The Shocking Saga of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the Murder of Her Mother

Once she was in prison for her mother's murder, Gypsy Rose Blanchard said she finally felt free: The abuse, lies and two twisted love stories that gripped the world.

By Natalie Finn Oct 07, 2023 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Her Emmy-Winning Performance as Dee Dee Blanchard

By the time she was 8 years old, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was fighting an onslaught of debilitating, life-threatening health issues.

That's what her mother told her, at least.

There was never any proof that Gypsy had been officially diagnosed with cancer or muscular dystrophy, or even asthma, Clauddine "Dee Dee" Blanchard telling doctors that her daughter's birth certificate and medical records were lost after Hurricane Katrina.

"There are certain illnesses I knew I didn't have," Gypsy said on 20/20 in 2018, reflecting on the series of events that culminated with her serving prison time for her mother's murder. "I knew I didn't need the feeding tube. I knew that I could eat, and I knew that I could walk."

But whether sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to machines or en route to Disney World courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the frail, wheelchair-bound child with a shaved head and megawatt smile certainly seemed to be afflicted with...something.

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"I did believe my mother when she said that I had leukemia," Gypsy continued. "Because I was taking lots of medications, and mom said that they were for cancer, and she would shave my hair off and said, 'It's going to fall out anyway, so let's keep it nice and neat.'"

Gypsy was suffering, but she eventually concluded it was Dee Dee who was making sure she stayed that way.

Greene County Sheriff's Office

Who was Dee Dee Blanchard?

Rod Blanchard was 17 when he married his pregnant girlfriend Clauddine "Dee Dee" Pitre, a 24-year-old former beauty queen and nursing aide. But they split up by the time Gypsy was born in Golden Meadow, La., and he said Dee Dee made it difficult for him to see their daughter—who, according to his ex-wife, had serious health problems.   

"After that first time I saw her in the wheelchair [when she was 7], I never seen her walk again," Rod said of his daughter in the 2018 Investigation Discovery documentary Gypsy's Revenge. "But through all the illnesses, she's always been a trooper."

Dee Dee prevented him and Gypsy from getting too close, Rod recalled, and he regretfully never asked "really hard questions," worried his ex would cut off contact completely. And when he did see Gypsy, Rod told ABC News, "Dee Dee had to be there the whole time. Something never felt right about it. Dee Dee was so controlling."

Mother and daughter moved to Springfield, Mo., after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana's Gulf Coast in 2005. Dee Dee told the doctors she took Gypsy to—insisting her child was seriously ill—that all of her medical records had been lost in the storm. Gypsy has said she was told not to speak during those appointments.

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"She had a very persuasive persona on the outside," she said of her mother in Gypsy's Revenge. "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."

Being the professed sole caregiver for a disabled child meant Dee Dee was able to take advantage of available social services, and she and her daughter were the beneficiaries of numerous gifts from charities, their community and concerned citizens from all over who heard about them on the news. Their soon-to-be-notorious pink house on North Volunteer Way was provided by Habitat for Humanity.

Investigation Discovery

Who Is Gypsy Rose Blanchard?

Named after the famous burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, who infamously had the mother of all stage moms, Gypsy was born on July 27, 1991. At the time of the murder, she was older than her mother had led people to believe.

According to Rod, when Gypsy was 3 months old, Dee Dee was concerned the baby had a sleep disorder and took her to a hospital. Tests found nothing wrong, but that was just the beginning of Dee Dee's obsession with Gypsy's health. She told people the child had a chromosomal disorder (she did not) and suffered seizures from epilepsy. Gypsy said on Dr. Phil that her mom gave her a walker as a young child and explained it was because she had muscular dystrophy.

When she was 7, a minor motorcycle accident with her grandfather left her with a skinned knee, according to Gypsy, after which her mother said she was paralyzed and would need to use a wheelchair.

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"The prison that I was living in before, with my mom, it's, like, I couldn't walk," Gypsy told ABC News. "I couldn't eat. I couldn't have friends. I couldn't go outside, you know, and play with friends or anything."

Even expressing interest in the outside world came with consequences.

"It would go into an argument that would last a couple days, or it could be something where she wouldn't feed me for two days, or so," Gypsy told ABC News. "It started to be physical in 2011. She would hit me with a coat hanger sometimes."

She was afraid to fight back, Gypsy continued, but did unsuccessfully attempt to run away once, after which Dee Dee "physically chained me to the bed and put bells on the doors."

Who was Gypsy Rose Blanchard's boyfriend?

In 2012, Gypsy met Nicholas P. Godejohn of Big Bend, Wisc., on a Christian dating website and it wasn't long before they were promising each other forever.

"I need to tell you something. I'm no model…I have a medical I can't walk, I have a chair I use…is that a issue?" Gypsy wrote in a message shown in the 2017 HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest. To which 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."

In 2015, the couple arranged to finally have an in-person movie date in Springfield, and Gypsy recalled hoping that her mother would approve of Nicholas.

"She got jealous, because I was spending a little too much attention on him, and she had ordered me to stay away from him," Gypsy told ABC News. "And needless to say, that was a very long argument that lasted a couple weeks. Yelling, throwing things, calling me names: bitch, slut, whore."

The next time Nicholas came to town, according to prosecutors, it was to put his and Gypsy's plan to commit murder into action.

What happened to Dee Dee Blanchard?

On June 14, 2015, a post on Gypsy and Dee Dee's shared Facebook page reading, "That Bitch is dead!" caused a stir in the comments section. People debated what that meant until another post popped up reading, "I f--ken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER…HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO F-KEN LOUD LOL."

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Friends Kim and David Blanchard (no relation) went to Dee Dee and Gypsy's house. When no one answered the phone or door, as they later told ABC News, David peeked in through an open kitchen window. He noted seeing three wheelchairs, which, as far as he and Kim believed at the time, Gypsy couldn't go anywhere without.

Kim called 911 and police—once they'd secured a search warrant for the house—found Dee Dee stabbed to death in her bed early the next morning. Investigators determined she'd been dead for several days.

Meanwhile, neighbors expressed shock and sadness to the Springfield News-Leader, with one man calling Dee Dee "the nicest lady in the world" and saying she used to invite the whole neighborhood over for movie nights in their backyard. At the time, Kim Blanchard told the publications that Dee Dee being killed "was the worst heartbreak that you can think of."

Did Gypsy Rose Blanchard kill her mother?

Authorities soon traced the IP address of the creepy Facebook posts to Wisconsin.

"I couldn't stand the thought of her just there," Gypsy told ABC News, explaining why she wrote the attention-getting messages, "because what happens if it would have taken months to find her? So I wanted her found so she could have a proper burial."

Waukesha County Sheriff's deputies took her and Nicholas into custody the same day her mother was found.


Investigation Discovery

Gypsy recalled giving Nicholas gloves, duct tape and a knife when he got to her house. "I honestly thought he would end up not doing it," she told ABC News.

They had sex in her bedroom afterward, Gypsy said, then took about $4,400 from Dee Dee's safe and called a cab. Before traveling to Wisconsin by bus, they mailed the murder weapon and the cash to Nicholas' house.

The couple were transported back to Missouri and subsequently charged with first-degree murder and felony armed criminal action.

How was the truth about Gypsy Rose Blanchard's condition revealed?

After her arrest, Gypsy was initially suspected of being in cahoots with her mother to fool people into believing she was sick in order to reap the financial benefits.

"We really don't know the true background of this family," Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott told reporters at the time. "This is a tragic, tragic event surrounded by mystery and public deception." He said that, contrary to popular belief, Gypsy could walk.

They weren't even sure how old Gypsy was, the sheriff added, noting that she was believed to be anywhere between 19 and 23.

Investigation Discovery

But as the entirety of Gypsy's shocking story came to light, investigators ultimately concluded that Dee Dee had spun a vast web of fraud and that her daughter was a victim of her sickness.

The posthumous expert consensus was that Dee Dee showed classic signs of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, when an attention-seeking or otherwise agenda-driven caregiver intentionally sickens, injures or creates the image of health problems in a dependent, usually their own child.

Acknowledging the abuse she'd suffered, prosecutors offered Gypsy a deal, and in 2016 she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for her role in her mother's murder. She was sentenced to the minimum possible amount of time, 10 years in prison.

"When you look at this case, it's a murder—and it's a first-degree murder," Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson told the Springfield News-Leader at the time. "But it's also one of the most extraordinary and unusual cases we have seen."

The fraud started "when Gypsy Blanchard was probably 4 or so," he continued, and ended up "a part of her entire life growing up. And I think if you look at her medical records and the way the doctor's visits were handled, it's clear that the person who spoke to the medical professionals and others was Clauddine Blanchard."

Gypsy's attorney Mike Stanfield told the publication his client was healthier after a year spent in county jail than she'd been in Dee Dee's care, back when she was taking medication that made her teeth fall out and undergoing unnecessary medical procedures.

"Even after reading through all of the records and going back and compiling them to provide to Mr. Patterson," the lawyer said, "it was still difficult for me to read some of the things that I was reading."

Though he believed he could have justified Gypsy's actions to a jury, Stanfield said, taking the plea was "the right thing to do for everybody."


What happened to Nicholas Godejohn?

Gypsy testified for the defense at Nicholas' 2018 trial, during which his lawyers argued that he was a troubled young man who believed he was saving his beloved girlfriend from a heinously abusive situation. 

"I wanted to be free of her hold on me," Gypsy said on the stand. "I talked him into it."

Under cross-examination, however, she testified that Nicholas was the dominant person in their relationship. The prosecution alleged that Nicholas was motivated by lust and wanted to get his girlfriend's controlling mom out of the way.

Nicholas was found guilty of first-degree murder. He's now serving life in prison, the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime, plus a concurrent 25 years for armed criminal action.

"I was blindly in love," Nicholas said at his sentencing hearing. "That was always very much the case." (At the time, the judge denied the defense's request for a new trial, on grounds including that the defense's psychologist hadn't been allowed to testify to Nicholas' diminished capacity. He appealed his conviction again, citing poor representation, and an evidentiary hearing was held in August 2022; a judge denied the request in February.) 

Brownie Harris/Hulu

Where is Gypsy Rose Blanchard now?

"I feel like I'm freer in prison than with living with my mom," Gypsy told ABC News in 2018. "Because now, I'm allowed to...just live like a normal woman."

Fancy Macelli

While the murder was already headline news, a number of documentaries, the Lifetime movie Love You to Death and the Hulu series The Act, starring Joey King as Gypsy and Patricia Arquette in an Emmy-winning turn as Dee Dee, ensured that people stayed invested in Gypsy's life behind bars.

In a 2021 letter to the Springfield News-Leader, she shared that she was a facilitator for the prison's Impact of Crime on Victims Class and was working on a book about her experience. Protecting child abuse victims, especially those affected by Munchhausen by proxy, she wrote, was her "never-ending life goal."

Having ended a previous engagement to a man she met through a prison pen pal program in 2019, Gypsy wed Ryan Scott Anderson from Louisiana in June 2022.

And pretty soon she's going to be an actually free woman: The Missouri Department of Corrections confirmed the 32-year-old has been granted early release and is due to walk out of Chillicothe Correctional Center on Dec. 28.