Imagine being trapped in a wheelchair for nearly 20 years and being told not to walk, let alone move your legs. Being coerced to play the part of a leukemia and muscular dystrophy patient. To act as if you are five years behind your peers developmentally and suffer from “retardation.” And all of this is forced upon you by your own mother.
THEN, what if you were OVER IT and just killed her already?
This craziness is the basis of the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, which tells the story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Rose Blanchard. I watched it this weekend and it was fascinating, weird, upsetting and…..did I say weird? My husband said to me while we were watching it, “I’ve never seen you so engrossed in a movie this late at night.” Watching pretty much anything at 10:30 at night is quite a feat for me, especially when there are no Doritos involved.
Long story short, Dee Dee was really, really good at manipulating everyone around her and gaining accolades for being a wonderful, loving mother. Not only that, but she used her daughter’s “illnesses” to get a house and vacations for free. She was able to get her daughter prescriptions which mimicked the symptoms of serious illnesses and when a doctor would catch on, she would just move onto someone else. Dee Dee supposedly had Munchausen syndrome by proxy which is a disorder in which a caregiver feigns or exaggerates the illness of someone under their care, with it typically being their child. By doing so, these “caregivers” get sympathy and attention. And free trips to Disneyland, apparently.
Fast forward to 2015. “That bitch is dead” appears on Gypsy Rose’s Facebook page and Dee Dee has been found, stabbed to death in her bed. After a short investigation it was found that Gypsy Rose had met a young man named Nicholas Godejoh online and, after forming a very bizarre relationship, they completed “Plan B.” This plan involved Nick stabbing Dee Dee to death while Gypsy Rose waited in the bathroom. Afterwards, the two travel around, laughing and sharing brownies in bed together (they recorded this and it was, uh, very awkward).
So, now what? After the killing, Gypsy Rose is walking and healthy, shocking most everyone around her. She relays these horrific stories that she had never been able to tell anyone. Gypsy is initially charged with first degree murder, but as the stories of abuse and other mitigating circumstances are revealed the court allows some leniency. Is Gypsy Rose Blanchard better off in prison than living with her mother? Was Gypsy Rose just as manipulative as her mother? How much of this really is the truth? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.
This disorder occurs pretty rarely, but there are some other notable cases that I’ve listed here:
- Lacey Spears was convicted of killing her son with table salt through a feeding tube and while he was “sick” she kept a blog about their life. I remember reading it with a heart full of sympathy before it was revealed that she had been poisoning him the whole time. Yikes.
- In probably the worst case of Munchausen by proxy, Marybeth Tinning found that by having nine of her children die between 1972 and 1985 under “mysterious circumstances” she got a lot of sympathy and a lot of prison time.
- Julie Gregory wrote a book about growing up with a mother who coached her to exaggerate her medical symptoms and fed her foods she was specifically told not to by her doctors. This sweet mother also became upset when doctors would not perform (unnecessary) open heart surgery on her daughter.
One last thing. According to Dee Dee’s family members, she wasn’t very well liked. In fact, after her death her own sister suggested that they just go ahead and flush her ashes down the toilet. If I’m ever acting like someone who deserves to have their ashes flushed, please let me know. Deal?