I couldn't let the year get by without writing about one of my all time favorite true crime stories, the Murder of Dee Dee Blanchard. I had to get a little creative to find a date, but I made it work so let's get into it.
I'm sure most people know about this case from the extensive coverage, the podcasts, the documentaries (one of my favorites being Mommy Dead & Dearest) and the recent Netflix series The Act. But if you're not familiar with the case, or you can never get enough of it, strap in for a wild ride.
Dee Dee Blanchard was a single mother of 1 daughter who, on June 14, 2015, was found facedown in a pool of blood from several stab wounds in her home. Her daughter, Gypsy Rose, who according to her mother suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy, and a slew of other chronic conditions, was nowhere to be found.
But as the investigation continued, it was determined that Gypsy Rose and her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, were Dee Dee's killers. And the kicker? Gypsy didn't have any of the conditions her mother said she did. The wheelchair bound teen with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old was actually an adult who could walk and had no physical conditions at all. Gypsy Rose was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and her boyfriend was sentenced to life.
Dee Dee Blanchard, born Clauddine Pitre, was born in Chackbay, Louisiana in 1967. During her childhood, she would often steal things to get attention and retaliation when things didn't go her way. Early on in her adult life, she was working as a nurses aid when a family expressed suspicion that she had killed her own mother by denying her food.
At the age of 24, she became pregnant with her partner, Rod Blanchard, who was only 17 at the time. They named their daughter Gypsy Rose. But in 1991, the couple split before Gypsy would be born. He left, and she took her newborn to live with her family.
Even though Rod left Dee Dee, knowing he had "got married for the wrong reasons", he remained involved in Gypsy's life. When she was 3 months old, Dee Dee was certain that she suffered from sleep apnea, and would often take her to the hospital for repeated overnight stays. Though nothing was ever found, Dee Dee became convinced that Gypsy had a wide variety of health issues.
When Gypsy was 7 or 8, she was involved an a minor accident, causing an abrasion to her knee. Her mother said it required several surgeries to treat properly. From that day forward, the child, who was already being forced to use a walker, was confined to a wheelchair, even though it wasn't needed. All of these fake disabilities were enough for Dee Dee to enroll her in Special Olympic events. She would often claim Gypsy was younger than she was, and she received a variety of awards and honors at these events.
It is known that she stopped going to school after the 2nd grade, but she may have stopped as early as kindergarten. Because her illnesses were so severe, her mother said she had to homeschool her. Nevertheless, Gypsy learned to read by reading Harry Potter on her own.
After Rod remarried, Dee Dee moved in with her father and stepmother. Later, they would claim that Dee Dee poisoned her stepmother, leading to a chronic illness. When she was confronted about it, she left.
They moved to Slidell, Louisiana and lived in public housing. They paid bills with assistance they were given because of Gypsy's medical conditions and child support payments. They visited various specialists for help for Gypsy's conditions. Vision and hearing problems were added to the laundry list of issues. Even though doctors began to doubt her medical history, such as when no sign of muscular dystrophy was found, she continued to insist she was sick. She said she had seizures all the time. Doctors performed several surgeries on Gypsy during this time, and she was often taken to the ER for minor ailments.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005, Dee Dee no longer had to worry about doctors not believing her. She was able to claim that Gypsy's birth certificate and medical records had been destroyed in the floods. They decided to move to Missouri, and were airlifted the month after Katrina.
In Missouri, the honors and love for Gypsy kept pouring in. Habitat for Humanity built the family a small home with a wheelchair ramp and a hot tub. It made sense. A single mother with a disabled daughter who lost their home in Katrina made for good stories. They received a ridiculous amount of charitable contributions, including money, backstage passes, tickets to Disney world, and more. She was easy to fall in love with. She was barely 5 foot tall and looked like a child. People are drawn to people who they think they can help.
All the while, Rod was regularly talking to his daughter and hoping to come to visit, but Dee Dee would always change plans. She told her neighbors that Rod was an abusive drug addict who never sent them any money (despite $1,200/month coming from him) who left his daughter because of her health issues.
Even though the medical records were gone, some doctors were still not so sure about Gypsy's issues. A pediatric neurologist, Bernardo Flasterstein, was suspicious of her muscular dystrophy diagnosis. He told Dee Dee that he saw no reason why she couldn't walk. He contacted her doctors in New Orleans, who corroborated that her tests came back negative. He suspected Dee Dee of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and she stopped seeing him immediately.
He chose not to follow up with social services. He had been told by fellow doctors to treat the pair extremely well given their pull in the community.
GYPSY STARTS TO FIGHT BACK
Gypsy was unsure of her real age for nearly 15 years. She saw her real birth certificate one time with a confusing date on it, to which her mother responded it was a misprint.
Since 2001, Gypsy was involved in science fiction and fantasy conventions. The costumes allowed her to blend in more, even while in her wheelchair. In 2011, she tried to escape her mother, but she found her in a hotel room with a man who she met online. Dee Dee produced the paperwork with a false, younger birth date to threaten the man with the police.
After this, Dee Dee smashed her computer with a hammer, and threatened to do it to her fingers if she tried to escape again. As punishment, she was handcuffed to her bed for 2 weeks. Dee Dee told her that she had filed paperwork with the police that said she was mentally incompetent, and thus if she went to the police, no one would believe her.
In 2012, Gypsy was able to retain use of the internet and met Nicholas Godejohn, a man around her age from a Christian Singles Group. He had a criminal record including indecent exposure and a history of mental illness, including dissociative identity disorder, autism, or both. But they hit it off.
2 years later, Gypsy began communicating with Aleah Woodmansee, a 23-year-old neighbor, whom Gypsy considered a "big sister", even though they were close in age. She told her that she planned to elope with Nicholas and they had named their future kids. She continued to flirt online with Nicholas, including more sexually explicit communications including BDSM elements. Aleah tried to talk her out of it, thinking she was being groomed by an older sexual predator.
The following year, Gypsy arranged for Nicholas to met her and her mother in Springfield. He was supposed to bump into her while they were at the movies, both in costume, and then strike up a conversation so she could introduce him. When they met in person for the first time, Gypsy claims they had sex in the bathroom. They continued their online relationship, and began to develop a plan to kill.
In June of 2015, Nicholas returned to Springfield while Gypsy and her mother were away at a doctor's appointment. Once Dee Dee went to sleep, he went into the house, and Gypsy let him in. He brought a knife, and the 2 were aligned that he would be killing Dee Dee.
Gypsy hid in the bathroom, covering her ears so she wouldn't have to hear her mother scream. He stabbed her several times in the back and stole $4,000 from her. Then, the couple had sex and fled to a nearby motel. Gypsy believed they had gotten away with it.
After the murder, Nicholas posted some concerning things on Dee Dee's Facebook page. "That Bitch is dead!" he posted "I f*cken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND R*PED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER...HER SCREAM WAS SOOO F*CKEN LOUD LOL" he posted. Friends called and texted, and became extremely concerned. Some went to the house.
They knew that Dee Dee and Gypsy often went on medical trips together, but they saw that the car used to hold Gypsy's wheelchair was still in the driveway. Friends called 911, but they crept inside before a search warrant came. They found that all of Gypsy's wheelchairs were inside, undisturbed. It was believed perhaps someone had kidnapped Gypsy, who was now left alone without her mother or medications.
Aleah told police that she knew about her online boyfriend, and showed them print outs. When they traced the IP address for the posts to Dee Dee's Facebook, they found Nicholas and Gypsy. They were arrested upon surrender.
The community was thrilled to hear that Gypsy was okay, but soon extremely confused to hear not only that she was involved in her mother's murder, but that Dee Dee had been using physical abuse to control her for her entire life. She was able to walk and was overall entirely healthy.
After the disclosure of her treatment for her whole life, the sympathy turned from Dee Dee, the devoted, murdered mother, to Gypsy, the girl who had suffered abuse at the hands of her mother for her entire life. The prosecutor did not seek out a first-degree murder charge for Gypsy. In July of 2015, she accepted a plea bargain agreement for second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Because Nicholas was not a victim of long-term abuse, and was the one who actually killed Dee Dee, he was given a harsher conviction. He was sentenced to life in prison in February of 2019 with no opportunity for parole.
The community was absolutely shocked to hear about everything that happened. Aleah sobbed of disbelief learning that Gypsy was never sick or disabled. The community realized they had all accepted Dee Dee's claims without asking for proof, and certainly kicked themselves for not knowing to step in. They had organized a candlelight vigil for Dee Dee after her murder, not knowing that she was the monster all along.
A spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity spoke up, saying they were deeply saddened to hear what happened, but that it was too soon to tell how they were able to be deceived so easily. Certainly, many of the other organizations who donated funds, materials and honors felt the same.
"I feel like I'm more free in prison, than living with my mom. Because now, I'm allowed to just live like a normal woman," Gypsy said in 2018 while behind bars. She told Buzzfeed that Dee Dee would have been the perfect mom for someone who was actually sick. She said she was so frustrated that so many doctors weren't able to see beyond the lies. Only Flasterstein did, and he didn't do anything to help. When he found out, he said he wished he could have done more. "She suffered all those years, and for no reason," he said.
A formal diagnosis of Munchausen by proxy isn't technically possible since Dee Dee is dead, doctors feel more than confident that, based on what they know, she had it. "Gypsy was infantilized and kept away from her peers" Dr. Feldman said. He also said it was "unprecedented" for a child abused by a parent with Munchausen by Proxy to kill their abusive parent.
Now, Gypsy remains in jail. She will be eligible for parole in 2024, before she turns 23. Her stepmother, Rod's wife, says that "she is doing amazing" and reiterated that she was happier in jail than she was living with her mother. Her father has been active in her life, as well.
In prison, she has developed a passion for photography and cosmetology. She's also in a prison program where she takes care of dogs, and is preparing for her GED. And, after one of the documentaries about her life aired, a man named Ken reached out to her. They are now engaged, and they plan to marry once she gets out of prison. She understands she has to be held accountable for her involvement in her mother's murder, but is just trying to get through her sentence as best she can before she can start her life.
Personally, I am astonished that she was given any sort of jail sentence. Perhaps it was the premeditation, or the involvement of someone else, but in all reality, she was escaping an abuser. If she would have been kidnapped or trafficked and done such a thing, the murder would have been justified. To sit behind bars for 10 years after an entire life of physical abuse and fear tactics to make you think that you are a disabled child instead of a fully functioning adult is really sad. But, I'm extremely happy she has adjusted well in prison, and I genuinely wish her the best once she gets out and can start anew.
And for Nicholas Godejohn? I'm not in love with the life sentence without parole, either. The man was definitely mentally disabled, and sure, his posts after the fact may make it seem like his motive was entirely different, but really, I think he was trying to help the woman he loved. I agree with first-degree murder and a harsher sentence for being a) not abused and b) not the knife wielder, but I do think he should have the opportunity to get out of prison at some point... perhaps he will appeal and win.
I remember so clearly reading the Buzzfeed article that kind of broke the case, literally on the edge of my seat. This case has baffled and amazed me for 4 years now, and I think it always will.