An interesting case is Gypsy Blanchard and the death of her mother Dee Dee Blanchard. For those who aren’t familiar, Dee Dee convinced the world that her daughter Gypsy had leukaemia, coupled with muscular dystrophy which supposedly left her wheelchair bound. Gypsy’s interactions with the wider world were extremely limited; she was given a range of powerful prescription medications, and underwent multiple major surgeries. The Make a Wish foundation sent the mother and daughter to Disney and they had financial aid when buying their house as Dee Dee didn’t work in order to care for Gypsy. Gypsy, however, was completely healthy. Her mother has since been diagnosed with Munchausen by proxy (more information here) – the fabrication of illness to garner sympathy.
Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn in 2012 on a Christian dating website and the two struck up a friendship, that lead to a romantic relationship, although it would be a few years until they met in person. Gypsy confided in Nicholas about her situation and it seems he was there emotionally for her, even encouraging her to go to the police. However Gypsy had tried this before, Dee Dee had brushed off all allegations as a misunderstanding due to Gypsy’s illness. Gypsy even ran away from home and sought shelter with Nicholas, but Dee Dee found her and brought her home.
The situation came to public attention in June 2015 when the body of Dee Dee was discovered by police. Shortly after, Gypsy and Nicholas were arrested at Nicholas’ parent’s home in Wisconsin. At trial Nicholas received life in prison without parole for first-degree murder, Gypsy received a ten year sentence for second-degree murder.
So, is Gypsy a monster who conspired to kill her mother in this callous act? Or is she a victim? I want to argue the latter; she was never given a chance at a real life. Her mother isolated her from her father, gradually moving further away to limit his contact, ensuring her deception wasn’t detected. Some doctors had become suspicious over the years, questioning Gypsy’s illness, but Dee Dee swiftly moved house and sometimes state when this happened. Unfortunately, the doctors didn’t follow up once they had gone. The sheer quantity of medication Gypsy was taking, the unnecessary medical procedures, and having to lie to everyone about her health is abuse, “Because vulnerable people are the victims, MSBP is a form of child abuse or elder abuse.” (University of Michigan). Gypsy had attempted to escape her mother’s grasp several times, but was always retrieved. So what other choice did she have? No doctors were going to save her, her father wasn’t around, the police didn’t believe her, for Gypsy murder might have seemed like the only escape.
Nicholas is a different story; he wasn’t subjected to abuse, and should have brought in either the authorities or his parents with whom he lived instead of taking matters into his own hands. But, he too was vulnerable having been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and lower than average IQ. It has been “argued that ASD may diminish or eliminate responsibility for criminal behaviour (Freckelton, 2013; Woodbury-Smith& Dein, 2014), on the grounds that the social deficits associated with the disorder render people with ASD unable to appreciate that their actions are morally wrong.” Please find the full paper here. He was in a far better position than Gypsy – clearly understanding the power of the police by encouraging her to seek their help – but based on his mental capacities I don’t think he should have received life in prison. A prison sentence is certainly appropriate – he did murder Dee Dee after all – but not life without parole.
Since the murder, Gypsy has started rebuilding a relationship with her father, and his new family. When she is released in her 30s, he will be there to help her start a new life. Not that she will ever lead a normal life, everyone will know her name and story due to the fame and notoriety of the case: there are documentaries, TV shows, and people like me writing about the case, both negatively and positively. Unfortunately, if her father had known earlier on, then perhaps all of this could have been avoided, but Dee Dee became very good at hiding her lies.
Gypsy’s long sentence seems completely unjustified, she has already lost all of her childhood, and a good portion of her adulthood as well to Dee Dee’s actions, now even more will be wasted inside of a prison cell. Her complete isolation growing up means that solutions and ways out that may have been obvious to us, were possibly unknown to Gypsy. She tried to run away, and sought help from the authorities, but Dee Dee always cleverly talked her way out of any suspicion raised. Gypsy is not the villain of the piece, rather the victim of Dee Dee’s actions. Although, clearly the American legal system disagrees with me.
What do you think?