Michelle Dean’s Buzzfeed piece about Gypsy Rose Blancharde, who murdered her mother Dee Dee after a lifetime of being the victim of Dee Dee’s Munchausen by proxy syndrome, is a shocking, puzzling and horrible case almost too bizarre to comprehend. It’s the sort of must-read that wonders about the outer limits of mendacity, and the mental limits of how much one person can take.
From nearly the beginning of Gypsy’s life, as Dean writes, Dee Dee Blancharde had been taking her to hospitals for various grave “illnesses”—cancer, muscular dystrophy, chromosomal abnormalities—all of which contributed to Gypsy’s supposed inability to walk or to learn apace with her peers or even comprehend her own age, despite the fact that each hospital disproved that she was sick. Dee Dee was good enough at maintaining the illusion that, along the way, she and Gypsy benefited from various charities and Make-A-Wish grants—they met Miranda Lambert—while Gypsy kept a secret life on Facebook, away from her overprotective mother. And Facebook is how neighbors and friends learned, in June 2015, that “That Bitch is dead!”
The invasiveness Gypsy’s person suffered in order to keep up her mother’s lie were numerous, and appalling. Dean writes:
Some interventions were surgical. Gypsy’s eye muscles were repeatedly operated on for alleged weakness. Tubes were put in her ears for alleged ear infections. She was given a feeding tube and ate very little by mouth, surviving on cans of the meal replacement PediaSure well into her twenties. Her salivary glands were first injected with Botox, then removed because her mother complained that she drooled too much. Gypsy’s teeth rotted out and had to be extracted, though whether that was because of poor dental hygiene or a mixture of medications and severe malnutrition, it’s hard to say.
The repeated invasions of Gypsy’s body in the name of these illnesses she turned out not to have were, in short, serious and prolonged. It is difficult to say now whether any of it was medically needed at all. What is not difficult to say is that all of it began when Gypsy was impossibly young and could hardly have been expected to challenge authority figures — her mother or her doctors — about how she was feeling.
Gypsy and her online boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, were at first charged with the first-degree stabbing murder of Dee Dee, Godejohn having wielded the knife and Gypsy having enlisted him to. Godejohn’s trial is still pending, but Gypsy plead down to second-degree murder and is serving ten years. But as is laid out in the piece, Dee Dee’s murder was not cut and dry; it was more weighted towards the direction of the limitations of the abused than the cold-blooded, cold-hearted Facebook post might imply. Go read it all here.