When she was growing up, people would call Gypsy Rose Blancharde a very inspirational little girl. Tiny Gypsy Rose battled an unfortunate number of diseases and health problems such as leukemia, muscular dystrophy, seizures, hair, and teeth loss. On top of her medical issues, she and her mother Dee Dee lost their home in Hurricane Katrina.
Even despite the generosity of many charities and kind strangers, the world seemed so unkind to poor Gypsy Rose. At least until June 14th, 2015, when the sweet, sickly little girl’s life story changed in an instant…
Rod Blanchard met Gypsy’s mom Dee Dee when he was still just in high school in Golden Meadow, a bayou town in Lafourche Parish, just south of New Orleans. She was seven years older than him, but neither one of them cared about the age difference. They were crazy about each other.
The young lovers dated for about four to six months before Dee Dee revealed some shocking news to her teenage boyfriend: she was pregnant and having his baby. The only solution young Rod could think of was to marry Dee Dee and they could raise the child together. Unfortunately, that idea wouldn’t last for long…
Change of Heart
“I woke up on my birthday, on my 18th birthday, and realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Rod recalled to BuzzFeed News in 2017. “I wasn’t in love with her, really. I knew I got married for the wrong reasons.” Not long after they were married, Rod took off, and although they tried to make it work for the baby’s sake, it just couldn’t.
Shortly after the young couple separated, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was born on July 27, 1991. Rod later recalled that Dee Dee liked the name Gypsy, and he was a big Guns N’ Roses fan. Ironically, neither of them had ever heard of Gypsy Rose Lee…
Gypsy Rose Lee
Lee was a 1920’s vaudeville child star turned stripper who was raised by a lying, controlling stage mother. The story of how she was forced to perform and made to seem much younger than she really was the subject of the Broadway show Gypsy.
All Rod cared about was that his daughter was healthy at birth, which she was. Yet when Dee Dee told him that Gypsy Rose was having trouble breathing at night around three months old, he was devastated. The new mom was convinced Gypsy Rose had sleep apnea and began bringing her to multiple doctors, but none of them could give her a diagnosis…
Dee Dee told Rod their newborn daughter had a chromosomal defect and from then on, Gypsy’s health problems seemed to spiral out of control. The scared mom was constantly seeking out a new doctor, new drug or new diagnosis to try and help her sick daughter.
Whenever Rod had questions about Gypsy’s health, Dee Dee always reacted with an information overload, giving him a bunch of medical jargon. She always seemed to have things under control and make him feel safe about Gypsy. But Rod remembered she had once worked as a nurse’s aid and wondered if she was just spouting off things she had picked up…
Rod eventually remarried a woman named Kristy and they had two kids together. Over the next 10 years, poor Gypsy’s health continued to decline, but she was “all smiles” when she would visit their family, according to her stepmom. She never complained or mentioned that living with her mother was difficult.
From the outside, people would see Dee Dee taking care of her wheelchair-bound, sickly daughter and be taken with her strength and good parenting, but the truth was very different. Dee Dee had been up to no good for years, getting in trouble with the law and ruining relationships with her family, ex-husband, and in time, even her own daughter…
What’s in a Name?
After getting arrested for writing bad checks, Dee Dee decided to skip town, moving Gyspy north to Slidell, Louisiana. Now Dee Dee Blancharde could hide out and start over, so she thought, adding an extra “e” to their last name. In fact, Dee Dee was born “Clauddine” and changed her name many times over the years, from DeDe to Claudine to Deno and Clauddinnea.
Finally closer to better health care, the duo lived in public housing and Dee Dee brought Gypsy to Tulane University Hospital & Clinic and Children’s Hospital where she told doctors her daughter was suffering from occasional seizures. Gypsy also suffered from muscular dystrophy, poor vision and frequent ear infections, Dee Dee insisted, even after multiple tests concluded the opposite…
Lost in the Storm
Then in 2005, the family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and lost all of Gypsy’s in-depth medical records from over the years. Now Dee Dee couldn’t prove her daughter spent time in the NICU as a newborn or battled leukemia as a toddler, doctors just had to take her word for it. The press went crazy for the story of a disabled girl and her mother losing their home and many charities offered to help the Blanchardes.
From trips to Disney World and Ronald McDonald houses to a new place to live from Habitat for Humanity, life finally started to become a little happier for the Blanchardes as they gladly accepted the generous charity and donations. If Gypsy, a teenager with the mentality of a young child, was going to die at any moment from her declining health, she might as well enjoy a happy life, her mother thought…
Dead Beat Dad?
Meanwhile, as Rod continued to pay child support, send gifts, and inquire about his sick, helpless daughter in Louisiana, Dee Dee told her new friends in Missouri her ex-husband was a drug addict who abandoned them. Rod and Kristy knew nothing of their new life and never questioned their continued financial support of Gypsy, even long after the girl had turned 18.
Murdered + Missing
All that changed on June 14th, 2015, when Dee Dee’s sister called Rod out of the blue with terrible, life-changing news. Dee Dee was dead. She was found stabbed to death in her bedroom and Gypsy Rose was missing from their home. Rod was terrified, fearing his disabled, immature daughter was left abandoned somewhere to die all alone…
Thankfully, police were quick to trace a post on Gypsy Rose’s secret Facebook page that seemed very out of character for her, saying “That Bitch is dead!”. It turned out, she had many different accounts her mom didn’t know about over the years so she could meet men like her “boyfriend” Nick Godejohn, who she convinced to help her with a sinister plan.
She Can Walk?
The first time Rod saw his daughter get out of her wheelchair and walk was on the news after she and Godejohn were arrested for her mother’s murder. Parents design their child’s life and Dee Dee designed one where Gypsy was deathly ill and couldn’t walk, until the day she realized her mother was trying to pull a fast one on everyone, including her. She couldn’t take it anymore and snapped.
Munchausen by proxy
The false diagnoses and countless drugs she was given over the years all pointed to Munchausen syndrome by proxy, where a person fakes another person’s illness and health problems for greed and attention. Although Gypsy Rose was horribly abused her entire life, people everywhere were outraged by the tale of her lifelong fraud and deception. Gypsy and Nick, who strangely had no history of violence and unclear motives for helping her, were charged with Dee Dee’s murder.
Mommy Dead and Dearest
Today, Gypsy is off all her medication and, besides the psychological effects of all she’s been through, she has zero health problems in prison. She’ll be eligible for parole in 2023 and her bizarre story will be featured in a true-crime documentary on HBO called Mommy Dead and Dearest. “The doctors thought that she was so devoted and caring,” Gypsy said of her mom in 2017 “I think she would have been the perfect mom for someone that actually was sick. But I’m not sick. There’s that big, big difference.”