Gypsy Rose Blanchard sounded happy in the phone call to her best friend, Aleah, as she rattled off the tips she was learning about hair and makeup from her new pals – the type of conversations had by countless young women embarking on a new life chapter or adventure. She was in her mid-20s, and Aleah could tell that Gypsy was feeling free, independent and more mature.
But the articulate brunette with a childlike voice was not calling from a college dorm or new city; instead, she was phoning Aleah from prison, and her conversation began with profuse apologies. Gypsy was serving a ten-year sentence in connection with the 2015 murder of her own mother, and her entire friendship with Aleah had been based on lies.
For nearly two decades, Gypsy’s mother, Dee Dee, had woven an elaborate web of untruths, telling friends and family across the country that her only daughter suffered from leukemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and a host of other severe health problems. She kept Gypsy’s hair in a buzz cut, lied about her age and said the girl was confined to a wheelchair. Dee Dee presented herself as the ultimate selfless caretaker who devoted every moment to looking after her daughter.
Then Gypsy and the boyfriend she found on an internet dating site conspired to kill her in the Missouri home mother and daughter shared; Gypsy hid in the bathroom while her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, fatally stabbed Dee Dee in her bed. The couple fled to his home state of Wisconsin, sparking a massive manhunt as authorities searched for the allegedly disabled teen.
The discovery of Gypsy safe and sound – and able-bodied and cancer-free – quickly morphed from relief to shock and disbelief amongst the people who knew her best. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a more lenient sentence, while Godejohn remains in custody awaiting a trial scheduled to start next month. He faces life in prison.
Louisiana woman Dee Dee Blanchard, right, convinced family, friends and the public that her daughter, Gypsy Rose, left, suffered from serious health problems – though the girl was actually perfectly healthy
Gypsy, pictured in the hospital, was prescribed numerous medications and underwent multiple surgeries as a young girl – before rebelling against her mother’s controlling ways
Gypsy, now in her mid-20s, speaks in a new documentary; she and a boyfriend she found on the internet orchestrated her mother’s murder in 2015, and Gypsy accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder for which she is currently serving a 10-year sentence
Gypsy Rose, left, and Wisconsin man Nicholas Godejohn, right, were both arrested in the death of Dee Dee Blanchard; both have admitted he fatally stabbed the woman and his trial is scheduled to begin next month. He says in the film: ‘No matter what happens, I’m always going to love her unconditionally’
They both speak about the crime in upcoming documentary Gypsy’s Revenge, which premieres November 7 on Investigation Discovery – and offers not only a stark exploration of the deceit perpetrated by Dee Dee but also vastly different takes on the relationship between the conspirators who planned her murder. The pair have not spoken since their arrests more than three years ago.
‘No matter what happens, I’m always going to love her unconditionally,’ Godejohn says in the film, adding: ‘To this day, I still do love her – and I know for a fact that she still does love me.’
Gypsy, however – now sporting locks that tumble beyond her shoulders and a markedly different air of confidence – seems to feel the very opposite.
‘Now that I’ve grown and matured, I know the difference between love and infatuation,’ she says in the film. ‘He wants to feel whatever he wants to feel, but I don’t love him no more.’
The entire saga began more than 25 years ago in Louisiana, when Dee Dee became pregnant by her boyfriend, 17-year-old Rod Blanchard, several years her junior and ‘wild as a weed,’ he says in the film. The pair had a shotgun wedding that was short-lived, but Rod committed to supporting Dee Dee and Gypsy and playing as much of a role in his daughter’s life as he could.
Soon, however, his ex-wife began insisting Gypsy has serious health problems; by the time she was about seven, he says, his daughter was confined to a wheelchair.
‘After that first time I saw her in the wheelchair, I never seen her walk again,’ Rod says. ‘But through all the illnesses, she’s always been a trooper. She’s always been all smiles.’
As he continued to financially help his ex and daughter, however, Dee Dee kept moving Gypsy further and further away – first to other parts of Louisiana and then, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the state, to Missouri.
‘It seemed like Dee Dee was never letting us build that father/daughter relationship that you’re supposed to have with your children,’ says Rod, who describes his contact with Gypsy as mostly via phone and sending presents.
‘I never raised any really hard questions with Dee Dee, because she’d still allow me to talk to her when I called,’ he says, adding: ‘I knew that if I raised any serious questions or issues, she’d cut me off in a minute.’
But the extent of the lies spun by Dee Dee – who was posthumously considered to have Munchausen by proxy syndrome, in which a caregiver keeps a dependent sick to bask in the attention themselves – never occurred to him. And he was far from the only one duped by Dee Dee, who received everything from modified cars to concert tickets and vacations and even a house from well-meaning charities and people.
Even Gypsy’s many doctors seemed taken in by the farce; she had multiple surgeries, was on various medications and even had a feeding tube installed because Dee Dee insisted her daughter couldn’t eat normally. She altered Gypsy’s birth certificate to make her seem younger – and more easily controllable, convincing the girl she had years before she turned 18. Dee Dee’s interactions with doctors were also aided by Katrina itself, because she claimed all of Gypsy’s records had been destroyed in the storm.
‘She had a very persuasive persona on the outside – you would almost think that she’s just the kindest, sweetest, most genuine woman,’ an adult Gypsy says in the film.
Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose lived in Louisiana until Hurricane Katrina devastated the state in 2005; they relocated to Springfield, Missouri, where they were given a house with a ramp and a modified vehicle for transporting Gypsy, who was allegedly disabled
To outsiders, mother and daughter had a wonderfully loving relationship, though Gypsy later asserted that Dee Dee was controlling, abusive and manipulative
The family accepted everything from concert tickets and transportation to vacations – such as this Disney trip – from well-meaning people and charities who believed Gypsy was dying
Gypsy enjoyed dressing up and had a bubbly, grateful, childlike personality; she says in the film that she went along with her mother’s ruse because she truly believed she had many health problems and was also afraid of defying Dee Dee
Many friends and family were shocked in 2015 when Gypsy – who they thought was severely disabled – walked unaided into the courtroom to be charged in connection with her mother’s gruesome murder; Dee Dee was stabbed in her bed in the Missouri home the pair shared
She adds: ‘If she found the doctor didn’t agree with what she wanted … she would switch to a different doctor that she would find.
‘I’ve probably seen over 100 doctors in my life.’
As she grew older, however, Gypsy knew that she could walk and eat, though she believed she did have many of the serious ailments and continued going along with Dee Dee’s ruse – especially because she claims her mother controlled and abused her.
‘I couldn’t just jump out of the wheelchair because, to be honest, I was afraid what my mother might do,’ Gypsy says in the new documentary. ‘I didn’t think that I had 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.’
When it came to asking her father for help, she says: ‘I grew up with my mom saying all these horrible things about him – that he abandoned us, that he didn’t love me or her, that he didn’t want anything to do with me.
‘If I’d known then what I know now, I would’ve reached out to anybody for help – but I was too afraid to.’
The pull of human relationships, though – friendship and romance – made her a bit bolder as she got older, and homeschooled Gypsy began contacting people under secret profiles she created online.
One of those was friend and neighbor Aleah Woodmansee, who was a few years Gypsy’s senior – or so she thought.
‘We were very friendly to each other, but we hadn’t really gotten to know each other on like a real friendship level until she started messaging me [on facebook,]’ Aleah says in the film. ‘Gypsy had set up a secret facebook account so that we could talk and she could vent without having to be filtered or censored by her mom – because her mom was always present every time we were hanging out together.
‘She was just coming to me like an older companion, because she’s only ever had her mom her entire life. And I figured I could be that friend that could be there and listen to her and share secrets with – so she started calling me her big sis and I started calling her little sis.’
Much of the advice Gypsy was seeking centered on boys – and she confided in Aleah that she’d met a boyfriend named Nicholas online; they even prepared to marry. Aleah, fearing a predator, urged caution but assumed that Dee Dee would keep an eye on things.
She hadn’t the faintest clue that Gypsy and the out-of-state boyfriend were capable of hatching a murder plan, but that’s exactly what they would soon get up to. They met online in 2012 and within a week considered themselves a couple; about a year later, Gypsy told him the truth: that she could walk. He, in turn, struggled with some mental problems, and he told Gypsy about having multiple personalities trapped inside him.
She told Nick that they could only be together if her mother was completely out of the picture – and they began searching murder methods such as poison and arson before settling on stabbing. On June 10, 2015, he traveled from Wisconsin to the Blanchard home in Springfield, Missouri, fatally stabbing Dee Dee, leaving the body in the house and then absconding with Gypsy.
Within days, the pair left gruesome comments on the facebook page Dee Dee and Gypsy shared – such as ‘That b***h is dead – allegedly to alert friends and family that something was wrong to ensure Dee Dee’s body would be found. Authorities traced the IP address to Godejohn’s family home in Big Bend, and the pair were discovered.
‘We thought that we would never get caught,’ Gypsy says in the film. ‘I felt like this is a fairytale, and I was gonna be the princess that gets rescued – and then I’d be happy in Wisconsin, where I’d be loved and I’d have my freedom and have this wonderful new life.
‘What started as a fairytale ended as a horror movie.’
The couple were both charged with first-degree murder, but Gypsy pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree and was given a ten-year sentence. She insists in the movie that she had no idea she didn’t have cancer and various other ailments until her lawyer told her that tests indicated she was perfectly healthy.
It also transpired that at least one pediatric neurologist had suspected Munchausen by proxy – but failed to alert social services.
‘I don’t blame her for what she done,’ Gypsy’s father says in the film. ‘Everyone failed Gypsy, from myself, her mother, doctors, police, social services. We all looked out for ourselves [and weren’t] totally looking out for her.’
New documentary Gypsy’s Revenge, which airs on Investigation Discovery on November 6, includes revelations about Dee Dee’s own past – such as the overbearing mother who wouldn’t let her play with her siblings and her criminal past, including shoplifting and fraud
Dee Dee told medical professionals, after relocating from Louisiana to Missouri, that her daughter’s medical records had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina; Gypsy says in the new film: ‘She had a very persuasive persona on the outside – you would almost think that she’s just the kindest, sweetest, most genuine woman … If she found the doctor didn’t agree with what she wanted … she would switch to a different doctor that she would find … I’ve probably seen over 100 doctors in my life’
Dee Dee repeatedly moved Gypsy further and further away from relatives and the girl’s father, Rod Blanchard, to avoid detection; he says in the film: ‘I don’t blame [Gypsy] for what she done … Everyone failed Gypsy, from myself, her mother, doctors, police, social services. We all looked out for ourselves [and weren’t] totally looking out for her’
The film also includes various revelations about Dee Dee’s treatment by her own mother – a woman who often told her other children that her youngest daughter was sick and couldn’t play – and Dee Dee’s criminal past, involving behaviors such as shoplifting and fraud. Friends and family from all corners of the Blanchard women’s lives felt utterly betrayed and horrified as more and more information filtered out.
‘It became one of the least difficult cases I’ve ever seen in establishing: This is Munchausen by proxy,’ Dr Marc Feldman, a psychiatry professor, says in the film, adding that ‘Dee Dee was a woman of fairly few accomplishments’ who reveled in the ‘sense of identity of the indefatigable, heroic caregiver who left others breathless with the excellence of her child-rearing.’
‘My view of Dee Dee – I mean, once I started realizing the extent of what she did and her actions – I started realizing how cruel she was and how she allowed her daughter to be essentially tortured constantly for all of her life,’ Aleah says.
She adds: ‘I just don’t know what I was doing to make her feel like I couldn’t do something. I don’t know what made her resist just opening up and just telling me what was going on.’
The crime left a wave of confusion, disbelief, shock and horror in its wake – but one person who seems to be adjusting fine is Gypsy, who will be eligible for parole in 2024. She is due to get out of prison at the age of 32.
‘I have a lot of complicated emotions for my mother,’ she says in the film. ‘There are some times that I’m angry at her; there are times where I’m like, she just was so desperate for somebody to love her.
‘But regardless of all that, I still love her and I still miss her. She was my mother.’
Aleah, recounting that prison phone call from the friend she truly barely knew, says: ‘She immediately started apologizing for everything, and then she started carrying on about how she’s learning to do her hair and she’s learning to do her makeup and she’s making friends.
‘I mean, honestly, it sounds like she’s just away for college. And I feel like, as sad as it may sound, her story really does finally have a happy ending – at least for her.’