Just before she rang in the new year, Gypsy Rose Blanchard stepped out of prison into her first day of true freedom on December 28 after almost thirty-three years of imprisonment, eight years under the law but twenty-five under her own mother.

Blanchard pleaded guilty to murder for her role in the killing of Clauddine Blanchard, known better as “Dee Dee,” in 2016. Gypsy lived a childhood of madness as the victim of Munchausen by proxy, an illness defined by WebMD as “a psychological disorder marked by attention-seeking behavior by a caregiver through those who are in their care.” The disorder is also a form of abuse towards “those who are in their care” due to the overwhelming and intense lengths many “caregivers” take to convince their victims, their victims’ doctors, and often themselves, that their lies are the truth.

In 1991, Gypsy was born to parents Dee Dee, 24, and Rod,17, who got married then quickly divorced after Gypsy’s birth. As a baby, Dee Dee believed her daughter had a variety of issues, starting with sleep apnea, then a chromosomal defect, then leukemia, and muscular dystrophy. While doctors did several tests, they were not able to diagnose Gypsy with any of these. As Gypsy grew older, her mother became convinced that she had intense medical disorders and began using over-the-counter medications to drug Gypsy. From a young age, Gypsy was brainwashed into thinking she was wheelchair-bound, never quite learning how to properly move without one. Her mom forced her to feed through a feeding tube only, use an oxygen tank and commonly treated her for non-existent injuries. With these limitations put on her, Gypsy was provided very little schooling and a very sheltered social life.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Blanchard home and forced the mother and daughter to move to Springfield, Missouri, where Habitat for Humanity built them a small home. Their story immediately got media attention where charitable organizations and people all over the country gave their support. Dee Dee blamed Hurricane Katrina for destroying many of Gypsy’s medical records, birth certificate and forms of ID, and used their move to a new state as a crutch for manipulating doctors, fueling sign offs on diagnoses and prescriptions for Gypsy. When doctors would ask too many questions, Dee Dee would find a new physician, making record-keeping extremely difficult between doctors. She would not allow her daughter to speak with the doctors alone. She would cause Gypsy to produce symptoms of random illnesses to garner attention and sympathy from doctors. For example, Dee Dee used a topical anesthetic to cause drooling in Gypsy which led doctors to remove her salivary glands.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s (Left) and Nicholas Godejohn’s (Right) mugshots, provided by Greene County Sheriff’s Office

According to Gypsy’s trial attorney, Michael Stanfield, “Essentially Gypsy’s mother was holding her prisoner. Her mother would not allow her to spend any time alone with any other human being. Her mother, when they went to the doctor, did all the talking.”

After over twenty years of this ongoing abuse, Gypsy began seeing signs that she was not as sick as her mother was suggesting. As Gypsy asked questions and hinted towards the fact that she believed she could do things on her own, Gypsy testified that her mother would chain her to the bed or beat her.

In 2012, Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn on a dating website that she hid from her mother. The two carried out a secret relationship over the Internet for years until Gypsy asked him to murder Dee Dee for her, as a way to escape the abuse. Godejohn agreed to do so in hopes the two could live “happily ever after” together. In June of 2015, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard was stabbed to death in her bedroom and found days later by authorities after Gypsy posted on Facebook that her mother was dead. In the days from Dee Dee’s murder to the time her body was found, Gypsy had run away to be with Nicholas. Gypsy was arrested and charged with ten years for second-degree murder but served eight. Nicholas was arrested and charged with a life term for first-degree murder.

Throughout her imprisonment, Gypsy conducted interviews with different media outlets to tell her story. She co-wrote a book entitled Released: Conversations on the Eve of Freedom, which is a collection of interview transcripts, journal entries, and her own illustrations and photos from her life.

Adaptations of Gypsy’s story have been told in popular TV shows and movies like Hulu’s The Act and HBO’s Mommy Dead and Dearest.

Gypsy is now living freely for the first time in her life with her husband Ryan Anderson, who she met and married while behind bars. She speaks openly about her life and her new journey on her social media.

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Kaitlyn Foley is an Entertainment and Lifestyle Reporter and Staff Writer for the Messenger Papers. She is the weekly author of our Seasonal Column on Page 17. As a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology, Kaitlyn has a passion for fashion journalism and creative writing. In addition to writing, Kaitlyn also works as one of our Media and Website Associates.