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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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HBO story airing Monday began in South Lafourche

HBO story airing Monday began in South Lafourche

“Not everything is as it seems …”

Editor’s note: If you don’t have HBO, find a friend who does and offer to bring the popcorn because this is one story you do not want to miss!

On June 15, 2015, Dee Dee Blanchard was found murdered in her Springfield, Mo. home, and her wheelchair-bound daughter, Gypsy Rose Blanchard, was reported missing. But after Gypsy was tracked to Wisconsin and implicated in the murder, what started out as a grisly tale of matricide morphed into a bizarre story of deception and abuse.

Erin Lee Carr (“Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop”) returns to HBO to explore another true-crime story in the age of social media in MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST, a shocking look at one of psychology’s most controversial conditions: Munchausen by proxy syndrome.

Featuring exclusive interviews with Gypsy Rose Blanchard from prison, the provocative documentary untangles a web of lies, child abuse, mental illness and forbidden love when it debuts Monday, May 15 at 9 p.m. Central Time.

Following the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard and the disappearance of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a Facebook post stating, “That Bitch is Dead,” led investigators to Wisconsin.

In the disturbing sequence of events that ensued, Gypsy was implicated in her mother’s murder and it was discovered she had been the victim of her mother’s abuse via Munchausen by proxy syndrome since early childhood.

MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST unravels this complicated tale of a mother whose deception subjected her daughter to decades of unnecessary medical treatment – until she reached her tragic breaking point.

Follow the tale of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and Dee Dee Blanchard, formerly from the south Lafourche area, and who stills has family who reside here, their stories of Dee Dee, and the almost unbelievable journey of mother and daughter.

MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST includes interrogation-room footage of Gypsy, her boyfriend, Nick Godejohn, and various family members, as well as intimate home videos and family photos, medical records, text messages and courtroom video.

In addition to candid interviews with Gypsy from prison, the film features interviews with her father and stepmother, Rod and Kristy Blanchard; Dee Dee’s father and stepmother, Claude and Laura Pitre; Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, a pediatric neurologist who was one of the few to raise concerns about Dee Dee’s claims; Gypsy’s lawyer, Mike Stanfield; Greene County prosecutor Dan Patterson; Dr. Marc Feldman, an expert on Munchausen by proxy syndrome; and journalist Michelle Dean, who covered the story for BuzzFeed, among others.

Dee Dee had moved to Springfield after Hurricane Katrina, and Gypsy became known there as a wheelchair-bound girl suffering from leukemia, muscular dystrophy and seizures. The community rallied around the pair, with neighbors and national organizations providing donations, housing and even trips to Disney World.

But it was all a lie: Gypsy’s ailments were entirely the invention of Dee Dee, who deceived doctors, friends, neighbors, family members and even Gypsy’s father, Rod.

At his home in south Lafourche with his current wife, Kristy, Rod recalls how Dee Dee said their daughter had sleep apnea at three months old, which snowballed into other disorders over the years.

When Rod and Dee Dee’s families became suspicious of Dee Dee’s claims, she moved with Gypsy to Springfield and even added an ‘e’ to the end of her name which is uncommon in the spelling of Blanchard.

“Right from birth, three months old, D was telling me she (Gypsy) had CPAP and needed a breathing machine, which to this day I don’t know if that was real or not. It escalated from then … problems with her eyes, hearing, digestive system. After that, Gypsy couldn’t walk anymore, she had a muscular disorder. Dee Dee told me she needed a wheelchair. I asked her, man she has a lot of issues. They did a test and it showed she had a chromosome disorder. Dee Dee told me she’s not going to live to be 18 years old. To see her 23 years old now, perfectly healthy, it pisses me off,” said Rod.

“It breaks my heart knowing she got put through all of this when she didn’t need to. You supposed to love and protect your children, how can you do this to your child?” said Kristy.

From prison, Gypsy describes her mom as “unique” and “overprotective,” adding, “I really didn’t think any abuse was going on.”

Dee Dee told Gypsy she had asthma, epilepsy, hearing and vision problems, and mental retardation, and convinced her she was younger than her actual age. Gypsy was on dozens of medications, which induced symptoms of illnesses she didn’t have. She also had a feeding tube that had to be periodically replaced through a painful procedure.

“‘Mind boggling’ is the only way I can put [Dee Dee’s] ability to manipulate people,” says Gypsy’s lawyer, Mike Stanfield.

Rod added, “Her sister told me once, ‘you know Rod, Gypsy can walk.’ So I asked Dee Dee about it and she told me that with her muscular dystrophy her muscles hurt and it gets progressively worse. It wasn’t long after that when they started moving further and further away.”

One of Gypsy’s doctors suspected Munchausen by proxy syndrome, but it can be difficult to prove. After Gypsy attempted to run away – only to be tracked down by Dee Dee a few hours later – the pair was visited by police on a tip that Gypsy was being abused, but Dee Dee convinced the officers her daughter was well cared for, and later met with a lawyer to declare Gypsy mentally incompetent.

However, Gypsy was able to carve out a secret life online, where she met Nick Godejohn on a Christian dating site. A year into their relationship, Gypsy told Godejohn about Dee Dee, and they devised a plan. According to Gypsy, she let Godejohn into the house one night, and he stabbed Dee Dee repeatedly while she hid in the bathroom.

The couple fled to Nick’s family in Wisconsin, but were apprehended after Gypsy’s Facebook posts boasting about the murder. Citing mitigating circumstances, the prosecution lowered the charge to second-degree murder, and Gypsy pleaded guilty.

Sentenced to ten years in prison, she will be 32 upon release. Nick Godejohn is still awaiting trial.

“We agreed to do this film, with no money involved, to bring some sort of understanding and truth about all Gypsy’s been through. When she’s released, she’ll come back here to live and we hope the community will accept her and understand the life she was forced to live,” added Rod.

(Shown at left are Rod, Gypsy and Kristy)

 “Without Mike Stanfield, Gypsy’s court-appointed lawyer, we couldn’t have brought all this to light. He was so instrumental in bringing forth the details of the mental abuse she suffered. Also, without the HBO crew, we couldn’t have gotten her story told,” said Kristy.

MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST was directed and produced by Erin Lee Carr; produced by Andrew Rossi; co-producers, Alison Byrne and Andrew Coffman; editor, Andrew Coffman; director of photography, Bryan Sarkinen; music, Ian Hultquist. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

The film will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO and affiliate portals.