“Things are not always as they appear” was a phrase that the Greene County Sheriff’s Office used in a June 16, 2015 press conference after arresting Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn under suspicious for murdering her mother Dee Dee Blanchard. However, this was not Gypsy’s first foray onto the public stage. For years, Gypsy was known in the community for being a child struck by numerous disabling medical conditions and health complications, including muscular dystrophy, leukemia, and various other major illnesses.
Gypsy’s friends and neighbors understood that her health conditions kept her from walking and never saw her out of her wheelchair for years. However, when she was arrested for her mother’s murder, the world saw the shocking the truth: Gypsy could walk.
In fact, many of the conditions that people were told Gypsy suffered from were made up. It turned out those conditions were fabricated in an elaborate scheme to defraud the public into providing financial assistance to Gypsy and her mother, Dee Dee. However, as investigations unfolded, it was revealed that Gypsy was the victim of years of abuse from her mother, who apparently exhibited attributes associated with a psychological condition known as Munchausen’s by proxy.
What Is Munchausen’s by Proxy?
Munchausen’s disease is a psychological condition whereby the sufferer feigns illness to obtain attention, financial rewards, and emotional gratification. Munchausen’s by proxy is a variation of the disease whereby a parent claims their child suffers from various illnesses for emotional and financial gain.
Munchausen’s by proxy is a form of child abuse as parents sometimes go to extreme lengths to sell the idea that their child is suffering from diseases. In the case of Gypsy Rose Blancahrd, her mother apparently convinced everyone – including friends, doctors, and social workers – that Gypsy was afflicted with her various diseases.
To convince everyone that Gypsy was suffering from her health complications, Gypsy’s mother allegedly shaved her head, coerced her into using a wheelchair, tube-fed Gypsy, and forced her to undergo various unnecessary medical procedures.
The rouse Gypsy’s mother apparently masterminded was so elaborate that Gypsy was allegedly ignorant of her own actual age. Eventually, as Gypsy began to discover the truth about her conditions, Gypsy’s mother grew increasingly overprotecting and overbearing. Dee Dee allegedly had Gypsy declared mentally incompetent so she could maintain control over her life.
However, Dee Dee could not control every aspect of Gypsy’s life. Gypsy had a secret online relationship with her co-defendant, Nicholas Godejohn. Gypsy shared the details of her circumstances with Godejohn and began to plan Dee Dee’s murder together so they could pursue their romantic interests with each other.
On June 14, 2015, Gypsy invited Godejohn into her home, gave him a knife, and directed him to Dee Dee’s room where he stabbed her to death. Later that night, Gypsy and Godejohn headed to his home in Wisconsin where authorities later found them through social media posts about the murder.
Gypsy was put on trial for her mother’s murder in Missouri, where a charge of first-degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. However, after the details of Gypsy’s child abuse came out at trial, and evidence suggesting that Godejohn suffered from diminished capacity due to having an autism spectrum disorder, the prosecutor decided against seeking the death penalty for Gypsy and Godejohn.
However, the circumstances of their abuse would not have been to defend against a guilty charge. Murder is generally defined as the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a legal term that refers to the defendant’s intent, as demonstrated through planning and deliberation. Because both Gypsy and Godejohn had planned Dee Dee’s murder for months, the prosecutor could easily prove everyone element of murder.
The years of psychological and physical abuse that Gypsy had to endure made it difficult for Gypsy to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Gypsy said she was enthralled by the tale of Rapunzel because she could relate to the princess trapped in a tower by her mother archetype. However, Gypsy would not be able to use this to escape a guilty verdict because she knew the nature of her actions and that it was wrong.
The years of child abuse that Gypsy suffered because of Munchausen’s by proxy was enough to commute the death sentence and reduce her prison term from life to ten years. This shows how extraordinary circumstances can be used to mitigate a criminal sentence even after receiving a guilty verdict.
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