12 Shockingly True Munchausen by Proxy Stories

Imagine pretending to be sick or injured just to receive attention. While it seems strange, there's actually a psychiatric disorder called Munchausen syndrome that describes people who do just that. And, in some cases, the person with Munchausen inflicts injury or illness on someone else - often a child - for the same reasons. 

Munchausen by proxy is a sadistic disorder that causes caregivers to hurt others for their own benefit. Because the perpetrators are frequently mothers, it is usually a long time before doctors or authorities suspect anything at all. Although the motive is generally to elicit emotional sympathy and attention - not murder - there are many true stories of Munchausen by proxy that end in death. 

These true Munchausen by proxy cases are horrifying and sad, and these stories can seriously mess with your head


  • Marybeth Tinning - The Deadliest Case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Ever

    Marybeth Tinning had eight biological children and one adopted son. None of these kids lived past the age of four.

    Although prosecutors are convinced Tinning murdered several - if not all - of her children, she was only convicted of murdering her youngest daughter, whom she smothered with a pillow on December 20, 1985.

    In a parole board meeting she said she did not murder the others but that they died from sudden infant death syndrome. The only explanation she provided to the board was that she was so traumatized by the death of her other babies, she was convinced her youngest was dying too, so she killed her instead.

    Tinning is serving 20 years to life at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

  • Beverley Allitt: Notorious Night Nurse

    Beverley Allitt, better known as the Angel of Death, is one of the most notorious female serial killers of all time.

    Allitt trained as a nurse in England where her reputation was less than pristine. She was frequently absent as a result of a string of “illnesses," and was once caught smearing feces on the walls of a nursing home. She later worked in the children’s ward at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire. It was during this time Allitt began abusing her patients.

    Once her killing spree began she took the lives of three patients in only a month, including seven-month-old Liam Taylor and 11-year old Timothy Hardwick, a cerebral palsy patient. Allitt was overlooked until two more children were murdered and another nine abused under her watch.

    Allitt was found guilty of murder and attempted murder. She is serving 13 life sentences - the most severe sentence ever given to a woman.

  • Lisa Hayden-Johnson and "The Sickest Child in England"

    Not only did Lisa Hayden-Johnson get the empathy and support that came with having a sick child, she also received monetary benefits. Hayden-Johnson didn't turn down any of the lavish gifts offered to her for having "the most ill child in Britain." After her son was born prematurely, Hayden-Johnson began forcing him into a wheelchair for his "cystic fibrosis," feeding him through a tube in order to avoid triggering his "life-threatening allergies," and adding glucose to his urine to convince doctors his "diabetes."

    Meanwhile, she was invited to meet with royalty at a charity event for critically ill children, collected thousands in disability payments each month, and received free tickets, vacations, and charitable cash donations. That all came crashing down when doctors became suspicious of Hayden-Johnson and demanded her son receive further testing to determine the root of his various illnesses. Hayden-Johnson tried to put off the testing by saying she was sexually assaulted, but eventually it was discovered it was all a big sham. 

    After six years of abuse and lies, Hayden-Johnson was tried and convicted of child abuse and perverting the cause of justice. She served 39 months in prison.

  • Dee Dee Blanchard: A Munchausen Mother Murdered

    Like the others on this list, Dee Dee Blanchard played the part of a sweet and devoted mother to her sickly teenage daughter, Gypsy. That is, until a status update appeared on Blanchard's Facebook page that read "That b*tch is dead!" and Blanchard was found murdered in her home. 

    It turned out her teenage daughter Gypsy was actually a healthy 23-year-old woman who said her mother had forced her to play ill. In 2015, Gypsy met a man online named Nick Godejohn who agreed to kill her mother. 

    Gypsy was convicted of murder and given the minimum sentence of 10 years.

  • Lacey Spears Found Guilty of Poisoning Son With Salt

    Mommy blogger Lacey Spears went to prison for murdering her son with fatal levels of sodium. 

    Spears was giving her son high levels of sodium through a feeding tube that caused him to become very sick. She said her son Garnett had numerous illnesses. During this time, he was in and out of 20 different medical facilities, none of which were given information about Garnett's other hospital visits.

    Then, in 2014, the sodium reached such a high level, Garnett was placed on a life flight to another hospital. Unfortunately, his brain suffered irreparable swelling and he was pronounced brain dead. 

    Suspicions about Spears arose among the medical personnel. They launched an investigation and searched her home. Police found medicine bottles sitting behind a canister of salt, and later recovered two bags of breast milk that Spears used to feed Garnett through his feeding tube with fatal levels of sodium in them. 

    She was found guilty of depraved-indifference murder of a child and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

  • Leslie Wilfred and Her Endless Lies

    In 2008, Leslie Wilfred called her husband Chris from a Georgia hospital room with news that their twins were stillborn five months into Leslie's pregnancy. A service was held for the twins with photos of their ultrasounds and two matching teddy bear-shaped urns. Family and friends gathered to mourn and show their support.

    Leslie and Chris Wilfred had four children from previous relationships, all of whom suffered from a slew of psychological and medical conditions, according to their parents. Their drama-filled history raised suspicions with the authorities. It all came to a head after the babies' deaths and resulted in a full-blown investigation.

    While filing through her computer, police discovered Wilfred had ordered the urns five days before the “death” of her children. Investigators also discovered that Wilfred had her tubes tied before marrying Chris, she was never pregnant with twins, and her other claims made about her actual children's terminal health issues were not true. 

    Wilfred was sentenced to eight years in prison and 30 years of probation for child abuse.