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“I Feel Like I’m Freer In Prison” The Story Of Gypsy Rose Blanchard

The story of a young woman from Louisiana has recently gone from the realm of fact into the realm of fiction. For the past couple years, the country has been swept up in the scandal and tragedy of the case of Gypsy Rose Blancharde (the alternate spelling used by her mother), especially after the documentary, “Mommy Dead and Dearest” came out in 2017. Hulu recently aired a miniseries based off the case, “The Act,” leading many such as myself to become further interested in the case. For years, Gypsy’s mother convinced not only her daughter but all those they met that Gypsy was gravely ill, and to free herself, Gypsy believed she had to kill her mother.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard with Dee

Photo Credit: Image From ABC News

Gypsy Rose Blanchard (the original spelling) was born sometime in July 1991. Her mother, Clauddine, and father, Rod, had separated just months before, and while Rod kept contact with the two for some time, Clauddine took Gypsy to live with her family after their divorce. When Gypsy was three months old, Clauddine began to allege the baby had sleep apnea, though doctors could find no evidence of it. Clauddine claimed Gypsy suffered a myriad of health problems such as epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, which immobilized her legs, leukemia, and mild mental retardation, which left her with the mind of a seven-year-old. Clauddine alleged that Gypsy’s numerous health problems were the result of a chromosomal defect. 

While living with her family, Clauddine had trouble with the law, as well as reported attempts to murder her family members and was arrested multiple times for writing bad checks. Eventually, her family grew suspicious about her treatment of Gypsy, Gypsy’s actual health, and the attempted murders. When her family confronted her, Clauddine skipped town and moved two hours away to Slidell, Louisiana. 

She started going by an assumed name, Clauddinnea, as well as by the nickname “Dee Dee,” and changed the spelling of their last name. She would frequently take Gypsy to doctors in the area. When Hurricane Katrina hit the region, Dee Dee moved herself and Gypsy to a special-needs shelter. 

The story of this single mother and her severely disabled daughter now homeless due to the hurricane spread through local media as well as charities. The two relocated to Aurora, Missouri, where they rented a house until Habitat for Humanity built them a small house in Springfield, Missouri, modified with a wheelchair ramp. 

Dee Dee stated around this time that all of Gypsy’s medical records, along with her birth certificate, were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The destruction of documents made it easy for Dee Dee to claim that Gypsy was far younger than she was. 

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Around this time, Dee Dee began telling the heartbreaking story of how her husband was an abusive drunk who never offered any financial aid. However, Gypsy’s father paid $1200 a month in child support payments; even continuing to give Dee Dee the money well into Gypsy’s adulthood. He would send her gifts, as well, but Dee Dee would regularly present them to Gypsy as gifts she’d purchased herself. Gypsy’s father would frequently call her, but he was never able to get her alone on the phone without her mother carefully monitoring them. When he made one such call on Gypsy’s 18th birthday, Dee Dee warned him not to tell Gypsy her age, because, she claimed, the young woman believed she was fourteen.  

Gypsy quickly became loved in her new community. She was petite and spoke in a high-pitched, childlike voice, and large, round glasses nearly obscured her small face. Her head was almost always covered with a scarf or hat because her mother regularly shaved it to give her the appearance of a cancer patient. 

Her mother seemed to be a devoted caregiver, although some people took note that Dee Dee was nearly always clutching Gypsy’s small hand. Gypsy would later report that her mother did this to control her. If Gypsy said anything that either undermined her condition or contradicted the childlike mind her mother purported her to have, Dee Dee would squeeze her hand tightly. Little did their neighbors know, behind closed doors, Gypsy’s mother would reportedly hit her, and Gypsy had discovered that she was, in fact, completely healthy.

Photo Credit: Daily Mail UK

The pair were often awarded all-expense paid trips by various charities. Some of these trips were visits to specialist doctors, but some were trips to Walt Disney World or concerts. During their stay in Springfield, doctors began to catch on that all was not as Dee Dee claimed it to be. 

One doctor, Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, noted, like other doctors before him, that Gypsy showed no signs of muscular dystrophy. She was, most notably, able to stand on her own. Also, by this point, one would expect her to have severely diminished leg muscles, but Gypsy’s were healthy. 

Dr. Flasterstein put in his notes that the case appeared to be Munchausen syndrome by proxy; a condition in which a person fakes, exaggerates, or induces illness on someone in their care. Dee Dee, as she always did, requested a copy of the doctor’s notes from their visit and subsequently found out about the doctor’s suspicions, and never took Gypsy back to see him.

Gypsy, now a legal adult, found having her mother’s constant presence stifling. Once, she attempted to run away, and a second time, after going to a science fiction convention, Dee Dee found Gypsy in bed with a man she’d met online in a hotel room. Dee Dee, enraged, produced a fake birth certificate with an earlier birth date for Gypsy on it and threatened to call the police. Upon returning home, Dee Dee reportedly smashed Gypsy’s computer with a hammer then threatened to do the same to her fingers if such an instance happened again, after which she kept Gypsy leashed and handcuffed to a bed for two weeks.

Gypsy would not be thwarted from her desires for freedom, however. Once she could use a computer again, she met Nicholas Godejohn online and very quickly fell in love with him. Nicholas had issues, too; once he was arrested for masturbating for nine hours in a McDonald’s. Nicholas was mentally ill; it would be stated later that he had dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities) and autism. 

Gypsy was excited to be in a relationship with him and even confided in a friend that the two planned eloping. This friend believed Gypsy was indeed a young teenager and that Nicholas was taking advantage of her. Despite her worries of Gypsy being preyed on by a strange adult man online, the friend believed Gypsy’s aspirations were just, “fantasies and dreams and nothing like this would ever really take place.” She printed-out screenshots of conversations between the two, in case anything should happen to Gypsy.

Gypsy planned and paid for Nicholas to be able to meet her mother, in hopes her mother might approve of him. She arranged it so that it would appear the two would bump into each other and thereby meet for the first time in her mother’s presence instead of online. The planned their meeting at a theater. However, the two allegedly ended up having sex in the bathroom and Dee Dee, discovering them, was enraged and forbade Gypsy from seeing Nicholas again. 

After this, Gypsy and Nicholas began plotting to murder Dee Dee.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard Facebook Picture

Photo Credit: Facebook

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In June 2015, Nicholas returned to Springfield, while Gypsy and Dee Dee were at a doctor’s appointment. Once the two returned home and Dee Dee went to bed, Gypsy let Nicholas in. She reportedly handed him a knife, duct tape, and gloves to use when he committed the act, though she later stated she didn’t believe he’d go through with it. 

Nicholas stabbed Dee Dee multiple times while she lay sleeping, as Gypsy hid in the bathroom covering her ears to try to drown out her mother’s screams for her. After the act, the two had sex, then went to a motel outside of town and hid out for a few days. 

They mailed the murder weapon to Nicholas’ house in Wisconsin. Once the two felt safe leaving, they took a bus to Nicholas’ home. Nicholas’s parents would state that nothing seemed amiss about the two, but they did wonder why Gypsy was wearing a wig; they felt it was suspicious, as if she was trying to disguise herself. 

On June 14th, Gypsy urged Nicholas to post on the Facebook page she and Dee Dee shared in the hopes someone would subsequently discover her mother’s body. The post, authored by Gypsy, read, “That Bitch is dead!” A comment added later described in vague but somewhat graphic detail how Dee Dee screamed, and how the killer raped Gypsy.

Immediately, friends of the family knew something was wrong; the post and language were uncharacteristic for Dee Dee. Unable to reach her by phone, they went over to her house where they found Dee Dee’s van, modified to hold Gypsy’s wheelchair, still parked at home, and called police. 

The police were unable to enter without a search warrant, but they did allow a neighbor to crawl through a window to look inside. The neighbor found Gypsy’s wheelchairs still in the house. It was not uncommon for Dee Dee to take Gypsy on medical trips without notifying anyone, but she would not have left Gypsy’s mobility device at home. 

Once the police obtained their search warrant, they entered the house, where they found Dee Dee’s bloodied body. Gypsy was nowhere in sight. The friend Gypsy had told about her relationship with Nicholas became concerned. She still had the printed-out messages between the two, and presented them to police, voicing her concerns that the stranger online had abducted Gypsy. Law enforcement immediately began the search for Nicholas. Once they tracked Nicholas down, he and Gypsy both surrendered and ultimately confessed to their parts in the crime.

The prosecutor stated that he would not seek the death penalty for either Gypsy or Nicholas. Gypsy was offered a plea bargain to second-degree murder, which she accepted. For this, she was sentenced to ten years in prison. 

Nicholas, meanwhile, went to trial in November 2018. During his trial, his defense stated that Gypsy had formulated the plan. The lovestruck Nicholas, easily manipulated due to his autism, committed the act to please her. Gypsy testified that she had been the one to devise the plan, but that she’d also considered getting pregnant by Nicholas in hopes Dee Dee would accept him then. 

After two hours of deliberation, Nicholas was found guilty of first-degree murder as well as armed criminal action. For the first-degree murder, he was sentenced to life in prison, and for the armed criminal action, he was sentenced to 25 years, concurrent with his life sentence.

Nicholas would later give an interview to ABC News in which he would state that Gypsy, “was basically the mastermind behind it all [and] I was basically a hired hit man in its own weird sense.” He would also say, “I loved Gypsy to the point where I would… do anything for her. I’ve proven that with what I did. Unfortunately, because of how far I went, I feel as if she’s betrayed me. I feel that she’s abandoned me.” 

Meanwhile, Gypsy is reportedly doing well in prison. She says she feels almost like she’s in college; she’s getting a formal education and making friends. She recently got engaged, though she states the two will be waiting until her release to get married. She also says she wants to have a family, and that her mother taught her how not to be a mother. 

Her family has started a petition for her release. Someday, Gypsy Rose will walk free and hopefully lead as regular a life as possible, though that day may come more quickly than initially planned, and hopefully, she will be ready to live her life when that day happens.

Photo Credit: News Leader

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