For Nicholas Godejohn, falling in love didn’t lead to a happily-ever-after ending. That’s because the girl he met and started talking to online was living a life entangled with lies and deceit. And it wasn’t long before Godejohn was drawn into the terrifying world of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother, Dee Dee – and ultimately driven to commit an unthinkable crime.
The harrowing tale of Godejohn and Gypsy Rose’s apparent romance and the heinous act that it provoked has garnered so much attention that it became the subject of a popular series on Hulu called The Act. What’s more, the case has also been dramatized by Lifetime as Love You To Death and covered by major U.S. talks shows, including Dr. Phil and ABC’s Good Morning America. But what is the real story?
Back on June 14, 2015, worried friends and neighbors gathered outside the home that mother and daughter Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard shared in Springfield, Missouri. They had been alerted by a couple of unsettling posts on Dee Dee’s Facebook page, the first of which read, “That Bitch is dead!” Police turned up at the scene, but they couldn’t enter the property without a warrant. And fears began to rise for both Dee Dee and her daughter, Gypsy Rose, who was wheelchair-bound and relied upon a feeding tube.
When the warrant arrived, authorities entered the home and made a shocking discovery: Dee Dee’s lifeless body on her bedroom floor. It appeared as though she had been viciously stabbed and left to die in a pool of her own blood. More worryingly still, Gypsy Rose, who those same neighbors and friends feared could not survive without her mother’s care, was nowhere to be found. Quickly, friends created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Dee Dee’s – and possibly Gypsy Rose’s – funerals.
Gypsy Rose was far from dead, however. In fact, she’d eloped with her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn. Godejohn is now notorious as the man who killed his girlfriend’s mother and is serving a life sentence in jail – with no prospect of parole. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers in November 2018 of the murder of Dee Dee as well as armed criminal action. But what about Gypsy Rose’s part in the brutal slaying?
Well, today Gypsy Rose also finds herself incarcerated. Her crime? Second-degree murder. It’s thought, you see, that she was also involved in her mother’s death. Unsurprisingly, the community of Springfield was left reeling by the crime – not least of all because they had always believed that Gypsy Rose was an invalid who’d been cared for in an altruistic manner by Dee Dee. But during the trials of Godejohn and Blanchard, a disturbing web of deceit began to unravel.
During the court proceedings, the bizarre details of the murder and its aftermath started to come to light. It seems that at some stage into Godejohn and Gypsy Rose’s blossoming romance, the pair had agreed that Godejohn would kill Dee Dee. And while they gave conflicting reports as to who had been the main instigator of this horrifying plan, Godejohn had apparently inflicted the fatal wounds.
According to reports, after carrying out their horrific crime, Godejohn and Gypsy Rose had fled to Godejohn’s Wisconsin residence, where they had hoped that they’d avoid being implicated. But the police tracked them down relatively quickly after the discovery of Dee Dee’s body. And on June 15, 2015, Godejohn and Gypsy were taken into custody.
You see, Gypsy Rose had befriended a neighbor, 23-year old Aleah Woodmansee, in 2014 and had begun to reveal to her the details of her secret relationship with Godejohn. And it was Woodmansee who had informed the police of the growing bond between the young couple and was able to supply them with Godejohn’s name. From there, it was only a matter of time before they were able to locate his home address.
But how had Wisconsin native Nicholas Godejohn formed a relationship with a young and apparently disabled girl who resided in Missouri? The answer, almost inevitably, is the internet. During her conversations with Woodmansee, Gypsy Rose confessed that she’d met Godejohn on a Christian dating site. The two had begun to exchange a number of messages, and the relationship had grown from there.
In fact, Gypsy Rose and Godejohn had reportedly been talking online for over two years and had even planned to marry. They had apparently picked out baby names, too. According to Gypsy Rose, Godejohn accepted her disability, and the pair planned to meet in person. It was after this, however, that things began to spiral out of control.
“It was like some kind of magnificent fairy tale was unfolding,” Woodmansee told BuzzFeed in August 2016 of the relationship. But who was this knight in shining armor who was threatening to come and whisk young Gypsy Rose Blanchard off of her feet? Could he be relied upon to be a carer for a young woman who – to the outside world at least – appeared to be both physically fragile and naive about the realities of life?
Well, Godejohn was 23 years old when he first met Gypsy Rose online in around 2012. And as it turned out, he’d already had a brush with the law in 2013, when he had been charged with indecent exposure and possessing a weapon. Although little is known about the young man before he became involved with Gypsy Rose, he’s now thought to be autistic and have a low IQ.
Moreover, the nature of Godejohn and Gypsy Rose’s conversations was at times alarming in the context of what was to follow. Violence and Godejohn’s “evil side” were apparently often discussed by the pair, for example. It’s also believed that they regularly dressed up in costumes and began to blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy, seemingly living their own imaginary world. But no one could have predicted just how twisted the couple’s connection would become.
Gypsy Rose and Godejohn met face to face for the first time in March 2015 – only three months before Dee Dee’s murder. Gypsy Rose arranged for Godejohn to travel all the way down from his home in Big Bend, WI, to Missouri to see her and meet her mother. And apparently, she thought that Dee Dee might be more likely to warm to him if she wasn’t aware of their clandestine online relationship.
At first, everything seemingly went more or less according to plan. But then, Gypsy Rose claims, Dee Dee began to feel uneasy about her daughter’s behavior towards this apparently new acquaintance. “[Dee Dee] got jealous because I was spending a little too much attention on [Godejohn], and she had ordered me to stay away from him,” Gypsy Rose informed ABC News in 2018. “Needless to say, that was a very long argument that lasted a couple weeks, yelling, throwing things, calling me names.”
Then, the young couple, who had known each other for more than two years by this stage, apparently discussed the murder of Dee Dee for the first time. “Me and [Godejohn] were talking one night, and he said that he would do anything to protect me. And I asked him, ‘Anything?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘From anybody?’ [I asked]. He said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Even my mom?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And that’s when this kind of plan started to develop [into] a murder plot,” Gypsy Rose said on an Identification Discovery special.
And so, the disturbing plan began to coalesce. Regardless of whether Gypsy Rose truly thought that Godejohn would go through with it or not, the young woman’s boyfriend was subsequently convicted of stabbing her mother repeatedly to death with a knife that had allegedly been given to him by Gypsy Rose herself. The young girl remained in the bathroom while her boyfriend committed the crime. Then, the two of them fled the scene, taking $4,000 with them that Dee Dee had been storing in the residence.
Interestingly, prosecutors did not pursue capital punishment for Godejohn – nor indeed for Gypsy Rose. The former’s lawyers argued that he had mental incapacities, for one thing. And county prosecutor Dan Patterson cited the unique circumstances surrounding the case as a reason for not seeking the death penalty.
We know that Gypsy Rose was a vulnerable youngster, and we’ve discovered that Godejohn was on the autism spectrum. This doesn’t explain, however, why the couple felt compelled to commit such a horrifying crime. And the answer to this lies in another shocking twist in the story: Gypsy Rose was apparently the victim of a lifetime of abuse – at the hands of her mother.
To the local community in Springfield, MO, Dee Dee Blanchard appeared to be the perfect parent. The mother resided in a picturesque bungalow on West Volunteer Way with her daughter for more than half a decade. And during this time, they struck up a number of close relationships with the neighbors. Indeed, locals were apparently charmed by the loving relationship that the pair seemed to display. “Sweet” was one word an acquaintance used to describe the Blanchards, according to BuzzFeed.
Another friend of the family, Kim Blanchard – no relation – went even further in her praise of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose. “They were just perfect,” the woman told BuzzFeed. “Here was this poor, sick child, who was being taken care of by a wonderful, patient mother, who only wanted to help everybody.”
As it turns out, Dee Dee was actually a native of Louisiana, where Gypsy Rose had been born. What had brought these two north in pursuit of a new life, then? Well, not all was as it seemed behind the doors of the Blanchards’ pink bungalow. In fact, Gypsy Rose would later expose the troubling dynamic that supposedly existed between her and Dee Dee – one that would ultimately drive her to wish her mother dead.
According to legal documents, Clauddine Blanchard was actually Dee Dee’s real name. And she’d been raised in the town of Golden Meadow in Louisiana. Then, in Missouri, Dee Dee had usually spelled her name Blancharde – with an “e” – in an apparent attempt to distance herself from her past. She’d been born Claddine Pitre, in fact, with the name Blanchard coming from a brief marriage soon after the discovery that she was pregnant with Gypsy Rose.
Gypsy Rose’s father, Ron Blanchard, was just 17 when he found out that Dee Dee, who was 24 at the time, was pregnant with Gypsy Rose. They subsequently tied the knot for what he described to BuzzFeed in 2016 as the “wrong reasons.” Interestingly, he also stated that Gypsy Rose had been a healthy baby. However, three months after the birth, Dee Dee apparently had begun claiming that her baby was suffering from sleep apnea – despite having no evidence to support this claim.
Perhaps it was at this point that Gypsy Rose’s reputation as a sickly child began. Then, Dee Dee apparently told Ron that their daughter had a chromosomal defect that was leading to a litany of health problems. And at some point, Gypsy Rose became permanently confined to a wheelchair – though it’s not clear exactly when or why. She was home-schooled from an early age by her mother, so there are seemingly no third-party confirmations of such details.
An apparent falling-out with her family may have been the motivation behind Dee Dee moving to Slidell, Louisiana, with Gypsy Rose. They secured public accommodation and supported themselves on child-support money from Rod Blanchard and pay-outs for Gypsy Rose’s health problems. As for what these issues were, much is unknown. But the alleged symptoms seemed to be growing in severity each time Dee Dee took her daughter to hospital in nearby New Orleans.
Among the most serious of the illnesses from which Dee Dee claimed that Gypsy Rose suffered was muscular dystrophy. However, doctors could find no concrete evidence of the condition. Her daughter also allegedly had seizures, for which the youngster was given medication. If Dee Dee’s actions attracted the suspicions of any medical professionals, though, these misgivings were never reported. And to everyone who knew them, Gypsy Rose was a sick little girl being cared for by her dedicated mother.
In 2005 the devastation of Hurricane Katrina resulted in the Blanchards moving to Missouri. Their home was hit badly, and so they were moved into sheltered accommodation designed for those with special needs. Then, it seems that a doctor who cared for Gypsy Rose mentioned that she and Dee Dee could relocate to Missouri. And that’s what they did.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, an apparently disabled young girl and her dedicated mother being left homeless by Hurricane Katrina attracted a lot of sympathy. The media and charities stepped in to help, in fact, and the pair were flown to Aurora, MO, where they were given a Habitat for Humanity house. And the mom and daughter moved into their new home in March 2008.
What’s more, the charitable donations kept on coming. Dee Dee, you see, had begun telling people that Gypsy Rose was suffering from leukemia. And the young girl’s lack of hair seemed to confirm that she was receiving treatment for the disease. Locals were stirred by the Blanchards’ plight, too, and the pair apparently started enjoying trips to Disney World and stays in special accommodation for cancer patients.
Meanwhile, Gypsy Rose’s physical appearance appeared to confirm all of the suffering that Dee Dee reported. She was slight, wheelchair-bound and had a child-like demeanor that was accentuated by a high-pitched voice. Plus, she was often accompanied by an oxygen tank and a feeding tube. So, how could anyone have suspected that it was all, in fact, an elaborate lie?
That’s right: Gyspy Rose can walk. And she can eat without requiring a tube as well. And while she apparently always knew that she was capable of doing these things, it seems as though she believed her mother’s diagnoses. As a result, Gyspy Rose dutifully took all the medication that her mother administrated to her and went about living the only life that she knew.
However, the biggest question of all remains: why would a mother do this to her child? All the clues appear to point to a mental condition for which Dee Dee, of course, can never be tested due to her untimely death. The name of this syndrome is Munchausen by proxy. And it facilitates in its sufferers the desire to invent or create physical symptoms in other individuals – for the purpose of receiving sympathy and attention.
In hindsight, then, Dee Dee Blanchard displayed all of the classic hallmarks of Munchausen by proxy. These include frequently changing doctors, locations and names, for example. Sufferers are often skilled deceivers, too, and it isn’t uncommon for even family members to be oblivious to their activities. “The perpetrators are very intelligent people,” Dr. Caroline Burton explained to BuzzFeed. “They know how to manipulate other people.”
Indeed, Gypsy Rose’s father had no idea that all of his daughter’s symptoms were fake. He claimed in fact that the first time he saw his daughter walk was on TV. It was a news report about her arraignment hearing. And he felt so bewildered by what he saw that his initial response was actually relief. “I was really happy that she was walking,” he admitted, according to BuzzFeed.
And if all of this weren’t troubling enough, Dee Dee’s control over Gypsy Rose’s life even went as far as her personal relationships. In February 2011, for instance, Dee Dee apparently confiscated all of her daughter’s electronic devices after catching her with a man. Moreover, Dee Dee allegedly scared the individual off by informing him that her daughter was 15, when she was actually 19. Lying about her daughter’s age was in fact another frequent control tactic of Dee Dee’s.
By all of these accounts, then, Gypsy Rose was the victim of a startling degree of abuse. Even today, Gypsy Rose maintains that escaping this was her primary motivation for her actions. And many people might well have sympathy for her. As for Godejohn, he told ABC News, “I … did what I did because I loved her. I really wanted a life with her; I really did.” He added, “Unfortunately, because of how far I went, I feel as if she’s betrayed me. I feel that she’s abandoned me.” As it turns out, Gypsy Rose and Godejohn are no longer in a relationship.
As for the local community, the reaction has understandably been one of shock. Neighbors were stunned not only by the murder that occurred in their midst, but also by the degree of subterfuge that had taken place for so long right under their noses. There are those who are critical of themselves for having been taken in for so long, of course. However, even medical professionals had failed to see through Dee Dee’s web of lies, too.
Meanwhile, Gypsy Rose – who is now behind bars serving a ten-year sentence – opened up to BuzzFeed in 2016 about her feelings towards Dee Dee. “The doctors thought that she was so devoted and caring,” Gypsy said. “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.”
When people offer their condolences to Gypsy Rose regarding what has happened to her, the response that she gives is surprisingly optimistic. “It’s okay. I mean, honestly, it’s made me a stronger person,” she told BuzzFeed. “Because I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. [Dee Dee] taught me to lie, and I don’t wanna lie. I want to be a good, honest person.” And Gypsy Rose, who will be eligible for parole in 2024 at the age of 32, just might get the opportunity to make good on her word.