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Dee Dee Blanchard (May 3rd, 1967 - June 14th, 2015) was the abusive mother of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was found dead in her house on June 14th, 2015.
Early Life And Marriage Of Dee Dee Blanchard
Dee Dee Blanchard was born Clauddine Pitre in Chackbay, Louisiana, near the Gulf Coast in May 3rd, 1967 and grew up with her family in nearby Golden Meadow. During her childhood, relatives recalled, she would occasionally engage in petty theft, often as retaliation when things did not go her way. At some point early in her adult life, she worked as a nurse's aide. After her death, the family expressed suspicion that she might have killed her own mother, who died in 1997, by denying her food.
When she was 24-years-old, she became pregnant by Rod Blanchard, then 17. They named their daughter Gypsy Rose since Clauddine liked the name Gypsy and Rod was a fan of Guns N' Roses. Shortly before Gypsy Rose's birth in July 1991 the couple separated when Rod, as he said in 2017, realized he had "got married for the wrong reasons". Despite Clauddine's efforts to get him to return, he did not and she took her newborn daughter to live with her family.
Bobby Pitre, who was Clauddine's nephew, recalls that Gypsy's birth might have been slightly premature, possibly affecting the development of her skull but other than that, she had no known health issues. According to Rod who remained involved with his daughter at this point, by the time "Gyp" as she was known in her extended family was 3-months-old, her mother was convinced the infant suffered from sleep apnea and began taking her to the hospital where repeated overnight stays with a sleep monitor and other tests found no sign of the condition. Nevertheless, he recalls, Clauddine became convinced that Gypsy had a wide range of health issues, which she attributed to an unspecified chromosomal disorder.
When Gypsy was 7 or 8-years-old, Bobby recalls, she was riding on her grandfather's motorcycle when he had a minor accident. She suffered an abrasion to her knee, which her mother said was the visible sign of injuries that would require several surgeries to treat properly. From then on, Gypsy was confined to a wheelchair, although he saw signs that she was indeed healthy enough to walk on her own on several occasions. Nonetheless, she often went with her parents to Special Olympics events. In 2001 when Dee Dee claimed she was 8, she was named The Honorary Queen Of The Krewe Of Mid-City Parade, a child-oriented parade held during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Gypsy seems to have stopped going to school after 2nd grade, possibly even as early as kindergarten. Her mother homeschooled her after that supposedly because her illnesses were so severe. Gypsy managed to learn to read on her own through the Harry Potter books.
While Gypsy's father Rod had remarried, Clauddine moved in with her father and stepmother. They would later claim that Clauddine, when preparing food for her stepmother, poisoned it with Roundup weed killer, leading to her own chronic illness during this period. During that time, she was arrested for several minor offenses, including writing bad checks. When the Bobby began to regularly confront her about her treatment of Gypsy and expressed suspicion about her role in her stepmother's health, she left with Gypsy for Slidell, although the family would not know this for several years. Her stepmother's health returned to normal shortly afterwards.
In Slidell, she and Gypsy lived in public housing, they paid their bills with public assistance Clauddine had been granted due to her daughter's supposed medical conditions and Rod's child-support payments. They spent most of their time visiting various specialists, mostly at Tulane Medical Center and the Children's Hospital of New Orleans, seeking treatment of the illnesses Clauddine claimed Gypsy suffered from, which she now said included hearing and vision problems. While a muscle biopsy found no sign of the muscular dystrophy Clauddine insisted Gypsy had, she was successful in securing treatment for her daughter's other purported issues. After she told doctors Gypsy had seizures every few months, they prescribed anti-seizure medication. Several surgeries were performed on her during this time and Clauddine regularly took Gypsy to the emergency room for minor ailments.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in August 2005, Clauddine and Gypsy left their ruined apartment for a shelter in Covington set up for individuals with special needs. Clauddine said Gypsy's medical records, including her birth certificate, had been destroyed in the flooding. A doctor there from the Ozarks suggested they relocate to her native Missouri and the next month they were airlifted there.
Move To Missouri
At first Clauddine and Gypsy lived in a rented home in Aurora, in the southwestern area of the state. During their time there, Gypsy was honored by The Oley Foundation, which advocates for the rights of feeding-tube recipients, as its 2007 Child Of The Year. In 2008 Habitat For Humanity built them a small home with a wheelchair ramp and hot tub as part of a larger project on the north side of Springfield, to the east and they moved there. The story of a single mother with a severely disabled daughter forced to flee Katrina's devastation received considerable local media attention and the community often pitched in to help the woman who now went by Clauddine Blanchard and whom they knew as Dee Dee.
The outpouring of support included a great deal of charitable contributions. In Louisiana, mother and daughter had at most availed themselves of occasional stays in Ronald McDonald Houses during medical appointments, in Missouri they received free flights to see doctors in Kansas City, free trips to Walt Disney World and backstage passes to Miranda Lambert concerts, where she was frequently photographed with the singer, via the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in addition to the house Habitat built for them. Rod Blanchard also continued to make monthly child support payments of $1,200, as well as sending Gypsy gifts and occasionally talking to her on the phone, during one call, on her 18th birthday, he recalls Dee Dee telling him not to mention her daughter's real age since "she thinks she's 14".
Rod and his 2nd wife regularly hoped to get to Springfield and visit, but for a variety of reasons Dee Dee would change plans. She told her neighbors in Springfield that Gypsy Rose's father was an abusive drug addict and alcoholic who had never come to terms with his daughter's health issues and never sent them any money.
Many people who met Gypsy were charmed by her. Her 5-foot, 150 cm height, nearly toothless mouth, large glasses and high, childlike voice reinforced the perception that she had all the problems her mother said she did. She often wore wigs or hats to cover her baldness, her mother regularly shaved Gypsy's head to mimic the hairless appearance of a chemotherapy patient. When they left the house, Dee Dee often took an oxygen tank and feeding tube with them, Gypsy was fed the children's liquid nutrition supplement PediaSure well into her 20s.
Dee Dee used physical abuse to control her daughter, always holding her daughter's hand in the presence of others. Whenever Gypsy said something that either suggested she was not really sick or seemed above her purported mental capabilities, Gypsy recalls that her mother would give her a very tight squeeze. When the two were alone, Dee Dee would strike her with her open hands or a coat hanger.
Medical interventions continued. Dee Dee had some of Gypsy's saliva glands treated with Botox, then extracted altogether, to control her drooling, which Gypsy later claimed her mother had induced by using a topical anesthetic to numb her gums before doctor visits. Tubes were implanted in her ears to control her myriad purported ear infections.
Suspicions Of Deceptive Behavior
Bernardo Flasterstein, a pediatric neurologist who saw Gypsy in Springfield, became suspicious of her muscular dystrophy diagnosis. He nevertheless ordered MRIs and blood tests, which found no abnormalities. "I don't see any reason why she doesn't walk", he told Dee Dee on a follow up visit after seeing Gypsy stand and support her own weight. Bernardo Flasterstein noted that Dee Dee was not a good historian. After contacting Gypsy's doctors in New Orleans, he learned that Gypsy's original muscle biopsy had come back negative, undermining Dee Dee's self-reported diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, as well as her claim that all Gypsy's records had been destroyed by flooding. He suspected the possibility of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Dee Dee contrived to gain access to Bernarda Flasterstein's notes and subsequently stopped taking Gypsy to see him.
Bernardo Flasterstein did not follow up by reporting Dee Dee to social services. He said he had been told by other doctors to treat the pair with "golden gloves" and doubted the authorities would believe him anyway. In 2009, an anonymous caller told the police about Dee Dee's use of different names and birth dates for herself and her daughter, and suggested Gypsy was in better health than claimed. Officers who performed the resulting wellness check accepted Dee Dee's explanation that she used the misinformation to make it harder for her abusive ex-husband to find her and Gypsy, without checking this story out with Rod and reported that Gypsy seemed to genuinely be mentally handicapped. The file was closed.
Growing Independence Of Gypsy
While those close to Gypsy still believed she was a teenager, by the 2010s she was in fact an adult and began to test the limitations of her mother's scheme. A neighbor recalls an incident either in 2009 or 2010 where Gypsy showed up at her door one night, without her wheelchair, seeking a ride to a local hospital to visit a man with whom she shared a romantic interest. The man had been assaulted by a group of people familiar with Gypsy's medical history, who felt that he was taking advantage of a mentally-challenged underage girl. At the hospital Gypsy produced a birth certificate that gave her correct date of birth, proving that she was of legal age. Dee Dee went to the hospital, where she said that that birth certificate was an incorrect version issued after Katrina, apparently proving it with the "real" birth certificate giving a more recent birthdate. Reportedly Gypsy was made to apologize to all present.
Since 2001, Gypsy had attended science fiction and fantasy conventions, sometimes in costume, since she could blend in, even in her wheelchair. At an event in 2011, she made what may have been another escape attempt that ended when her mother found her in a hotel room with a man she had met online. Again Dee Dee produced the paperwork giving Gypsy's false, younger birth date and threatened to inform the police. Gypsy recalls that afterward, Dee Dee smashed her computer with a hammer and threatened to do the same to her fingers if she ever tried to escape again, she also kept Gypsy leashed and handcuffed to her bed for 2 weeks. Dee Dee later told Gypsy that she had filed paperwork with the police claiming that Gypsy was mentally incompetent, leading Gypsy to believe that if she attempted to go to the police for help, they would not believe her.
Sometime around 2012, Gypsy, who continued to use the Internet after her mother had gone to bed to avoid her tightened supervision, made contact online with Nicholas Godejohn, a man around her age from Big Bend, Wisconsin, she claimed they met on a Christian singles group, a Facebook page from that year with their names combined gives their status as "in a relationship". Nicholas Godejohn had some issues of his own, a criminal record for indecent exposure and a history of mental illness, stated at times to be either dissociative identity disorder or autism.
In 2014, Gypsy confided to Aleah Woodmansee, a 23-year-old neighbor who, unaware that Gypsy was really close to her own age, considered herself a "big sister", that she and Nicholas Godejohn had discussed eloping and had even chosen names for potential children. Gypsy, who had 5 separate Facebook accounts and Nicholas Godejohn flirted online, their exchanges sometimes using BDSM elements, which Gypsy has since claimed was more what he was interested in. Aleah Woodmansee tried to talk her out of it, still thinking Gypsy too young and possibly being taken advantage of by an online sexual predator. She considered Gypsy's plans just "fantasies and dreams and nothing like this would ever really take place." Despite Dee Dee's efforts to prevent her from using the Internet, which went as far as destroying her daughter's phone and laptop, she maintained contact with Nicholas Woodmansee, who saved printouts of the posts Gypsy shared, until 2014.
The next year Gypsy arranged and paid for Nicholas Godejohn to meet her mother in Springfield. Her plan was for him to just bump into her while she and Dee Dee were at a movie theater, both of them in costume and apparently strike up a relationship that way, then for her to introduce him to her mother. As soon as they did meet for the first time in real life, Nicholas Godejohn says, Gypsy led him to the bathroom, where the two had sex. However, she apparently did not find him as desirable in person as he had seemed online. Dee Dee said he was "creepy". The two continued their Internet interactions, however and began developing their plan to kill Dee Dee.
Nicholas Godejohn returned to Springfield in June 2015, coming down while Gypsy and her mother were away at a doctor's appointment. After they had returned home and Dee Dee went to sleep, Gypsy let him know and he went to the Blanchard house. Gypsy allowed him in and allegedly gave him duct tape, gloves and a knife with the understanding that he would use it to murder Dee Dee, Gypsy claimed later that she did not expect him to be able to do it.
Nicholas Godejohn ordered Gypsy to hide in the bathroom and cover her ears so that she would not have to witness her mother's death. Nicholas Godejohn then stabbed Dee Dee several times in her sleep. The two had sex in Gypsy's room, took $4,000 in cash that Dee Dee had been keeping in the house, mostly from her ex-husband's child support checks and fled to a motel outside Springfield. They may have remained for several days while planning their next move, during that time they were seen on security cameras at several local stores. Gypsy said at that point she believed the two had managed to get away with their crime.
They mailed the murder weapon back to Nicholas Godejohn's home in Wisconsin to avoid being caught with it, then took a bus there. Several witnesses saw the pair on their way to the Greyhound station and noted that Gypsy wore a blonde wig and walked unassisted.
On the afternoon of June 14th, at Gypsy's urging, Nicholas Godejohn used his phone to post 2 updates to Dee Dee's Facebook page, so that people would discover the body. The first read simply "That bitch is dead!", followed 17 minutes later by a longer comment suggesting that whoever left it had violently killed Dee Dee and raped Gypsy. Gypsy would later state that she was concerned that several days had passed without anyone discovering her mother's body and that she hoped that someone would report the ominous message to the police so that they would find the body.
Investigation And Arrest
The Blanchards's friends responded to the first post and its language, uncharacteristic for Dee Dee, by asking if she was reacting to a movie she was watching, or speculating that her account had been hacked. After the 2nd post, they knew something was probably wrong. When phone calls went unanswered, several of them went to the house.
While they knew that the two often left on medical trips unannounced, they saw that Dee Dee's Nissan Cube, modified to hold Gypsy's wheelchair, was still in the driveway, making that explanation unlikely. Protective film on the windows made it hard to see inside in the low light. No one answered the door, so they called 9-1-1. When the police arrived, they had to wait for a search warrant to be issued before they could enter, but they allowed one of the neighbors present to climb through a window, where he saw that the inside of the house was largely undisturbed, and that all of Gypsy's wheelchairs were still present.
When the warrant was issued, police entered the house and soon found Dee Dee's body. A GoFundMe account was set up to pay for her funeral expenses and possibly Gypsy's. All who knew the Blanchards feared the worst even if Gypsy had not been harmed, they believed she would be helpless without her wheelchair, medications and support equipment like the oxygen tanks and feeding tube.
Aleah Woodmansee, who was among those gathered on the Blanchards's lawn, told police what she knew about Gypsy and her secret online boyfriend. She showed them the printouts she had saved, which included his name. Based on that information, police asked Facebook to trace the IP address from which the posts to Dee Dee's account had been made. It turned out to be in Wisconsin, the next day police agencies in Waukesha County raided the Godejohns's Big Bend home. Both he and Gypsy surrendered and were taken into custody on charges of murder and felony armed criminal action.
The news that Gypsy was safe was greeted with relief back in Springfield, where she and Nicholas Godejohn were soon extradited and held on $1 million bond. But, in announcing the news, Greene County sheriff Jim Arnott warned "things are not always what they appear." The media in Springfield soon reported the truth of the Blanchards's lives, that Gypsy had never been sick, had always been able to walk and that her mother had made her pretend otherwise, using physical abuse to control her. Jim Arnott urged people not to donate any money to the family until investigators learned the extent of the fraud.
After the disclosure of how Dee Dee had treated Gypsy all those years, sympathy for her as the victim of a violent murder rapidly shifted to her daughter as a long term victim of child abuse. While the charge of first-degree murder can carry the death penalty under Missouri law or life without parole, county prosecutor Dan Patterson soon announced he would not seek it for either Gypsy or Nicholas Godejohn, calling the case "extraordinary and unusual". After her attorney obtained her medical records from Louisiana, he secured a plea bargain to second-degree murder for Gypsy. So undernourished was Gypsy that during the year she was in the county jail, he told BuzzFeed later, she actually gained 14 pounds 6.4 kg, in contrast to most of his clients who lose weight in that situation. In July 2015, she accepted the plea bargain agreement and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Nicholas Godejohn still faced the more severe charge as prosecutors contended he initiated the murder plot and both he and Gypsy agreed that he was the one who actually killed Dee Dee. Her plea bargain agreement did not require her to testify against him. In January 2017 his trial was postponed when prosecutors requested a second psychiatric exam, his lawyers contend that he has an intelligence quotient of 82 and is on the autism spectrum, suggesting diminished capacity. He had initially waived his right to a trial by jury, but changed his mind in June of that year.
In December 2017 the judge set Nicholas Godejohn's trial for November 2018. At opening arguments, prosecutors alleged that Nicholas Godejohn had deliberated for over a year before the crime, while his lawyers pointed to his autism and said that Gypsy had formulated the crime and their lovestruck client had just done as she had asked. The next day, prosecutors showed jurors the text messages, sometimes sexually explicit, that Gypsy and Nicholas Godejohn shared in the week before the murder, often using various personas, as well as the knife he had used. In some of the texts he asked her for details about Dee Dee's room and sleeping habits. These were supplemented by video of his interview with police after his arrest, where he admitted to having killed her.
Gypsy testified on the trial's 3rd day. She said that while she had indeed suggested to Nicholas Godejohn that he kill Dee Dee to end her mother's abuse, she had also considered getting pregnant by him in the hope that once she was carrying Nicholas Godejohn's child, Dee Dee would have to accept him. Along with the knife she eventually gave to Nicholas Godejohn, she stole baby clothes from Walmart during a shopping trip so she could go ahead with either plan. But, she said, Nicholas Godejohn never told her what he thought about the pregnancy plan.
After 4 days, the case was sent to the jury. Jurors had the option of finding Nicholas Godejohn not guilty or guilty for 1 of 3 murder charges, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd-degree murder or 1st-degree murder. After approximately 2 hours of deliberation they returned with the verdict and Nicholas Godejohn was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action.
In February 2019 he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder conviction, the only possible option since prosecutors had declined to seek the death penalty. Nicholas Godejohn asked Judge David Jones for leniency on the armed criminal action charge, which carries a minimum sentence of only 3 years, saying he had fallen "blindly in love" with Gypsy. He received a sentence of 25 years on that charge, to run concurrent with the life sentence.
Judge David Jones also denied a motion by Nicholas Godejohn's lawyer, Dewayne Perry, for a new trial. Dewayne Perry argued that the jury should not have been allowed to hear that Nicholas Godejohn had considered raping Dee Dee the night of the murder, that the state's psychologist should not have been allowed to testify while Nicholas Godejohn's psychologist should have, to establish that he had diminished capacity. The judge, in denying the motion, conceded that an appeals could find the latter point significant and consider it a reversible error.