We're big fans of true crime around here. And we've been loving all the true crime documentaries and shows that have been on lately. Whether it's a show about an unbelievable child abduction, or a series about one of the most famous serial killers of all time, we're into it! True crime fascinates us to no end. Our newest obsession isn't a documentary, but it's based on one of the most infamous cases in recent memory. The Act on Hulu is a dramatized series about the story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. If you're not familiar with their story, brace yourself because it's a doozy.
In 2015, Dee Dee Blanchard was found murdered in her home, and daughter Gypsy Rose was nowhere to be found. Gypsy was considered incredibly medically fragile, suffering from several serious medical conditions. She was wheelchair-bound, she had a feeding tube, and was believed to have the mental capacity of a 7-year-old despite being 24 years old. But as investigators dug deeper, they discovered the horrid truth. Gypsy Rose wasn't sick at all - she was the victim of her mother Dee Dee's abuse. Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and had been making Gypsy Rose sick her entire life. In a final act of defiance to gain her freedom, Gypsy and then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn conspired to murder Dee Dee. Their story is horrifying, but so incredibly fascinating. Here's what you might not know about Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard.
The couple got married after finding out Dee Dee was pregnant. But they separated shortly before Gypsy was born in 1991. Rod later said that he realized they got married for all the wrong reasons. Apparently Dee Dee tried to get Rod to come back, but their marriage was over. She eventually took newborn Gypsy to live with her family. But Rod stayed involved in her life, visiting regularly and paying child support. The first few months of Gypsy's life were rather uneventful, despite being born slightly premature. There were no signs of any of the health issues that would soon surface.
Gypsy Rose was born slightly premature, but didn't seem to have any issue beyond the development of her skull. But when she was around 3 months old, Dee Dee became convinced that Gypsy was suffering from sleep apnea. She began taking the baby to the hospital for repeated overnight stays and various tests. The tests showed that Gypsy Rose was healthy and was not suffering from any illnesses. But Dee Dee was adamant that her daughter had several health issues, which she attributed to an underlying and undiagnosed chromosomal disorder. She continued to take Gypsy to hospitals and doctors to identify the issue.
According to Gypsy's uncle Bobby Pitre, when she was around 7 or 8 she was involved in a minor accident while riding with her grandpa on his motorcycle. Gypsy only suffered a minor abrasion on her knee, but Dee Dee saw it as a visible sign of the illnesses she believed Gypsy suffered from. Gypsy soon underwent the first of many surgeries for these imaginary illnesses. Additionally, Gypsy had been using a wheelchair since she was around 5 years old. Although she was healthy enough to walk on her own and exhibited many signs that proved that, she used the wheelchair almost exclusively.
There seems to be some inconsistency in regards to when exactly Gypsy stopped attending traditional public school. Some reports say she stopped after kindergarten, while some say she stopped after kindergarten. This could be because Dee Dee lied about Gypsy's age to make her seem younger than she actually was. Either way, Dee Dee started homeschooling Gypsy very early on. She claimed attending school was impossible because of Gypsy's many disabilities and illnesses. But Dee Dee didn't actually spent much time on the school part of homeschooling. Gypsy says she taught herself to read using Harry Potter books.
Relatives recall that during Dee Dee's childhood, she often resorted to petty crime in retaliation when things didn't go her way. As she got older, she ran afoul of the law in other ways, often for writing bad checks. But her family suspects she committed far more sinister crimes. In 1997, relatives began to suspect that Dee Dee played a hand in her mother's death, by starving her. Her father eventually remarried and Dee Dee and Gypsy moved in with them after the end of her marriage to Rod. During the time they lived there, Dee Dee's stepmother's health began to suffer. Her family suspects Dee Dee was poisoning her by putting Round Up weed killer in her food. They confronted Dee Dee, who fled the home with Gypsy. The stepmother's health returned to normal after they left.
The sleep apnea when Gypsy was an infant was just the beginning. Dee Dee had everyone convinced, including Gypsy, that she was suffering from many life-threatening and debilitating illnesses. She said Gypsy had leukemia, muscular dystrophy, asthma, vision and hearing impairments, epilepsy, developmental disabilities, and partial paralysis. To keep up appearances, Dee Dee kept her daughter confined to a wheelchair, shaved her head, and made her wear almost comically large glasses. People who interacted with Gypsy when she was younger recall her being very friendly and talkative, but remember that she spoke with a very high, childlike voice and seemed much younger than she actually was. Dee Dee told people Gypsy was 4-6 years younger than her age.
You'd think that the various doctors and specialists who say Gypsy Rose Blanchard would be able to tell there was nothing wrong with her. But inexplicably, Gypsy underwent several surgeries and procedures, seemingly at the behest of Dee Dee. Says Gypsy, "She said I couldn’t eat and needed a feeding tube, so I had formula through a feeding tube and also received my medication through a feeding tube. I’ve had my salivary glands removed because my mother said that I drooled. I had the feeing tube placement in my tummy, I had multiple eye surgeries on right and left eye. Ear surgeries, muscle biopsy to find out why my legs didn’t work, a surgery to make me not throw up anymore. I believed I had all these illnesses, except I knew that I could walk and I knew that I could eat."
While in Slidell, Dee Dee continued to take Gypsy to various doctors and hospitals for her fake illnesses. Still, no one seemed to blink an eye or raise any flags that something might be amiss. Gypsy was seen at Tulane Medical Center and Children's Hospital of New Orleans. Dee Dee convinced doctors that Gypsy could possibly have muscular dystrophy, and a muscle biopsy was done. She told them Gypsy suffered from seizures, so doctors prescribed anti-seizure medication. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the area and destroyed the apartment Dee Dee and Gypsy shared. They sought shelter in Covington, and told doctors there that the flooding had destroyed all of Gypsy's medical records and even her birth certificate. It was suggested they return to Missouri, and they were airlifted there in 2008.
Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard settled in Springfield, Missouri. They lived in a house custom built for them by Habitat for Humanity, complete with wide doorways and ramps to accommodate Gypsy's wheelchair. They received monetary donations, awards, and recognition from various charities and organizations. They got a free trip to Walt Disney World, a wheelchair accessible car, and even concert tickets and backstage passes from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The pair even captured the attention of various celebrities like Elijah Wood, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert, who actually have Dee Dee and Gypsy a personal check for $3,500.
Dee Dee grew particularly close to neighbor Amy Pinegar, a single mom to four kids. Over the years, Dee Dee told Pinegar that she fled her abusive family after her father burned Gypsy with cigarettes. She also told her that Rod, Gypsy's dad, was a deadbeat alcoholic who used to make fun of Gypsy's disabilities and called the Special Olympics a freak show. Dee Dee told Pinegar that Rod never contributed a dime to Gypsy or her medical care, not even after they lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. In reality, Rod had continued to try to maintain a relationship with Gypsy, despite Dee Dee preventing him from seeing her and limiting their contact. He also sent $1200 a month in child support every single month, even after Gypsy turned 18.
While most doctors that saw Gypsy appeared to take her symptoms and Dee Dee's stories about her health at face value, there was one exception. According to a report by Buzzfeed, in 2007 a pediatric neurologist named Bernardo Flasterstein became involved in Gypsy's care when he consulted on her case in Missouri. He doubted their story from the first meeting. He gave them the benefit of the doubt initially, and ordered the usual tests and scans. Everything came back normal, and Flasterstein even had Gypsy stand up in his presence to verify she could hold her own weight. In his notes on the case he wrote, "there is a strong possibility of Munchausen by proxy, with maybe some underlying unknown etiology to explain for her symptoms." Dee Dee and Gypsy did not return after that visit.
Gypsy Rose clearly loved her mom, and probably felt incredibly lucky that she had such a devoted and dedicated mother to care for her. She had no reason to doubt the things Dee Dee told her. That is, until she uncovered the truth about something Dee Dee had lied to her about for years. When she was a teenager, she discovered her own Medicaid card, which listed her date of birth as 1991 and not 1995, which is when Dee Dee had told her she was born. For years, Gypsy thought she was four years younger than she actually was.
After that, the doubts began to grow. Gypsy says her mother wouldn't allow her to speak at doctor's appointments, and had even physically abused her by chaining her to the bed and hitting her with hangers. Gypsy says Dee Dee went from a loving mother to somebody that I was quite afraid of. I felt like there was no hope. I kept thinking, 'Dear God get me out of here somehow.'"
Gypsy Rose Blanchard was only allowed to access the internet under Dee Dee's supervision. But somehow, she managed to create a secret Facebook account under the name Emma Rose, which she would use to send messages to friends and ask for advice about dating and kissing. She also spent time on a Christian dating site, which is where she met Nicholas Godejohn. The pair fell hard and fast. In one message Gypsy wrote, "I need to tell you something. I'm no model…I have a medical condition..so I can't walk, I have a chair I use…is that a issue?" Nick responded, "why would that be a problem u are an angel in my eyes…it will never make any difference in how I see u from the inside out."
Investigators say that Godejohn was similar in some ways to Gypsy Rose Blanchard, in that he functioned at the level of a 15-16 year old and had trouble with normal social interactions. He was from Wisconsin, and reportedly struggled with mental health issues. In 2013, Godejohn was arrested for masturbating in the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant. He was also charged with carrying a concealed knife. Gypsy says that Godejohn was into BDSM, which made her uncomfortable but which she went along with anyway. She also says that he claimed to have multiple personalities, so she made up other personalities to go along with them. She even introduced him to Dee Dee, but the meeting was a disaster. Gypsy says, "Awful, oh my god. She got jealous because I was spending a little too much attention on him and she had ordered me to stay away from him."
In June 2015, Nicholas Godejohn traveled to the home Gypsy shared with Dee Dee. After sneaking into the house, Godejohn stabbed Dee Dee to death, while Gypsy hid in the bathroom. After Dee Dee was dead, a startling post was shared on the Facebook account Gypsy shared with her mom.
The couple fled to Wisconsin, and were arrested in Godejohn's home the day after Dee Dee's body was found. While Gypsy did not participate in the murder itself, she did nothing as Godejohn stabbed Dee Dee and slahed her throat. She says, "I heard her scream once and there was more screaming, but not like the kind in a horror film," Gypsy recalled, "A startled scream…she called out my name about three or four times, at that point I wanted to go help her so bad, but I was so afraid to get up. And then everything just went quiet."
After Gypsy was taken into custody, the web of lies that Dee Dee maintained for years began to unravel. Investigators discovered that she was completely healthy, and did not have any of the conditions that Dee Dee claimed she did. She could walk, she didn't need a feeding tube. Even her own father was shocked by the revelations. Rod told 20/20, "I still did not want to believe she could walk when she came on the news. In fact, I rewound it and played it multiple times." He started to question everything he'd been told by Dee Dee all these years, and acknowledged in hindsight that there were so many red flags.
Gypsy testified for the defense during Godejohn's trial, saying she was the mastermind behind the murder and taking the blame for her mother's death. She says that she bears no ill will toward her ex-boyfriend, saying that she feels sorry for him. She compares him to her mother, saying they were both very controlling. Regarding her prison sentence, Gypsy is looking on the bright side and compares it to life with Dee Dee. She says, "In some ways they're the same, but now I'm so much more freer. I couldn't walk, I couldn't eat, I couldn't have friends. I feel like I'm freer in prison than living with my mom. [I can] live like a normal woman."
In the HBO documentary about the case, Mommy Dead and Dearest, an expert on Munchausen syndrome by proxy says that Gypsy's behavior after the murder suggests she also suffers from some sort of sociopathy. Michelle Dean, the investigative journalist who covered the case for Buzzfeed, also has some concerns. Dean says, "I do think Gypsy is potentially dangerous. Dee Dee was a master manipulator. It's impossible that Gypsy would not have picked this up and used it."
Gypsy herself seems to acknowledge that her mother may have left an indelible mark on her. She told Buzzfeed, "I've been raised to do what my mother taught me to do. And those things aren't very good. She taught me to lie, and I don't wanna lie. I want to be a good, honest person."