Claudinnea "Dee Dee" Blanchard appeared as a devoted and caring mother to her daughter, Gypsy Rose. Blanchard, originally from Louisiana, relocated to Missouri with her young daughter, who from birth allegedly suffered myriad illnesses, including chromosomal defects, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, leukemia, and more. In 2017, HBO released the documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, detailing the true events of Gypsy Rose's unusual story. Blanchard had misled the public, as well as Gypsy Rose, about her daughter's actual age - so at 18, wheelchair-bound Gypsy thought she was only 14. Everyone, including the girl's father, believed that Gypsy Rose had a diminished mental capacity as a result of her chronic illnesses. However, in June 2015, friends, doctors, and the Blanchard family's massive extended support system learned the truth: Blanchard had been intentionally making her daughter ill.
On June 14, 2015, Greene County Police discovered Blanchard's body after a family friend reported a suspicious Facebook post indicating that something was amiss. Through the investigation, police uncovered an extreme case of Munchausen by proxy, in which Blanchard had been committing all kinds of fraud and deliberately harming her daughter to garner sympathy and money. Blanchard's death came as a shock, as the constant caregiver to Gypsy Rose was publicly-known for their involvement with such charities as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House, and Habitat for Humanity. When the knowledge of Gypsy Rose's clandestine online boyfriend came to light, people began questioning whether the chronically-ill child was a part of the elaborate charade. Then, when the authorities traced the IP address of the post boasting Blanchard's passing to Nicholas Godejohn - Gypsy's beau - the public received another shocking blow: Gypsy Rose had orchestrated her mother's murder.
Blanchard Made Gypsy Undergo Needless Surgeries
Blanchard's ruse of having an ill child went beyond parading Gypsy in a wheelchair. The toothless girl required a feeding tube, received repeated eye surgeries, and had Botox injected into her salivary glands before they were removed entirely. Gypsy, who believed she had leukemia and received chemo treatments, also had an oxygen tank as a daily staple. Until she reached adulthood, Gypsy believed that she was "paralyzed from the waist down" and required the use of a wheelchair.
Blanchard was reportedly controlling and even educating her daughter, deemed by her as too sick for school, at home. According to family friends, Blanchard exhibited physical control over her daughter in the company of others. Psychologists later speculated Blanchard's domineering behavior as a means to prevent her daughter from accidentally exposing her fraud. In HBO's documentary on Gypsy Rose, an expert on Munchausen explained that the abuser exerts control both physically and mentally.
Blanchard's Ex Was In The Dark
Dee Dee Blanchard had changed the spelling of her last name when she relocated from Louisiana. She and former husband Rod Blanchard had separated after a brief marriage, but he reportedly was by no means the distant, cruel, and negligent father Blanchard had presented him to be. Rod had taken Gypsy on trips when she was younger and maintained pleasant exchanges with his ex on the phone. He had consistently been paying Blanchard $1,200 a month in child support to help with medical expenses, even after Gypsy turned 18.
However, Rod had been in the dark about the extent to which Blanchard had manufactured Gypsy's health issues. Rod explained that Gypsy had been healthy until she was about 3 months old - when Blanchard became convinced the infant had sleep apnea and seizures. Blanchard began to speak about Gypsy's chromosomal defect and, backed with medical terminology from her time working as a nurse's aid, seemed to know what she was talking about. Rod believed her.
In a 2016 interview with BuzzFeed, Rod explains his ex's possible motives:
I think Dee Dee’s problem was she started a web of lies, and there was no escaping after [...] She got so wound up in it, it was like a tornado got started, and then once she was in so deep that there was no escaping. One lie had to cover another lie, had to cover another lie, and that was her way of life.
Blanchard Even Fooled Gypsy's Doctors
Doctors seemed to trust Blanchard's assessment of Gypsy's frail health, even when the evidence didn't add up. But as a fraud, Blanchard moved around a lot, changing Gypsy's doctors and not leaving a clear medical trail. Many doctors adored the pair, one even calling them their "favorite mother, daughter patient."
But some of the doctors were suspicious. One noticed that Gypsy tested negative for muscular dystrophy, despite the mother's insistence that she had it. Another noted that Blanchard and Gypsy's relationship showed "a strong possibility of Munchausen by proxy," a condition in which a person intentionally makes another individual ill in order to gain attention and sympathy. Blanchard stopped seeing those doctors.
Although professionals conclude that Blanchard likely had MSBP, she was not examined prior to her passing.
Gypsy Rose Is Perfectly Healthy
When Greene County Police tracked the IP address of the posts on Blanchard's Facebook page, they led back to Nicholas Godejohn of Big Bend, Wisconsin - Gypsy's secret boyfriend. Police went to his house, where he gave himself up. Gypsy was with him, and to everyone's relief, the sick teen was unharmed.
However, Gypsy was more than fine. She had left all of her wheelchairs at home because she didn't need them. She hadn't needed her medication or used her oxygen tank. While she had previously been bald, her hair was starting to grow back. Later reports revealed that Blanchard had been shaving her daughter's head, an act authorities speculate to proliferate the image of Gypsy Rose's illness.
When investigators and health professionals evaluated the teen, they discovered that she had never been sick. When questioned after Blanchard's passing, Gypsy explained that she was afraid to disobey her mother's story, even when she suspected that she wasn't as ill as her mother maintained. In Gypsy's Revenge, the 2018 Investigation Discovery documentary, Gypsy Rose elaborates how her mother's lies isolated her and prevented her from obtaining help:
I couldn’t just jump out of the wheelchair because I was afraid and I didn’t know what my mother would do. I didn’t have anyone to trust [...] I couldn’t trust Aleah because my mother was starting to put things in my head that Aleah wasn’t my true friend and that she was a bad influence on me so I couldn’t be friends with her anymore [...] I didn’t reach out to my dad because I grew up with my mom saying all these horrible things about him.