Living is Easy with Eyes Closed: The Story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blancharde

By C.W.S.

Looking at pictures of Gypsy Rose Blancharde, it is almost impossible to see her as the 23-year-old woman she was when she and her online boyfriend, Nick Godejohn, planned and carried out the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blancharde. On June 14th, 2015, a violent post appeared on Dee Dee’s Facebook page. The post read, simply, "That bitch is dead!"

The images of Gypsy show a tiny, wheelchair-bound girl dressed in childlike clothing, oversized glasses, and a variety of hats, wigs, and ribbons that cover a bald head. She is always smiling widely and appears often beside her mother, a jolly-looking woman dressed in bright colors. They appear uncommonly happy, uncommonly close. All those who knew them, neighbors, doctors, even the public who had heard about them through various news stories, saw a devoted mother and an incredibly sweet, incredibly sick, child. “We are a pair of shoes,” Gypsy said once of her mother. “Never good without the other.”

The list of illnesses that plagued Gypsy was almost mystifying: a serious chromosomal defect, leukemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, severe asthma, sleep apnea, eye problems and ear problems. She was medicated excessively and received numerous operations. Due to brain damage, Dee Dee often told people that her daughter had the mental capacity of a seven-year-old, and Gypsy’s high-pitched voice and small appearance added to the persona of childish helplessness. Feeding tubes and oxygen tanks surrounded her small body while the pair visited doctor after doctor in multiple states, and received money, housing, media attention, and charity trips to Disney World. Gypsy’s mother was her world and it seemed, her champion. The only problem was that Gypsy wasn’t really sick, and Gypsy wanted to grow up.

Factitious disorder imposed on another, known more commonly as Münchausen syndrome by proxy, is a mental disorder in which a person fabricates symptoms of physical or mental disorders for someone under their care, usually to gain attention or sympathy. A puzzling disorder even to professionals, it is often difficult to detect, especially when there are no consistent doctors and the victim is manipulated into an alliance with the caregiver. Dee Dee shaved Gypsy’s head frequently to give the appearance of having cancer. “She’d shave my hair off. And she’d say, ‘It’s gonna fall out anyway, so let’s keep it nice and neat!’” Gypsy told Buzzfeed reporter Michelle Dean.

LIFE IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED, reads the Favorite Quotations section of Dee Dee’s Facebook page, which has since become a memorial account.

The problems started shortly after Gypsy was born in 1991, just North of New Orleans, in a town called in Slidell. Her father, Rod Blanchard, was 17-years-old and still in high school when Dee Dee got pregnant. She was 24 at the time, and the two married because of the news, separating shortly before Gypsy’s birth. Rod said he had gotten married for the wrong reasons, and though Dee Dee tried to get him to reconsider multiple times, the marriage ended. Three months after Gypsy was born, her mother became convinced that her daughter had sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. After multiple tests, doctors found nothing wrong. From this point on Dee Dee would contact her ex-husband frequently, detailing many new health crises Gypsy was enduring.

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Dee Dee would go on to tell stories of Rod as an alcoholic, dead-beat drug-user who had abandoned his family and would not pay child support. Rod tells a different story, and so do records of his child-support. Rod paid $1,200 a month to Dee Dee, even continuing after Gypsy turned 18. Rod and his new wife Kristy spoke with Gypsy often, and she spent time with the couple as well as their two children, and as far as Rod knew they had a fine relationship with Dee Dee. Gypsy never confided in them about the things she knew—which actually wasn’t much—telling Michelle Dean, “I was in the dark about it. The only thing I knew was that I could walk, and that I could eat.” Their relationship became more distant when, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina forced Dee Dee and Gypsy into emergency special needs housing. They eventually moved up into a house built for them by Habitat for Humanity in the Ozarks. When Rod called up to Missouri on Gypsy’s 18th birthday, Dee Dee told him not to mention Gypsy’s age because Gypsy believed she was only 14. Dee Dee told Rod not to upset her with the truth. Her father would not know that she was capable of walking until he saw her do so in a news story on Gypsy’s arraignment on Facebook.

The next year, Gypsy was 19 but still believed she was 15. Though seemingly docile and childish, Gypsy had secrets of her own. After meeting a 35-year-old man at a science fiction convention, the two started an online relationship that culminated with Dee Dee busting into a hotel room where Gypsy had fled to meet him. Dee Dee went on to smash the family computer with a hammer, and barred Gypsy from using the replacement.

Four years later, Gypsy would confide in a family friend, Aleah Woodmansee, 23, that she had met another man online. Gypsy would only use the Internet late at night, when her mother was already asleep. Using a Christian dating website, she started a relationship with 23-year-old Nick Godejohn, confiding in him the truths she knew about the situation with her mother. At this point, Gypsy believed she was 18, though she was actually 23. She told Aleah through Facebook messages that she and Nick were in love and planning a life together.

The only photos of Nick Godejohn available show him in prison orange or black and white stripes, with downcast eyes and auburn stubble. When their mug shots are placed side by side, he and Gypsy appear as if they could be siblings, both slight of frame with similar facial shapes and the same short, unruly brown hair. Godejohn had no violent crimes on his record before the murder, though he was cited once for lewd conduct at a McDonalds where he was found watching pornography on a laptop. Investigations uncovered that Gypsy and Godejohn were interested in BDSM role-play and, in one particular image showed Gypsy dressed as the comic book character Harley Quinn, licking a knife and staring into the camera. Referring to his “evil” side, Godejohn spoke about his desire to kill Dee Dee as early as 2004, stating in a text message, “Honey, you forget I am ruthless, and my hatred of her will force her to die.”

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The violent post appeared suddenly on Dee Dee’s Facebook on June 14th. The post was commented on over a hundred times by friends and neighbors, worried about what was going on. Some pointed out that the page had probably been hacked, others thought it could be a movie reference. For hours they asked each other what was going on, and neighbors went over to the house to see if they could speak with Dee Dee. In the middle of the comments appeared one from Dee Dee: “I fucken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER…HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO FUCKEN LOUD LOL.” At this point, the commenters started to panic.

Family friend Kim Blanchard (no relation) tried calling Dee Dee, and when there was no answer she and her husband David drove over to the house. They called the police after receiving no answer to their knocking and noticing that Dee Dee’s car was still in the driveway. The search warrant didn’t come through until late into the evening, and when police entered Dee Dee’s bedroom, they found her stabbed to death with Gypsy nowhere to be found. Aleah Woodmansee told police what she knew about Nick Godejohn. The Facebook post was traced to an IP address belonging to Godejohn in Big Bend, Wisconsin.

After a brief stand off the next day in Big Bend, Godejohn surrendered and Gypsy was found safe, much to the relief of those waiting to hear. But the news would come paired with shocking information. Gypsy’s wheelchairs had all been left behind, along with her oxygen tanks and feeding tubes. Gypsy was not the sick little girl they had all come to know, and she had walked out of her house and boarded a bus with Godejohn after he stabbed Dee Dee in the back multiple times. Gypsy had helped clean the blood, and had put the alarming posts on her mother’s Facebook, because, she said, she hoped it would help the police find her mother sooner. The pair had mailed the murder weapon to Wisconsin.

Since Gypsy’s father and stepmother could not afford an attorney for Gypsy, public defender Mike Stanfield was assigned to her case. After months of difficulty, he finally received Gypsy’s medical records and stated, "Gypsy's mother was holding her a prisoner. Her mother did 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.” Because of the obvious nature of Gypsy’s manipulation by her mother, a plea deal was reached. Gypsy pled guilty to second-degree murder and was given the minimum 10-year sentence by the judge. Nick Godejohn had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the past, and his defense team is seeking a second-degree murder charge due to his mental capacity. His trial is set for February 2017. The couple is not allowed to have any communication.

In the About Me section of Dee Dee’s Facebook page, she stated simply: A VERY BLESSED MOMMY. There is no other information about her, no identifying information outside of the motherhood of Gypsy Rose, and even her Facebook name, Dee Gyp Blancharde, demonstrates an enmeshment. Below that, in the Favorite Quotations section, are only the words LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED, a lyric from the Beatle’s Strawberry Fields Forever. The full verse reads:

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It's getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn't matter much to me

The lyrics cast a light not only on Dee Dee’s reality, but also on Gypsy’s acceptance of her new circumstances. She has expressed that in prison she feels freer than she ever did under her mother’s control. She accepts what she has done and has expressed remorse for not speaking out before acting. She knows she will have to live with what she and Godejohn did but maintains that it was Godejohn that put the plan into action. She is planning to join prison programs. She wants to write a book to educate others about Münchausen syndrome by proxy. When Kim Blanchard visited Gypsy in jail she told Michelle Dean, “She looked much more like the person that she was, which was the complete opposite of the person that I knew, and it was like she had a costume on that whole time and then took it off.” Gypsy will be eligible for parole when she is 32-years-old. 

 

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