Gypsy hid in a bathroom and covered her ears while her lover stabbed her mother 17 times in her back.
Gypsy and Nicholas fled with $4,000 in cash to the latter's home in Wisconsin, while many believed a helpless Gypsy had been abducted.
Gypsy's neighbor and confidant, however, told police about Nicholas, and police found them at his home. They were both arrested on charges of first-degree murder.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard's life on and after trial
The public was soon made aware of Dee Dee's treatment of Gypsy, who said she committed the act because she believed no one would believe her if she just tried to walk away from the situation — literally.
At trial, her defense secured a second-degree murder plea deal after obtaining her true medical records. She was sentenced to 10 years in jail in July 2015.
Godejohn, on the other hand, was convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to life in prison, concurrent with the 25-year sentence of the second charge.
Gypsy now knows the extent of her mom's abuse, and said she has felt more free in prison than she did under her mom's thumb. She does feel remorse for the crime but has said she believes her reason for doing it should have left her with less prison time and more resources to get help.
Gypsy does not experience any long-term side effects from any medication she took. She has earned her GED and has expressed plans to write a book telling her story in her own words.
She's also built a stronger relationship with her father, who Dee Dee alienated from much of her childhood, and was married to Ryan Scott Anderson on June 27, 2022.
The case has since become the center of an HBO documentary, "Mommy, Dead and Dearest," a Hulu miniseries, "The Act," and countless other media spotlights, including an upcoming docuseries on Lifetime.
On Sept. 29, 2023, Gypsy was granted parole. The now 32-year-old woman will be released from prison on Dec. 28.
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