Courtesy of Greene County Sheriff’s Office
Last week, Hulu announced that Patricia Arquette and Joey King will star in a miniseries called The Act, the first in a “seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories.” This first season, which tells the backstory of Dee Dee Blanchard’s murder, is co-written by Michelle Dean, who also wrote the BuzzFeed News article about Dee Dee and her daughter Gypsy Rose Blanchard that the show is based on.
The first two episodes of The Act are set to arrive on Hulu on March 20. Ahead of the series premiere, here are the details of the Blanchards’ case explained. Watch the trailer below to have a first look at the series.
What’s the gist of the story?
On June 14, 2015, Dee Dee was found stabbed to death inside of her home. One of the people behind her murder ended up being the unlikeliest suspect—her “sick” daughter, Gypsy.
Gypsy, played by King in The Act, believed that she was born with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old and that she had multiple disabilities and illnesses, including muscular dystrophy, leukemia, and asthma, due to her premature birth. But Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder, and all the things she told her daughter about her health problems were false. After learning about her mother’s lies, Gypsy plotted to have her mother killed by her boyfriend. Gypsy is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for her involvement with the murder.
Dee Dee Blanchard had Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder.
Dee Dee presented herself as a mother fully invested in the emotional and physical wellbeing of her “ill” daughter. Gypsy was confined to a wheelchair every time she and her mother appeared in public, and her mother constantly took her to the doctor for check-ups on the many illnesses that Gypsy “had.” But none of it was true.
Dee Dee had what is known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder (MSBP), also known as factitious disorder. MSBP is characterized by attention-seeking behavior from a primary caregiver, typically a mother. Like Dee Dee, a person who exhibits symptoms of MSBP will take their child to doctors for the treatment of made-up symptoms. Dee Dee also applied to foundations for money to treat Gypsy, discussed her daughter’s illness on local news channels, took her across state lines for frequent surgeries and checkups, and administered medications for her illnesses.
People became suspicious about Gypsy’s conditions.
With MSBP, doctors may be reluctant to bring up any suspicions that a patient or their caretaker is lying or exaggerating symptoms, because it could be harmful to the patient’s wellbeing.
As early as 2001, tests for Gypsy’s muscular dystrophy and her brain and spine scans all came up negative for any issues. Though the girl had a relatively clean bill of health, doctors chose not to probe and instead treated her for vision, hearing, sleep, and salivation problems that stemmed from the muscular dystrophy Dee Dee insisted Gypsy had.
According to the BuzzFeed article, one doctor in Springfield, Missouri, pediatric neurologist Bernardo Flasterstein, did tell Dee Dee about his doubts in 2007; he even noted “a strong possibility of Munchausen by proxy.” But nothing came of his suspicions.
Two years later, an anonymous call to the Springfield Police Department expressed doubt that Gypsy was truly ill and requested authorities to take a look at inconsistencies on her birth certificate. When the police paid Dee Dee and Gypsy a visit, Dee Dee explained that the inconsistent birth dates and name spellings were designed to evade an abusive husband. Rod Blanchard, Gypsy’s father, sent Dee Dee money monthly for his daughter’s care. He was not notified, and the claims went unchecked. The police department accepted Dee Dee’s claims without further investigation, and simply noted in their report that Gypsy did indeed suffer from “a mental handicap.”
Gypsy noticed that something was off when she was 19.
In February 2011, Gypsy tried running off with a 35-year-old man whom she met at a science convention that her mother and a family friend, Kim Blanchard (no relation), also attended. He took her back to a hotel room, but Kim convinced him that she was a minor, and he let her go. Later on, Gypsy marked this as the moment when she realized that something was off with her mother, because her mother began to ban her from having friends or being alone.
Gypsy conspired to kill her mother with a boyfriend she met online.
Under the control of her mother, Gypsy’s internet access was often limited. When Gypsy managed to find a way to spend time online, she met 24-year-old Nicholas Godejohn, who became her boyfriend.
On June 14, 2015, Dee Dee was found dead in her home after a shocking message appeared on her personal Facebook account:
Because of her sweet nature in public, locals suspected foul play. Godejohn had posted the Facebook message, and authorities investigating the case traced it back to his IP address. He was staying with Gypsy in Big Bend, Wisconsin. Godejohn confessed to the murder and Gypsy also eventually admitted she had asked him to kill Dee Dee; he had obliged and stabbed her mother 17 times. Gypsy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree murder. Godejohn was charged with first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.