The community of Springfield, Missouri wrapped their arms around newcomers Claudine “Dee Dee” Blanchard and her special needs daughter, Gypsy, when they were displaced after Hurricane Katrina is 2005. The community came together to ensure proper housing via Habitat for Humanity as well as many other fundraisers to help a single mother struggling to care for a daughter with complicated medical issues. The community embraced them, acting as an extended family, for years. When a murder occurred in the home built for this special family, the community would be in for the shock of their lives. This is the story of the Munchausen Mom of Missouri.
Claudine Blanchard was born Claudine Pitre in 1963 in Chackbay, Louisianna (Wikipedia, 2021). Claudine, known mostly as Dee Dee, was always in trouble according to her family. She had a penchant for stealing and writing bad checks. She frequently stole from people and sought revenge against family members who upset her. As a result of her pathological lying and stealing, she had fractured relationships with most of her family.
When she was twenty-four, she became pregnant by her seventeen-year-old boyfriend Rod Blanchard. The couple felt the right thing to do was to get married and raise their child together. However, Rod chose to leave Dee Dee on this eighteenth birthday. He remained in contact with her despite the split and wanted to support his baby. In July of 1991, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was born.
Although Dee Dee, now living with her family, attempted to keep Rod at a distance, he remained a part of his baby’s life. When Gypsy was three months old, Dee Dee told Rod that the baby had sleep apnea and needed a monitor at night in case she stopped breathing. This was the first of many medical issues Gypsy would face. The care became more complex, and Rod was kept at a distance as Dee Dee became the primary caregiver to their daughter.
When Gypsy was still very young, Dee Dee informed her family that the child had a chromosomal disorder which caused her to have multiple medical problems including muscular dystrophy. At first, the young girl used a walker. When Gypsy was in a very minor motorcycle accident at age seven or eight, her mother insisted she now required a wheelchair. She would be in a wheelchair for most her life after that.
Dee Dee began to homeschool Gypsy at a very young age due to her multiple medical issues. She claimed Gypsy had mental delays and was “slow”. She also had vision and hearing difficulties. After multiple ear infections, tubes had been inserted in her ears. She had surgery as well to remove her salivary glands due to excessive drooling. Family members were told the little girl suffered from leukemia and required several medications. The medications caused her hair to fall out. Eventually she had a feeding tube placed due to digestive issues. Dee Dee did not work, as caring for Gypsy was a full-time job.
Dee Dee had worked previously as a nurse’s aide and cared for her mother when she was gravely ill. In 1997, Dee Dee’s mother passed away. Family suspected Dee Dee had neglected her own mother, possibly leading to her death. She then lived with her father and stepmother until her stepmother grew sick. At that point, the family questioned Dee Dee about her treatment of Gypsy and suspicions that she was poisoning her stepmother. Following the accusations, Dee-Dee moved to Slidell with her daughter and her stepmother recovered from her illness.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area. At a shelter in Louisiana, Dee Dee and Gypsy touched the hearts of many caregivers who encouraged them to relocate to Missouri and start a new life. With very little family support, Dee Dee moved with Gypsy to Springfield, Missouri. She told doctors the medical records for her daughter Gypsy were destroyed in the hurricane.
Dee Dee and Gypsy moved into a pink house built by Habitat for Humanity in 2008. The community believed that Gypsy was fourteen at the time, when in reality, she was seventeen. It seems that Gypsy also believed she was much younger than she actually was. Rod Blanchard described calling Gypsy on her eighteenth birthday and Dee Dee telling him not to tell Gypsy she was eighteen (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017). Dee Dee explained that the girl had the “mind of a seven-year-old” (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017). Although he continually paid child support for his daughter, Dee Dee kept him at a distance. Those in Springfield believed that Gypsy’s father was a drug addict who had abandoned Gypsy.
With multiple medical procedures and appointments, the family required significant help financially. This included state programs like Medicaid as well as charities such as Ronald McDonald House and the Make a Wish Program. The mother and daughter had multiple paid trips to Disney World because Gypsy was a huge fan of the Disney fairytales. Gypsy even got to meet an idol of hers, country music singer Miranda Lambert. The charity and kindness shown to the ill child and her mother were nothing short of beautiful. Too bad it was based on a lie.
As Gypsy grew older, she became aware that she could walk. She could also eat without her feeding tube. However, her mother warned her not to do those things, especially when someone could see her. She would not allow Gypsy to be alone with other people and insisted on joining her daughter for all medical appointments. She said it was because of Gypsy’s mental disabilities.
At one point in time, Gypsy’s teeth had rotted so badly that they were all pulled, and she was fitted for dentures. It is unclear if this was a hygiene issue or related to the multiple medications Gypsy was given for multiple medical conditions including a seizure disorder. Gypsy remained very dependent upon her mother as her primary caregiver. She lived a very sheltered life.
Dee Dee, Gypsy, and their friends in Springfield liked to attend Science Fiction conventions where Gypsy would often dress up in cosplay. At one of these conventions in 2011, Gypsy disappeared. She was with a man at his hotel room when a mutual friend recognized her and informed Dee Dee of her location. Dee Dee showed up, angry, and took Gypsy back home. Back at home, Gypsy claims Dede smashed her computer with a hammer and told her that if she tried to leave again, she would smash her fingers next (Dibdin, 2019).
Eventually, Gypsy got a new computer and when Dee Dee was asleep, she created a personal Facebook page that she kept a secret from her mother. In 2012, she met Nicholas Godejohn over the internet and the two began to regularly correspond. Nicholas Godejohn, a man from Wisconsin, was a socially awkward man who had been diagnosed with Autism (Dibdin, 2019). We also had a criminal record resulting from watching pornography at a McDonalds restaurant. He didn’t have a steady job and lived with his mother and stepfather.
Gypsy and Nicholas began an online relationship that would last nearly two and a half years. After getting to know each other, Gypsy told Nicholas her secret: She could walk. He shared a secret too: He had multiple personalities. He described on Snapped: Killer Couples, having many personalities including one who liked to be violent and one who enjoyed S&M (Snapped: Killer Couples, 2019). He introduced Gypsy to his different “sides”, and they began to exchange sexually explicit pictures and video chats. For Gypsy, this was the first opportunity she had to explore her own sexuality. She created alter egos to correspond with her boyfriend’s.
In March of 2015, Gypsy and Nicholas no longer were satisfied with just being online boyfriend and girlfriend. They devised a plan to meet one another, since they couldn’t tell her mother the truth about how they met. Gypsy and Dee Dee were attending a movie at a local theater and Nicholas showed up under the ruse being just another patron. He introduced himself to Dee Dee and Gypsy, but the plan didn’t go how they envisioned. Dee Dee found Nicholas creepy and not likeable. However, during a trip to the bathroom, Gypsy snuck in some alone time with Nicholas. Nicholas told Snapped: Killer Couples that during this trip to the bathroom he took Gypsy’s virginity (Snapped: Killer Couples, 2019).
On June 14th, 2015, friends of Dee Dee and Gypsy were shocked to find a disturbing message posted from their joint Facebook account. “That Bitch is Dead!” (Dibdin, 2019) it read. Concerned friends and neighbors responded with asking if they were okay and if the account had been hacked. Finally, a response was posted from the account that read “I fucken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER… HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO FUCKEN LOUD LOL.” (Dibdin, 2019). The neighbors called the cops.
Once inside the house, friends and law enforcement were in shock. Dee Dee Blanchard was found in her bed deceased. She was lying in a pool of her own blood and had been stabbed numerous times. Gypsy was not in the home, but all three of her wheelchairs were present. Given the Facebook posts and gruesome crime scene, authorities believed that whoever killed Dee Dee had kidnapped Gypsy. The search to find Gypsy sprung into high gear.
The messaged posted on the Facebook page became the best lead law enforcement had. They traced the IP address to a house in Wisconsin where Nicholas Godejohn lived. A young neighbor of Gypsy’s, whom she sometimes confided in, told authorities that Nicholas and Gypsy were online friends. The assumption amongst the community was that Nicholas had killed Dee-Dee and kidnapped Gypsy.
On June 15th, 2015, the police raided the home of Nicholas Godejohn and took him under arrest. Much to their surprise, Gypsy was not only safe but was walking. She was not paralyzed after all they learned. The two were taken into custody and questioned about the events leading up to Dee Dee’s death. Nicholas told authorities that he stabbed Dee Dee to death at the request of his girlfriend, Gypsy Blanchard. Gypsy originally denied participation in the crime. Both were arrested and charged with first degree murder.
Neighbors were initially relieved to hear that Gypsy was safe, but quickly shifted feelings after learning she could walk. The deceit angered many in the community, both at Dee Dee and Gypsy. However, over the next few months the world would learn so much more about the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard.
While in jail awaiting trial, an extensive search into the history of Gypsy and Dee Dee was performed. Her father learned the truth about his daughter along with the rest of the world. Medical records were obtained from New Orleans, proving Dee Dee lied about the records being destroyed. In these records, it was revealed that a muscle biopsy proved Gypsy did not suffer from muscular dystrophy (Weinman, 2020). The records also showed a pattern where Dee Dee would change healthcare providers frequently and almost always was the sole source of history provided to medical providers.
One physician in Kansas City Missouri, neurologist Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, saw Gypsy in 2007 for a consult. He found inconsistencies in Dee Dee’s claims including a lack of muscle atrophy in Gypsy’s legs, leading him to believe she did not have muscular dystrophy and could walk if she wanted to. He described in his notes that Dee Dee was not a good historian and he suspected Munchausen by Proxy disorder in this case. However, he did not report her to authorities over fear that he would not be believed (Weinman, 2020).
Munchausen by Proxy Disorder, also known as Factitious Disorder, is a mental illness in which an individual lies about symptoms or induces symptoms of illness on another, usually a child, in order to gain sympathy and attention (Cleveland Clinic, 2014). The review of Gypsy’s medical records and medical examinations performed after her arrest demonstrated that Gypsy was not mentally or physically disabled, she did not have a history of any serious medical conditions such as leukemia or muscular dystrophy and did not require a wheelchair or feeding tube.
The truth about Gypsy’s life was shocking to say the least, and her father felt extreme guilt over failing to protect his daughter from her mother. Gypsy was told from a very young age how to behave and what to say in order to back Dee Dee’s lies about her medical needs. She was told by her mother she had disorders such as cancer and was given multiple medications that caused symptoms and side effects. Her mother regularly shaved Gypsy’s head, telling her that her hair would fall out anyway due to cancer treatment. Gypsy underwent multiple surgical interventions and was confined needlessly to a wheelchair for years. Gypsy did not even know that she was actually twenty-three years old when she was arrested.
In the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, Dee Dee’s family describe her as a horrible human being and not even her own father seemed to care that she was dead (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017). Her family alluded to suspicions that Dee Dee had killed her own mother by starvation in 1997. Additionally, her father and stepmother believe she poisoned her stepmother by putting weed killer in her food. They wholeheartedly believe Gypsy to be a victim of her mother’s abuse.
Gypsy’s father and stepmother remained supportive of Gypsy and remorseful about not doing more to protect her. Gypsy, however, told her father that she doesn’t blame him and feels he did the best he could (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017). The totality of evidence against Nicholas Godejohn and Gypsy Blanchard, along with their confessions, left no doubt about who killed Dee Dee. The question was, what was a fair punishment?
The State of Missouri agreed to allow Gypsy to plead guilty to second degree murder given the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. On July 5th, 2016 Gypsy plead guilty and was sentenced to the minimum sentence of ten years in prison. Gypsy, just 4’11” and 100 pounds (MDOC, 2021), remains tiny despite gaining weight since her incarceration. Many believe her stature is a long-term effect of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. They also believe her penchant for white lies stemmed from the way she was raised. In interviews since her incarceration, Gypsy states she has a freedom she has never experienced before, despite being in prison.
The fate of Nicholas Godejohn would be a little more complicated. He went on trial in 2018, claiming his motive for the grisly murder was to protect Gypsy. Text messages were presented demonstrating Gypsy and Nicholas planned the murder for over a year (Wikipedia, 2021). Additionally, Nicholas’s confession was presented as evidence. The defense insisted that Gypsy was the mastermind behind the crime, feeding Nicholas with tales of abuse to manipulate him. They also insisted his autism prevented him from making reasonable decisions.
Gypsy testified against Nicholas Godejohn in his trial, admitting to formulating the original idea of the murder. She said, however, Nicholas was a participant in the plan including deciding on a weapon and method for the killing (Vavra, 2018). Gypsy also told the jury that Nicholas originally wanted to rape her mother during the crime, but she did not want him to (Wikipedia, 2021). The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.
In February 2019, Nicholas Godejohn was sentenced to life without the possibly of parole plus twenty-five years (Dibdin, 2019). He gave an interview with Oxygen’s Snapped: Killer Couples, in which he described his relationship with Gypsy as “the best days of my life” (Verhoeven, 2019). He also stated “I would’ve done it again. I might have done it differently, but I would’ve done it again” (Verhoeven, 2019). He is appealing his sentence.
This case brings to light so many issues. First, the horrific child abuse inflicted on victims of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, such as Gypsy. How did the numerous physicians and healthcare workers she was treated by fail to recognize the issue? Why were so many surgical and medical treatments inflicted upon her despite the conditions not actually being reality? Did the doctors fail to do due diligence before treating a child? Even more disturbing, why did the one doctor who suspected abuse fail to notify authorities?
The second issue is culpability. Was Gypsy culpable for murder or was this, in her mind, her only self-defense? According to some family members, Gypsy demonstrates “sociopathic manipulative behavior” (Wikipedia, 2021). They believe this is a result of being raised by a manipulative sociopath. However, Gypsy seems remorseful and accepting of her punishment. Did she manipulate Nicholas Godejohn? Given his own history of autism and suspected mental illness, claiming to have multiple personalities, is Nicholas Godejohn any more culpable than Gypsy?
Claudine Blanchard was not a good person. She clearly committed fraud and child abuse and was suspected of murder and attempted murder by her own family. Her family did not hold a memorial for her after her death, and her father and stepmother ultimately disposed of her ashes by flushing them down the toilet (Wikipedia, 2021). She may have been mentally ill or maybe she was just a master manipulator. Due to her death, an official diagnosis of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy is not possible (Johnston, 2017).
Gypsy Blanchard will be a free woman for the first time in her entire life in a few years. She does not plan to have any contact with Nicholas Godejohn, according to interviews, and no longer claims to love him (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017). With psychological care and support from her father and stepmother, it is possible Gypsy may one day live a life as a productive member of society. She wants to write a book about her experiences and provide help to those who suffer from similar abuse (Weinman, 2020).
(Gypsy Blanchard, now)
Weinman, S. (2020) Unspeakable Acts; p. 3-34; Harper Collins Publishing. Available for purchase at: Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession: Weinman, Sarah, Keefe, Patrick Radden: 9780062839886: Amazon.com: Books
Missouri Department of Corrections (2021) Gypsy R Blancharde; Retrieved at: Offender Search: Offender Details (mo.gov)
Cleveland Clinic (2014) Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA); Retrieved at: Factitious Disorder (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy) (clevelandclinic.org)
Snapped: Killer Couples (2019) Blanchard Godejohn; Oxygen Network
Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017) Mommy Dead and Dearest; HBO
Dibdin, E. (2019) A complete timeline of Deedee Blanchard’s murder and Gypsy Blanchard’s trial; Bazaar; Retrieved at: The Act True Story Complete Timeline - Dee Dee Blanchard and Gypsy Blanchard's Real Life Explained (harpersbazaar.com)
Verhoeven, B. (2019) Nick Godejohn’s 6 most chilling statements about DeeDee Blanchard’s Murder; Retrieved at: Nick Godejohn's Most Chilling Remarks About Dee Dee Blanchard's Murder (thewrap.com)
Wikipedia (2021) Murder of Dee Dee Blanchard; Retrieved at: Murder of Dee Dee Blanchard - Wikipedia
Johnston, J. (2017) Munchausen by Proxy or Con Mom?; Psychology Today; Retrieved at: Munchausen by Proxy or Con Artist Mom? | Psychology Today
Vavra, Kassidy (2018) Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s ex-boyfriend found guilty of murder in her mother’s brutal stabbing death; NY Daily News; Retrieved at: Gypsy Rose Blanchard's ex-boyfriend found guilty of murder in her mother's brutal stabbing death - New York Daily News (nydailynews.com)