Gypsy Rose Blanchard grew up not knowing much about the world outside of doctors’ offices, hospital rooms and the pink house in Missouri where she lived with her mom, Clauddinnea “Dee Dee” Blanchard.
By the time she was 8 years old, Gypsy Blanchard was allegedly suffering from leukemia, muscular dystrophy, vision and hearing impairments and seizures. Gypsy also used a wheelchair to get around and a feeding tube for nutrition and medicine.
In her world of constant medications, surgeries and treatments, Gypsy said, other than her stuffed animals, her mother and caregiver Dee Dee was her best, and, sometimes only, friend.
“We got along so perfect. You know, I saw her as an angel that can do no wrong,” Gypsy, now 26, told ABC News’ Amy Robach in an interview for “20/20.”
Today, Gypsy Blanchard calls Missouri’s Chillicothe Correctional Center home. There, she is serving a 10-year sentence for her role in Dee Dee's death, who she says made her like a prisoner.
“The prison that I was living in before, with my mom, it's, like, I couldn't walk. I couldn't eat. I couldn't have friends. I couldn't go outside, you know, and play with friends or anything,” Gypsy said. “Over here, I feel like I'm freer in prison, than with living with my mom. Because now, I'm allowed to … just live like a normal woman.”
So how did a young woman once seen as a hero to some for surviving cancer and other serious illnesses end up behind bars for her own mother’s murder? Watch the full story on “20/20” FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET.
For the first few years of her life, Gypsy was a normal toddler, vibrant and full of energy. However, Dee Dee, who had worked as a nurse’s aide, soon began to say her daughter was ill.
“Dee Dee was saying that [Gypsy] was sick, had problems sleeping, epilepsy, and it just progressed from there,” Rod Blanchard, who is Gypsy’s father and Dee Dee’s ex-husband, told “20/20.”
Rod and Dee Dee’s marriage was short-lived, and Dee Dee became the full-time caregiver. Though Rod enjoyed sporadic visitation with his daughter, he says Dee Dee never left them alone.
“All the visits, Dee Dee had to be there the whole time,” Rod recalled. “Something never felt right about it. Dee Dee was so controlling.”
By the time Gypsy was 8 years old, Rod says Dee Dee told him that Gypsy had “leukemia, paralyzed, muscular dystrophy, Gypsy was also using a wheelchair and now had a feeding tube.”
“I told Dee Dee she was the best mother. There's no way I can do what she [was] doing. You have a sick child. It's constantly 24/7 taking care of her and everything. I mean, I always praised her and told her, ‘Good job,’” Rod said.
Gypsy becomes a local celebrity
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged their home in Slidell, Louisiana, Gypsy, then 14, and her mother moved to Springfield, Missouri, where they eventually settled into a house built by Habitat for Humanity. The home even had a wheelchair ramp for Gypsy to use.
“Later, I found out that my father was paying child support the whole time,” Gypsy said.
In between hospital stays, Gypsy and Dee Dee frequently flew across the country to concerts, celebrity meet-and-greets, galas and even to Disney World with expenses paid by charitable organizations, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The mother and teenage daughter were local celebrities in their Missouri town and the subject of many local news profiles and articles. Gypsy gave speeches around the country about her condition at various conferences, including Relay for Life events. The family also received free gifts and cash donations from good Samaritans, including country music star Miranda Lambert.
“That sounds like a really awesome life, but I mean … it’s not worth like what condition her health was in,” Aleah Woodmansee, Gypsy’s friend and neighbor down the street, told “20/20.”
Gypsy falls in love
As she got older, Gypsy said she became curious about life outside of the pink house she shared with her mother.
“She would show interest in like different boys and try to ask me advice on like, you know, ‘How do you approach them? How do you like kiss a boy?’” Woodmansee said. “Gypsy just wanted to be a regular teen.”
But according to Woodmansee, Dee Dee didn’t approve of their girl talk, and even destroyed Gypsy’s laptop and cell phone so the two teens couldn’t communicate.
As time went on, Dee Dee began exerting more control over her, Gypsy said.
“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 said. “It started to be physical in 2011. She would hit me with a coat hanger sometimes.”
But Gypsy never fought back, she said, “because I was afraid to.”
Gypsy said she once tried to run away, but Dee Dee found her a few hours later and severely punished her.
“She physically chained me to the bed and put bells on the doors and told … anybody that I probably would’ve trusted that I was going through a phase and to tell her if I was doing anything behind her back,” Gypsy said.
But Gypsy continued to be defiant, creating an online dating profile behind her mother’s back. She eventually connected with Nicholas Godejohn, a man from Big Bend, Wisconsin. The two fell in love and had a secret online relationship for two and a half years, Gypsy told Woodmansee via Facebook messenger.
“She was talking about this new guy that she was now in love with, and that they had met on a Christian dating site and that they were already planning on naming their children after him,” Woodmansee said. “Honestly, what I was thinking whenever I saw these messages, is that these were just like fantasies and dreams and nothing like this would ever really take place.”
Gypsy and Godejohn decided to meet in person for the first time in March 2015 at a movie theater in Springfield, Missouri. She was dressed as Cinderella, and he as Prince Charming. What the pair hoped was for Dee Dee to meet Godejohn and approve of him. But she didn’t.
“She got jealous, because I was spending a little too much attention on him, and she had ordered me to stay away from him. And needless to say, that was a very long argument that lasted a couple weeks,” Gypsy said. “Yelling, throwing things, calling me names: b----, slut, whore.”
At that point, Gypsy said she had enough. She didn’t hate her mother, but wanted her dead.
“It was not because I hated her. It was because I wanted to escape her,” Gypsy said.
The night of the murder
In June 2015, Gypsy said that while Dee Dee took her to a routine hospital appointment, Godejohn traveled back to Missouri. He then checked into a local motel, where he waited for Gypsy to let him know that Dee Dee was asleep.
Godejohn then went to Gypsy and Dee Dee’s house where Gypsy handed him gloves, duct tape and a knife.
“I honestly thought he would end up not doing it,” Gypsy says now.
While Gypsy hid in the bathroom, Godejohn went into the bedroom where he later admitted to police that he stabbed Dee Dee.
“I heard her scream once, and there was more screaming but not like the kind in a horror film. Just like a startled scream, and she asked, ‘Who was it that was in the bedroom?’ And she called out to my name about three or four times,” Gypsy said. “And at that point, I wanted to go help her so bad, but I was so afraid to get up. It's like my body wouldn't move. Then everything just went quiet.”
Moments later, the couple said they had sex on Gypsy’s bed and later took a taxi cab back to Godejohn’s motel. Gypsy said she was both excited and overwhelmed by the prospect of starting a new life.
“It would come in times of happiness, little spurts of happiness, but I would have breakdowns or I'd start crying, feeling remorse, guilt, and at the same time, also missing her at the same time, worry about what, what I'd just done. She's gone,” said Gypsy.
“I felt horrible about it. When me and her were in the hotel room ... she kept on telling me, 'Stop crying, stop crying. There's no reason, reason to cry. It was my idea, it wasn't yours,'" Godejohn told "20/20" in an exclusive interview from jail. "[Gypsy] comforted me about it. I prayed once I got here. I tried to get her mother's soul to forgive me."
He said he went through with the plan because he thought he wanted to protect Gypsy and rescue her from her mother.
“I ... did what I did because I loved her. I really wanted a life with her, I really did,” Godejohn said.
For several days, Gypsy and Godejohn enjoyed life together. They were caught on surveillance cameras around Springfield, and shopping at Wal-Mart, seemingly without a care or worry on their minds.
“That never crossed my mind. I honestly didn't think we were going to get caught,” Gypsy said.
Gypsy is arrested for her mother’s murder
In the days after the killing, family friends Kim and David Blanchard, no relation to Gypsy and her mother, were alarmed when they saw a vulgar status update post appear on Gypsy and Dee Dee’s joint Facebook page that said, “That b---- is dead.”
David and Kim Blanchard told “20/20” they rushed to Gypsy and Dee Dee’s home, but no one answered the door and they called police.
David Blanchard noticed the kitchen window was unlocked and decided to crawl into the house. He said everything looked fine, but that Gypsy’s three wheelchairs were still at the home.
“Now [that] is about when I panicked,” Kim Blanchard told “20/20.” “We had never, ever, ever seen Gypsy not in a wheelchair.”
The police found Dee Dee’s body later that night, but Gypsy was nowhere to be found.
Police traced the IP address of the vulgar Facebook post back to Godejohn’s home in Wisconsin and the pair were eventually arrested.
Gypsy later admitted she wrote the post so that someone would find her mother’s body.
“I couldn't stand the thought of her just there because what happens if it would have taken months to find her, so I wanted her found so she could have a proper burial,” she said.
Gypsy’s day in court
People were shocked when Gypsy, a supposed paraplegic suffering from muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, leukemia and confined to a wheelchair, was arrested and charged with killing her own mother. Godejohn was also arrested and charged with murder. Both originally pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
“My vision was still of this fragile little girl, and that was shattered,” said Kim Blanchard.
They, and many others who knew Gypsy’s story, were even more surprised when Gypsy made her first appearance in court and was able to walk and not use a wheelchair.
“I was happy she was walking. It was all kind of mixed emotions,” Rod Blanchard said. “Big red flags, questions, I felt so stupid. If she can walk, what else have we been lied to about?”
Unearthing Gypsy and Dee Dee’s deception
At Gypsy and Dee Dee’s house, Mike Stanfield, Gypsy’s public defender, uncovered shocking clues that he believed would help Gypsy’s case.
Inside a large linen closet, Stanfield found a number of bottles and a variety of different medications for Gypsy.
“The organization of the medications, that was shocking to me because in every other area of Dee Dee’s life, it appeared that she had no organization or cleanliness, except when it came to these medications,” Stanfield told “20/20,” “It let me know from the very beginning that something here was seriously wrong.”
It was wrong, because it turned out that not only could Gypsy walk, but she apparently never had cancer, epilepsy or any of the other ailments Dee Dee claimed Gypsy had.
“The only thing I had wrong with me is I have a little bit of a lazy eye. Not all the time, but I have better vision in [my left] eye than I do [in my right] eye,” Gypsy said. “That’s it.”
Gypsy said she knew she could walk, but she was convinced by her mother to stay in a wheelchair. She said she wasn’t even allowed to walk in their house.
“I was so young, so me looking up to her so much and just believing she knows best -- I didn’t question it,” said Gypsy. “It’s sad because I think about all the times that I could have been walking around like a normal person, skating, riding bikes and stuff, and I've never done any of that.”
As Gypsy’s father Rod Blanchard and his wife Kristy Blanchard poured through documents recovered from Gypsy and Dee Dee’s house, a clearer picture began to emerge.
Dee Dee had been looking up foundations she could contact and get help from, Rod Blanchard said. The foundations that helped Gypsy and Dee Dee and that ABC News contacted say they all believed Gypsy was sick when they made their donations.
Based on documents recovered from Gypsy’s house, it also appeared that on at least one occassion Dee Dee forged a fake birth certificate for Gypsy and changed her birth year from 1991 to 1995, to make Gypsy younger and younger.
There was a point when she stopped asking how old she was, Gypsy said, because her mom would get upset.
“It was about a good span of time between, I want to say, 2001 to 2015, that I really wasn't sure of my age,” said Gypsy.
But while Gypsy’s illnesses and the paperwork may have been fake, the pills and procedures in her life were real, including multiple gastrointestinal operations, eye surgeries and even the removal of her salivary glands.
“The one in my neck was especially painful, because I started being allergic to the antibiotics that was trying to make me heal faster,” Gypsy recalled.
She also claimed her mother used a numbing agent to numb her gums, which caused her to drool, in order to convince doctors to remove her salivary glands. Their removal may have also contributed to Gypsy’s teeth loss.
“There are certain illnesses that I knew I didn't have. I knew that I didn't need the feeding tube. I knew that I could eat, and I knew that I could walk, but I did believe my mother when she said that I had leukemia,” Gypsy said. “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.’”
Medical records reviewed by ABC News show that Gypsy was treated by at least 150 different doctors through the years. During a typical appointment, Gypsy said she would play with a doll or stuffed animal while her mother talked with the doctor.
“Mom would say, ‘Don’t talk. Just play with your stuffed animal, and we’ll do something fun after,’” Gypsy recalled.
“The one thing that is absolutely common across every single medical record is that Gypsy never spoke,” Mike Stanfield said. “Every single medical record says, ‘Mother reported.’ ‘Mother states.’ ‘History by mother.’”
Did Gypsy’s mother have Munchausen by proxy?
Through it all, Gypsy said her mother was able to get doctors to believe her, even though Gypsy was healthy, because Dee Dee was very convincing.
“She had a very sweet personality,” Gypsy said. “She would use her southern charm to get them to be friendly and get on their good side.”
And Gypsy had no medical records, she said, “because of Hurricane Katrina wiped out all the records, supposedly.”
One of Gypsy’s former neurologists, Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, who examined Gypsy for muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy when she was 14 years old, said he immediately saw red flags.
“There was nothing there to support either. That kind of made me very suspicious,” Flasterstein told “20/20.”
He said his suspicion only grew when he told Dee Dee that Gypsy’s prior diagnoses were wrong.
“The mother was not happy with that,” Flasterstein said. “She left the office in a storm and told my nurses that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that she’s not coming back.”
After leaving Flasterstein’s office, Dee Dee moved Gypsy’s care three hours away to Kansas City, Missouri.
In a letter to Gypsy’s primary care physician about the appointment, Flasterstein wrote, “I believe that the mother suffers from Munchausen by proxy.” Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a condition in which a caregiver, usually a parent, exaggerates, makes up or even causes a child's illness in order to get medical care and attention for themselves, not the child.
At the time, Flasterstein said he didn’t think he had enough information to call Child Protective Services. But according to a police report obtained by 20/20, another doctor, in 2009, alerted authorities when he “could not find any symptoms that support what Dee Dee alleges to be wrong with her daughter.” Two case workers would later visit the Blanchard home, but they found nothing out of the ordinary and closed the case.
“I think that she was constantly seeking attention for herself because she didn't feel loved so let's make this baby girl sick so it forever needs you. And that's what I think is from,” Gypsy said.
Gypsy said it’s fear that kept her from speaking up about the deception: “I beat myself up about that all the time, but I have to understand my mind frame back then. I was always so afraid of her. Afraid of the consequences after.”
It never crossed her mind to stand up out of her wheelchair to expose Dee Dee’s fraud, Gypsy said, because she was afraid of her mother and the consequences that could follow.
So instead of planning an elaborate escape, Gypsy admits she planned a murder.
Gypsy’s life today
Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July 2016. She is serving a 10-year sentence at Missouri's Chillicothe Correctional Center.
“There's a big difference between someone who asks someone to kill someone and someone that actually does it,” Gypsy said. “Because I would never kill somebody. I would never physically go through with killing somebody. I can't.”
Of Godejohn, Gypsy said, “I don't hate him. I feel sorry for him, and just that somebody could do something so heartless and not express remorse and not feel like he's responsible for it.”
“He was very much like my mother in certain ways,” she added. “And I feel like I was trained my whole life to do as I was told.”
Godejohn continues to sit in Greene County Jail in Missouri. He pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and is awaiting trial scheduled for November 2018. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Godejohn said he, too, was upset about what happened. He claimed that once in jail, he prayed for forgiveness from Gypsy’s mother.
“All the planning she did, every bit of it. She pretty much willed the knife in my hand to commit the deed herself. She is the mastermind behind the entire thing,” Godejohn said.
Though she is in prison, Gypsy said she couldn’t be happier, and she’s working to get her GED.
She admits not a day goes by when she doesn’t miss her mother.
“All I could hope is that wherever she is, that she still loves me in some small way,” Gypsy said in tears. “And I want her to know that I am sorry. I am so sorry.”