When we last left the story, we covered the history behind Dee Dee Blanchard and her upbringing prior to the event of Hurricane Katrina. For this episode, we will unveil Gypsy’s own story and her development under Dee Dee’s care. Physical and mental abuse were the least of Gypsy’s concern during this time. As we dig through the case, the circumstances will take many turns before Dee Dee meets her ultimate fate. This is the strange case of Dee Dee Blanchard’s murder.
As previously mentioned, Dee Dee and Gypsy were forced to relocate after the impact of Hurricane Katrina destroyed their apartment in Louisiana. When they initially moved to Aurora, Missouri, a city located just southwest of the state, they did not have much. During this time, Dee continued to monetize Gypsy and conned plenty of recognition, awards, and sympathy because of her “triumphs” with all the alleged medical conditions. Dee Dee would make claims on Gypsy’s behalf, and conveniently warp her medical conditions as she saw most lucrative.
For instance, Oley Foundation, a non profit organization that specializes in tube-feeding advocations, honored Gypsy as its 2007 Child of the Year. Gypsy began relying on tube feeding methods after Dee Dee told doctors that her daughter had complications with swallowing food.The process of applying and replacing tubes in Gypsy’s stomach was a painful process. Anesthesia was not provided during these surgeries because Gypsy had to stay awake. Dee Dee was quick to begin her manipulation and, in turn, the state of Missouri made sure the family was well taken care of.
In 2008, Habitat for Humanity, after learning of Gypsy’s tragic circumstances, volunteered to build a small hanicaple home with a wheelchair ramp, which upon compilation, Dee Dee and Gypsy moved in. The house was built in Springfield, Missouri, and even included a hot tub area. From here, Dee Dee became well aware of how they were perceived by the public eye and utilized to her benefit. She knew that the story of a single mother with a disabled daughter, combined with their tragic journey due to Katrina’s destructive nature, would render major sympathy within the small town. Indeed, many of the locals offered to help in any way they could. Dee Dee felt like she had the town under her control. So that people could not “dig deeper” into her affairs, Dee Dee changed her name to Clauddinnea Blancharde. Thus, dubbed Clauddinnea Blancharde. New name, new location, although, same munchausen by proxy tendencies.
The town continued to support Clauddinnea and Gypsy’s lifestyle through means of charitable contributions. For example, The Ronald McDonald Foundation provided the family with their own housing during extended medical appointments/treatments that Gypsy received. They also received free flights to visit the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, free trips to Walt Disney World, and were also given multiple financial donations, which funded Clauddinnea’s stay-at-home mom role. The contributions didn’t stop there, nor the treatment of Gypsy.
On several occasions, Gypsy was granted photo opps at, and VIP access to, Miranda Lambert’s concerts by Make-A-Wish Foundation. On top of it, Rod Blanchard still continued to send Clauddinea his monthly child support payments of $1200. He even showered Gypsy with gifts and contacted her via telephone frequently in attempts to maintain a stable relationship with the family. Despite his efforts to communicate with Gypsy, Clauddinnea made sure to keep it limited.
Rod’s second wife supported him in trying to rekindle his relationship with Gypsy. However, Clauddinnea made many excuses to change plans each time Rod would attempt to visit Springfield. Even when Rod would talk to Gypsy on the phone, Clauddinnea would force him to lie about Gypsy’s age. On Gypsy’s 18th birthday, Rod expressed in an interview that Clauddinnea mentioned not to reveal Gypsy’s true age. Stating, “she thinks she’s 14”. Clauddinnea went as far as to portray Rod, to her neighbors, as an abusive drug addict and alcoholic, who never came to terms with their daughter’s health conditions. She also claimed that he had not been providing any financial aid.
Many people who met Gypsy were captivated by her presence. After all, Gypsy Rose was very small, standing at only five feet tall. Being confined to a wheelchair made her all the more small and fragile looking. Along with a nearly toothless mouth, oversized glasses hovering her face, and a child-like high pitch voice, each physical attribution reinforced the sickening perception that Dee-Dee tried to showcase with her community. To top it off, Dee-Dee routinely shaved Gypsy’s head to make her appear like a patient who is recovering from chemotherapy. Gypsy would then wear many colorful wigs to cover the baldness. The mother was able to cover up her intentions by telling her daughter that it will all eventually fall off from the medications taken anyway. Dee-Dee had her daughter and her community wrapped around her finger. Gypsy was merely a puppet in her mother’s ultimate plan to look like a town hero. Dee-Dee would then finish the routine by leaving the household with an oxygen tank and feeding tube on Gypsy Rose as she would walk her daughter out the door and on to the rail afterwards. It was top performance for the family on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Gypsy was a victim in all of this. She knew little to nothing of Dee-Dee’s intentions. The only circumstances that Gypsy was aware of included her ability to walk. Besides the given fact, Gypsy was just as clueless to the real conditions of her health.
Dee-Dee made it an every day goal to have control in how the community viewed her and her daughter. This meant, even if required force and abuse on the child, so be it. The mother used psychological warfare to manipulate her daughter’s action. For instance, Dee-Dee would hold her daughter’s hand firmly in public appearances to subtly assert her dominance. If Gypsy were to make a statement in opposition to Dee-Dee’s ideals, especially if it alluded that Gypsy was rather a normal child, she would then be given a very tight squeeze.
The abuse eventually led to more physical measures. As Gypsy grew more rebellious with age, Dee-Dee would resort to striking her with her own hands or through the use of a coat hanger. This often occurred in their own privacy.
As if things couldn’t get more out of hand, Dee-Dee still felt the need to expand Gypsy’s medical history. The interventions managed to continue. As previously mentioned in our story, Clauddinnea had some of Gypsy’s saliva glands treated with Botox, then extracted altogether, to control her drooling. Gypsy later claimed in an interview that her mother had induced her by using a topical anesthetic to numb her gums before doctor visits. Since Dee Dee had a nursing background profession, she had the knowledge with medicine to manipulate Gypsy’s appearance. The use of anesthetics caused her salivary glands to dry up. During this time, Gypsy was also taking anti-seizure medications at the same time. The combination of both medication eventually led to her teeth decaying.
The decay grew so badly to the point of no salvation. Therefore, her front teeth were then extracted and replaced by a bridge. To make things worse, tubes were implanted in her ears to control her myriad purported ear infections. The ever growing list of medical issues, of course led to many doctors questioning Dee-Dee’s true motives.
In one particular situation, a doctor became suspicious of Gypsy’s supposed muscular dystrophy diagnosis, during a hospital visit back in Springfield. The doctor went by the name of Bernardo Flasterstein. He was a pediatric neurologist when Gypsy first visited his office. He used MRIs and blood tests to examine Gypsy’s conditions. However, the doctor found no abnormalities. Bernardo was conflicted and later reported to Dee-Dee that Gypsy should be able to walk normally. He later noted in an interview that he witnessed Gypsy being able to stand perfectly when being weighed for evaluation.
Bernardo even claimed that Dee-Dee had “spotty” recollection when trying to provide the doctor with a proper medical history on her daughter. Dee-Dee often used Hurricane Katrina as an excuse for the lack of proper documents. Regardless, many of the muscle biopsy reports still concluded as negative when the results came in. Therefore, this disqualified all of Dee-Dee’s self-reported diagnosis on Gypsy. The claimed information conflicted with the facts, and evidence. It was then when Bernardo began to suspect Dee-Dee of having signs of Munchausen by proxy. Of course, Dee-Dee caught on to Bernardo’s suspicions, as she gained access to the doctor’s medical reports. As a result, the family suddenly stopped visiting his office.
Bernardo still made efforts to spread the word. However, many other doctors discouraged his actions when trying to report to social services. Dee-Dee’s public persona through the media made them a force to be reckoned with, and he feared scrutiny against the community. Those oppositions alone made the doctor feel like authority wouldn’t adhere to his words. There were other attempts to expose Dee-Dee’s true nature. Many of this included reports of misinformation and identity changes. Dee-Dee protested against the claims through the excuse of domestic abuse from previous partners. Her strong rebuttals against each claim helped close the cases in a rather, quick manner.
As Gypsy continued to grow, her interest for love and adulthood blossomed. Dee-Dee allowed Gypsy access to the internet during her free time, which would later nurture her love for science fiction and fantasy. This internet access would also foster further curiosity into her situation. The interests then transitioned to cosplaying overtime.
Since 2001, Gypsy had attended science fiction and fantasy conventions, sometimes in costume, and even in her wheelchair. In one particular convention in 2011, she made what may have been an attempt to escape after meeting up with a stranger. The attempt abruptly ended when Gypsy’s mother found her in a hotel room with a man she had met online. Again, Dee-Dee produced the paperwork by giving the daughter’s false, younger birth date, and threatened the man to inform police if Gypsy did not comply with her demands. The threats won in Dee-Dee’s favor when Gypsy eventually agreed to go back home with her.
Gypsy recalls that afterwards, Dee-Dee smashed her computer with a hammer as soon as they arrived home. Dee-Dee then pressured to do the same to Gypsy’s fingers if she ever tried to escape again. The threats then concluded to Gypsy being tied and handcuffed to her bed for the next two weeks. Dee-Dee later told Gypsy that she had filed paperwork with the police, and argued that Gypsy was mentally incompetent to make decisions on her own. This lessened Gypsy’s intentions of reporting to local authorities for help. She desperately feared that no one would listen to her story if she brought herself to light. Gypsy’s hopes of escaping this hellish nightmare appears to be a distant image at this point.
Want to know what happens next? Listen to the rest of the story through our video below!