Munchausen and Murder
August 19, 2016 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom To Be Murdered Dee Dee Blancharde was a model parent: a tireless single mom taking care of her gravely ill child. But after Dee Dee was killed, it turned out things weren’t as they appeared — and her daughter Gypsy had never been sick at all.
posted by xingcat (78 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
As much as I don't want to sound sympathetic to someone who plotted her mother's murder (matricide is bad, mmmkay kids), I kind of feel for Gypsy, who was essentially tortured by her mother all her life, ended up plotting her "escape" with a real creep, and seems to be flourishing (relatively speaking) in prison.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:55 AM on August 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


The true crime podcast Sword and Scale did a great episode about the Blanchardes.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's been a number of these cases in recent years.

Like this one a few days ago: An Oklahoma mom raised $20K for her 4-year-old daughter. Then her story began to unravel.
posted by Karaage at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm very happy to sound sympathetic to someone who plotted the murder of someone who spent years abusing her.
posted by jeather at 9:43 AM on August 19, 2016 [67 favorites]


Yeah, I would never have convicted Gypsy of this killing. Munchausens by proxy is a legitimate threat to life, and it would have been the largest threat while trying to escape. Self-defense is evident. Even if not, I would excuse her for the way she was raised, as someone treated in those manners could plausibly not tell right from wrong.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I feel like in a case like this, even the planning--she'd gone her whole life with people in positions of authority, including the police, looking into her case and deciding that her mother was right. She had absolutely no reason to believe that she had other ways out of this, because every system that was supposed to protect her had already failed. It's nearly impossibly hard to leave some abusive situations even in the absence of that. If your abuser tells you that nobody will be on your side, and then the cops come and even that doesn't change anything, what do you do?

People tend to want abuse victims to have to have suddenly snapped in order for it to be justifiable homicide, but the whole thing about abuse is that they control so much of your life that how could you possibly "just snap"? She'd have been told her whole life that she was incapable of managing without her mother, precisely to prevent some kind of reprisal. They create a situation in which you have to turn your options over in your head a thousand times before so much as eating dinner just in case you do something wrong, and then the legal system insists that you can't have planned anything before you do something to get out.
posted by Sequence at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2016 [72 favorites]


Good lord. Just what the hell do you say about this case?

Almost all of it is terrifyingly understandable (Gypsy's ultimate actions, the doctors and cops never quite putting it all together for various reasons). MbP is baffling and fantastical and unfortunately very real.

A whole lot of suffering and hopefully, if this is how the story actually lays, Gypsy will be able to construct something of a life.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Self-defense is evident. Even if not, I would excuse her for the way she was raised, as someone treated in those manners could plausibly not tell right from wrong.

The article implied that there's extensive state-of-mind evidence from conversations between Gypsy and Godejohn; I imagine much of this may become public during his trial. I expect that the prosecutor could have easily established that she planned the murder and could distinguish right from wrong.

I don't know in what cases the state should excuse murder.... Gypsy's situation was terrible, and she obviously felt trapped to some extent. It's good that she has an obviously loving family to support her once she gets out.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2016


I'm sure she planned the murder. I don't know if I think it's right to murder your abuser, but I don't think it's wrong.

I get why she didn't want to roll the dice on getting enough jurors like me, though.
posted by jeather at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Her teeth had already fallen out, and there had been multiple unnecessary surgeries on her. It seems like a threat to life. Maybe there was a better way, but how could she see it?
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


Wish there was more info about the guy, but he does seem like a loser who was living in a fantasy world.
posted by Melismata at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2016


Free Gypsy, maybe Free Nick also.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know in what cases the state should excuse murder.

Well, I don't know either, but I include in them "long-term abuse by a parent", "being kidnapped", and "being harmed over a long time by a MBP caregiver". So yeah, justified to me. Maybe not by the boyfriend, who should have known better.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


That's an incredibly disturbing story with a horrible paradox at its heart: so many people went to great lengths to help Gypsy, and yet failed her completely.
posted by orange swan at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


Dee Dee did horrible things, but she was also pretty clearly mentally ill. Did she deserve to die? To be stabbed to death?

It's all terrible, and a situation that the blunt instruments of state justice are not particularly well equipped to deal with.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:15 AM on August 19, 2016


At least she is finding some measure of autonomy now, even if it's in prison. Sh says she feels more free there then with her mom, which is heartbreaking.
posted by gryftir at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


See, and there's why homeschooling is just a godawful terrible idea. Howbout this, how about you can homeschool your kid and tell it whatever crazy bullshit every OTHER year and then in alternate years it has to spend several hours every weekday at a real honesttogod public school where there's at least a fighting chance that some sane human being capable of basic observation might catch sight of its sufferings and put an end to them, should you be one of these outlier parents that wants to turn your kid into a quiverfull breed animal or worse.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2016 [43 favorites]


Just want to throw out a trigger warning for..fuck, i don't know. Gleeful description of heinous violence/rape? God.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dee Dee did horrible things, but she was also pretty clearly mentally ill. Did she deserve to die? To be stabbed to death?

As a juror, I wouldn't have sentenced Dee Dee to death. But neither would I have convicted Gypsy of her murder.
posted by praemunire at 10:38 AM on August 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it evokes the same feelings in me as when someone takes down a mass shooter. Yes, they were probably mentally ill, and technically that means they probably didn't deserve it, but when it's gotten to that point the only important thing is that they've been stopped.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Free Gypsy,

I'll cosign that.

maybe Free Nick also.

But here I'm not entirely understanding why Nick didn't say, "hey, how about we just run away together and not do the murdering part?"
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2016 [21 favorites]


Would anybody have believed the boyfriend was anything but a creepy perv* if he had just run away with her? What are the chance Gypsy wouldn't have ended up back with her abusive mom? How clearly could she or the guy consider any of that? Who would believe them?

*which he might actually be. I have no idea. It's possible that Gypsy managed to motivate one bad/dicey person to take out another one.
posted by emjaybee at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


At least she is finding some measure of autonomy now, even if it's in prison. Sh says she feels more free there then with her mom, which is heartbreaking.

This is terrible, but one of my thoughts was: How do you even begin to reconstruct yourself and reintegrate into society without becoming your own horrible trainwreck of suffering and mental illness and homelessness? I mean, the system it would take to do this does not generally exist in the US, and especially does not exist for people without money or means, and all things considered, a prison therapist, 3 dependable meals, and time to write a book probably gives her a better chance than most of the people sleeping on the streets of every major city got.

Good lord, here I am comforted that she's in prison instead of cast to find her way in a fragmented/non-existent mental health safety net.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm also not surprised by anything in this story. I mean, the media attention and the multiple doctors and diagnoses offer a special nuance, but people who live in horribly dysfunctional and abusive relationships are much less rare than we want to believe and it is the root of a staggering amount of mental and medical illness, substance abuse, crime, and poverty.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:21 AM on August 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


Hard to say how creepy the guy is/was. But I remember talking to guys online at that age, and 100% of them were like, oh, if I do this thing, I'll get sex? Woo-hoo! Hard to tell if he's one of those "hypermasculine," entitled creeps that have been the subject of many a FPP and Cracked post, I wish they'd written more about him, but in general he just seems like a typical online guy who was in over his head.
posted by Melismata at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2016


Hard to say how creepy the guy is/was.

he stabbed a lady to death in her bed who posed no immediate threat to him, so I'm gonna go with very extremely creepy
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:30 AM on August 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


Hard to say how creepy the guy is/was.

From the article:
"Honey, you forget I am ruthless, and my hatred of her will force her to die,” Godejohn texted Gypsy. “It’s my evil side doing it. He won’t mess up, because he enjoys killing.”
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the course of my work in the disability field, I've encountered one incident of Munchausen syndrome (the regular kind, not Munchausen by proxy). It was disturbing and obviously extremely dangerous. I tend to think that Gypsy should have been able to plead something akin to battered woman syndrome, where because she was always under her mother's thumb, she was always in the zone of danger and therefore killing her abuser would have been self-defense.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


here there's at least a fighting chance that some sane human being capable of basic observation might catch sight of its sufferings and put an end to them

That is very optimistic, honestly, aside from the fact that it often trades one set of sufferings for another.
posted by listen, lady at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tend to think that Gypsy should have been able to plead something akin to battered woman syndrome, where because she was always under her mother's thumb, she was always in the zone of danger and therefore killing her abuser would have been self-defense.

This is symptomatic of what a mess the MO public defender system is right now. It's exactly why the office appointed Jay Nixon to defend someone/get attention to this.

And, Slarty Bartfast, yeah, also a direct symptom of the fact that prisons are the biggest provider of mental health care for enormous demographics.
posted by listen, lady at 11:50 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


The article follows the bit mr_roboto quoted with:
Godejohn referred to his “evil side” because he and Gypsy had constructed an elaborate online fantasy life, mostly through a jigsaw puzzle of Facebook accounts. They were into BDSM imagery. They had specific names and roles for each other. They took pictures of themselves in costumes, Gypsy dressing up at one point as the comic book character Harley Quinn, posing with a knife. Reality and fantasy blended quite a lot, for both of them. Even now, it’s not clear why Godejohn participated in this scheme. He had no history of violence.

So speculate all you want, but also keep in mind that okaying Gypsy's desire for Dee Dees death is in some sense sanctioning the instrument of that desire, Godejohn, otherwise Dee Dee still has control of Gypsy. If it's okay for Gypsy to kill Dee Dee is it necessary that she does it with her own hands or could someone who agrees with your perspective aid her in that effort. It would be a little weird to call Godejohn creepy if you are sympathetic to Gypsy's POV.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:51 AM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


. If it's okay for Gypsy to kill Dee Dee is it necessary that she does it with her own hands or could someone who agrees with your perspective aid her in that effort. It would be a little weird to call Godejohn creepy if you are sympathetic to Gypsy's POV.

This is something I am struggling with. Could Godejohn[1] have helped Dee Dee some other, less murderous, way? I don't know. If he could have, probably he should have -- but maybe he couldn't, and anything he did had a risk of failure causing further harm to Dee Dee.

[1] I have problems that we refer to the women in this story by first names, and the man by his last name.
posted by jeather at 11:58 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is a mother who destroyed her daughter's computer with a hammer when she found out Gypsy was using it to talk to people, who forbade her from having friends, who lied about her age – convincing Gypsy herself she was four years younger than she really was – who lied about her father, wrongfully accusing him of abuse... do you think Dee Dee would have let Gypsy have her own life with Godejohn? It doesn't take putting too many two-and-twos together to realize that a woman capable of letting her daughter's teeth rot, putting a feeding tube in her, shaving her head, and telling her own daughter that she has cancer, would be capable of being just as devoid of conscience in trying to keep control over her if a man came into the picture.

Not condoning what they did, but Godejohn and Gypsy certainly had the intelligence to realize that Dee Dee wasn't ever going to leave them alone. It would have amounted to Dee Dee acknowledging all the lies. And when are abusers the most dangerous? When they realize they've lost control.

It's so sad all around, but it is heartening that Gypsy is being cared for and has a shot at an independent life after prison. I hope Godejohn is getting the mental healthcare he needs as well.
posted by fraula at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2016 [29 favorites]


If it's okay for Gypsy to kill Dee Dee is it necessary that she does it with her own hands or could someone who agrees with your perspective aid her in that effort. It would be a little weird to call Godejohn creepy if you are sympathetic to Gypsy's POV.

I see what you're driving at here, and yeah, if a person's OK with some utilitarian response then that does mean sanctioning Godejohn. However, I do think it's possible to have supported Gypsy making an escape by most means without accepting all means necessarily.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have problems that we refer to the women in this story by first names, and the man by his last name.

The story has like six people with the last name Blanchard(e), though...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2016 [43 favorites]


people who live in horribly dysfunctional and abusive relationships are much less rare than we want to believe

It's complicated. My wife's immediate family was very bad when she was growing up. Just a couple of years ago, her dad pulled a gun on her mom and chased her off to a hotel room--both of them elderly and in declining health. And yet, we all love them. They're my kids'-grandparents. In some ways, their abusive home life (IMO) has been a huge factor in our own marital troubles because when we started out, we were consciously working on my (soon ex) wife's issues from her early days and then that slipped, and I don't honestly think I have the tools/experience to know how to deal with that kind of trauma in somebody I care about. My own family history was complicated, and there was some negligence now and then early on in my childhood, but never any sustained, malicious psychological/emotional abuse. People who have that kind of stuff in their background can become hypervigilant and mistrustful to the point of paranoia sometimes, when triggered. From the abusive people I've known, I've often gotten the sense they don't really understand how cruel they're being.

This story is sad, sad, sad. Not sure what else to think or say about it other than that.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


At least she is finding some measure of autonomy now, even if it's in prison. Sh says she feels more free there then with her mom, which is heartbreaking.

I know that many people don't have much faith in the prison system's ability to rehabilitate. But I really, really hope that these 8.5 years go well for her and she is able to habilitate (no re-, she never got a chance to learn how to live in the first place). Prison can be terrible and it sucks that she'll have to live with a felony record, but I also have trouble seeing her succeeding out in the world after suffering decades of abuse, and I have less faith in mental health facilities than I do in prisons.

I hope she has access to therapy (and I hope she chooses to use it), and I hope she can work on the education that I'm willing to bet her "homeschooling" didn't provide. And I hope she walks out of the prison system and into a new name and a new life, and society remembers Gypsy Rose as a victim of abuse (as a means to hopefully help others in the future), but this new woman wouldn't have to.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:10 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


However, I do think it's possible to have supported Gypsy making an escape by most means without accepting all means necessarily.

So you think it's possible to support an outcome where Dee Dee maintained control of her?
posted by bile and syntax at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2016


So you think it's possible to support an outcome where Dee Dee maintained control of her?

What? No.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:17 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Given her upbringing, I can't blame Gypsy for thinking that killing her mother was the only way to escape the situation. I can certainly assign blame to the guy whose Plan A was to let his "evil side" stab a person to death, even if she was an exceptionally shitty person. Not least because the method of solving this that they went with resulted in Gypsy going to fucking prison.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:26 PM on August 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I feel so bad for Gypsy, and it seems as if she was failed at every turn (for instance, her father and stepmother intending to visit her, but "things always came up" and they never did - it makes me wonder, though I'm sure her father feels guilty and awful now), and I can see where she might have felt that murdering DeeDee was the only option for her, because DeeDee was seemingly unstoppable.

I really, really wish there was more to be done for kids from abusive or just plain bad/dysfunctional families. Making people get a license to reproduce, and other such eugenic interventions, is a non-starter, but, there has to be a better option than "suck it up until you're 18, and good luck getting out afterwards."

Like Don Pepino, I side-eye homeschooling so hard. I know that many parents do it for good reasons - their kid is being bullied, or is not getting the services they need, etc. - but then there are the Quiverfullers and others who want to isolate and abuse children for their own nefarious pleasure. I think, at the very least, homeschoolers should not be able to isolate their kids, and there needs to be some kind of impartial oversight of what the homeschooled kids are learning, if they are up to grade level, if they are being seen by a doctor and are treated well. Abuse seems to happen especially when kids are isolated and hidden away. Poor Gypsy, though, "fell through everyone's cracks." The cracks need to be fewer and narrower.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:46 PM on August 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I feel like Nick probably had a lot of his own issues (I don't mind using the women's first names, but I don't know why that means we can't use his!), but a lot of how those conversations have the feel of... they didn't know another way to solve this situation, because all he knew about it was through the lens of what Gypsy told him, and they spent an extended period of time trying to talk themselves into the idea that they were capable of doing it before they actually did it. They had to talk themselves up as badasses because they felt powerless.

We're never going to know the full story. I'm just coming from my background with having been in an abusive relationship, and dealing with friends who've been in bad situations, and given how Dee Dee had previously reacted to Gypsy's attempts at freedom? I do believe that Gypsy might have felt that her mother would have found some way to either kill her or drag her back if she'd attempted to escape. And I'm not sure she's wrong. Yes, if Dee Dee had tried to have Nick arrested and Gypsy had said, "But look, I can walk!"--that should have been enough to prove she was lying. That sounds easy, right? I don't think it actually is easy, when you're confronting the person who's abused you. I think she had a legitimate reason to fear her mother coming after them. It might have turned out fine. But if every previous opportunity hadn't gone fine, why should she have believed that of this one? If I can't argue for that, how can I expect him to have argued for that?
posted by Sequence at 12:51 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can certainly assign blame to the guy whose Plan A was to let his "evil side" stab a person to death, even if she was an exceptionally shitty person.

Does the article give us enough of Godejohn's side of the story to assign this blame though? There's nothing in there about his mental health, background, or really, even, what Gypsy was telling him.

If we can acknowledge that Gypsy might not be guilty of murder (even second degree) because of her circumstances, I think we need to consider that Godejohn may also not be guilty, especially before more details come out during his trial.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:52 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


> for instance, her father and stepmother intending to visit her, but "things always came up" and they never did

I actually interpreted that as "Father makes plans to visit, then DeeDee says something like, 'We have to call off the visit because Gypsy is feeling poorly/has to go to the hospital/etc'. " DeeDee had the most to gain from preventing Ron from visiting, after all. Someone who sends $1200 a month in child support isn't exactly Mr. Whatever about making sure his kid is taken care of--but he probably just had life happen, trusted that a raincheck would be arranged soon afterward, and trusted DeeDee to be on the level about Gypsy's medical condition. She supposedly "knew everything" about Gypsy's history and was the authority that EVERYONE looked to for answers. Even the doctors who were literally looking at lab results and saying "Gee, no sign of muscular dystrophy, but oh well, Mom says she has it so she must have it."

Should Dad have insisted on a visit and a second opinion? In hindsight, absolutely. But in the moment, it's not like you exactly expect Mother of the Year to turn out to be Mommy Dearest.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


let's also not lose sight of the fact that Nick Godejohn found an extremely vulnerable, compromised person on the internet and said 'yep, that's the girl for me'
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


All right, listen, lady, I'll grant you that it's possible that no adult in the school would have noticed that "something wasn't right at home" and sent her into foster care. But that's not the only way she'd've found help at school. Five+ hours a day out of the direct control of her mother, among safe adults, out of the stream of noxious bullshit and physical abuse emanating from her mother, and with access to peers would have been great for her. As it is, as soon as she could she found ways to seek out age-mates from whom she could get help. Would it not have been better to do that at 6 or 7 or 8 or 9? She might have kept her teeth. She might not have been malnourished and never achieved her full growth potential. She might not have murdered her mother. She'd maybe have some idea today how old she is. All that and she'd be able to read, write, do math, know about history and science--all the stuff that her homeschool education, given that her mother had the state convinced she was mentally handicapped, denied her.

As for foster care being another set of sufferings, well... yeah. So is prison. Today she is grateful to be in prison, simply because she is away from her mother. Foster care is definitely a crapshoot, but I don't agree that it's particularly optimistic to think that even a terrible foster family would very likely have been a lot better than what she had.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:04 PM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


let's also not lose sight of the fact that Nick Godejohn found an extremely vulnerable, compromised person on the internet and said 'yep, that's the girl for me'

And/or Gypsy Blancharde found an extremely vulnerable, compromised person on the internet and said 'yep, that's the guy for me'.

I think it's important to differentiate between Nick and, say, the 35 year-old at the convention who decided it would be a good idea to take a "minor" who was possibly outwardly displaying sign of mental handicap, and was definitely in a wheelchair up to his room for some "private time."

I just don't get the "predator" vibe off of the descriptions of Nick the same way that I do with the convention creeper. Until I hear more, I'm going to go with the assumption that Nick is also a very broken person who ended up in a folie à deux with someone who genuinely needed help.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:05 PM on August 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


Good lord, here I am comforted that she's in prison instead of cast to find her way in a fragmented/non-existent mental health safety net.

From reading Cries Unheard, I got the sense that Mary Bell managed to get a lot of the structure and mentoring she needed while she was in adult and juvenile correctional facilities in the 1970s in the UK, and that when she came out, she was in far better shape than when she went in. I hope the same will be true for Gypsy Blanchard. But from what I know about current prison policy and practice in the U.S., I think she'll have a much rougher time of it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can certainly assign blame to the guy whose Plan A was to let his "evil side" stab a person to death, even if she was an exceptionally shitty person.

I hear you, but at the same time I'm not sure what either side of my psyche would decide to do with a person that was repeatedly harming someone I cared about.

Honestly, I'm a fairly well-adjusted pacifist, but... I understand.
posted by Mooski at 1:16 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've been there. Didn't murder anybody. Not murdering is really easy.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:23 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not murdering is really easy.

x is easy should always have warning bells attached.

I mentioned that I'm a fairly well-adjusted pacifist to contrast my situation with that of the killer, who appeared to be neither, and allegedly watched long term as someone they cared about was hurt by the same person over and over again.

If I'm not sure what I would do, I'm not sure I can sit in judgement. Like many of the other commenters, I hope prison is helpful.
posted by Mooski at 1:36 PM on August 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Like Don Pepino, I side-eye homeschooling so hard. I know that many parents do it for good reasons - their kid is being bullied, or is not getting the services they need, etc. - but then there are the Quiverfullers and others who want to isolate and abuse children for their own nefarious pleasure. I think, at the very least, homeschoolers should not be able to isolate their kids, and there needs to be some kind of impartial oversight of what the homeschooled kids are learning, if they are up to grade level, if they are being seen by a doctor and are treated well. Abuse seems to happen especially when kids are isolated and hidden away. Poor Gypsy, though, "fell through everyone's cracks." The cracks need to be fewer and narrower.

Children can be just as isolated and hidden away in public and private chools that have neither the funding to care about nor a district-wide interest in the wellbeing of their students. Think about the abuse hidden by Catholic schools and Christian academies in the US. Reporting neglect/abuse as a teacher or school employee in a public school is especially nowhere near as simple as you think it is. The push back I got when I tried to report the parents of two students who were being sexually abused by their fathers and uncles at home AND by a instructor at my school was profound enough and devastating enough that it is the primary reason I am no longer a teacher.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:29 PM on August 19, 2016 [25 favorites]


I've been there. Didn't murder anybody. Not murdering is really easy.

Every single person who has ever escaped their abusive homes without murdering a parent could say the exact same thing about Gypsy. Which is probably a big part of the reason why she is in prison now.

I mean, based on the facts at hand, it seems obvious that Nick should receive at least as much punishment as Gypsy. But I could the see the actual facts being such that the amount of punishment that both Gypsy and Nick should get is zero. I could also see the actual facts being such that he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Hopefully, his jury will be able to work that out.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:30 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hermione Granger, that's hideous. I'm so sorry. Thank you for trying to help them.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:09 PM on August 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


don't agree that it's particularly optimistic to think that even a terrible foster family would very likely have been a lot better than what she had.

It is terribly optimistic to assume the system actually works especially well. There's an FPP today about that.

You might also want to learn more about adult outcomes for foster kids. "Better than prison" can still be profoundly bleak, and time in the system can increase the likelihood of ending up in prison anyway.
posted by listen, lady at 3:16 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


i've been there. Didn't murder anybody. Not murdering is really easy

you've been in your own version of there, and the impulse to compare oneseld to other victims of abuse is understandable but not especially useful.

good on ya for not being a murderer, though.
posted by listen, lady at 3:19 PM on August 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm torn between horror at Gypsy's failed escape at the convention that saw more of her freedom stripped away and horror that the thirtysomething guy went to the convention to be alone in a motel room with who he thought was a 15-year-old.

Somewhere there's a dystopic alternate timeline hell universe in which Dee Dee lived because Gypsy escaped her just to fall straight into the clutches of a pedophile.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nick was not the victim of abuse from the person he killed here though.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like foster care is perhaps a derail here because this woman had a father who was obviously willing to provide for her, and likely would have been happy to take her in if anyone had realized how unfit the mother was.

I mean, maybe Gypsy's father felt grateful that he had dodged a bullet and his ex-wife was insisting in doing all of the heavy-lifting of day to day care for what he believed to be a very ill child (I could certainly understand it if I were in that situation). But if he really didn't care about her, he wouldn't have been paying support (especially once she was over 18). I'm pretty sure that he and his second wife will be living with the regret of taking the easy way out for the rest of their lives.

Nick was not the victim of abuse from the person he killed here though.

My mother-in-law abused my husband as a child & teenager. I have thought a number of extremely unkind things about her as I've learned more and more snippets of the truth over the years. I obviously have no desire to harm her. But, with my husband's blessing, I do sometimes do things that I know cause her harm now (it usually takes the form of not spending a ton of "quality time" with her because she can be triggering for him, which wouldn't necessarily "harm" a properly adjusted person but her mental state is such that she doesn't not take the slightest hint of rejection well and I know from 3rd parties that my husband and me "ignoring her" has led to days of sobbing and depression). If I thought that it was likely that she would attempt to physically abuse him again, I would do everything in my power to break all ties with her, not because I logically believe that my husband is physically vulnerable to her anymore, but because of how I might be tempted to react to protect him.

So if I had known my husband then like I know him now, and I thought that I could save him from her by causing her harm AND I was mentally ill? Let's just say that I could understand why this mythical crazy younger me might have done something that older, sane, and real me would definitely regret.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


I think it's important to differentiate between Nick and, say, the 35 year-old at the convention who decided it would be a good idea to take a "minor" who was possibly outwardly displaying sign of mental handicap, and was definitely in a wheelchair up to his room for some "private time."

Nick was still a 24-year-old taking up "romantically" over the Internet with someone he believed to be an 18-year-old, entirely uneducated victim of abuse. That does not look good.
posted by praemunire at 4:41 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think that Gypsy's sentence was actually a pretty just outcome. She did commit a brutal premeditated murder. I say "commit" because I think she was an equal partner, and if she actually physically participated, I think that both she and Nick would have said that he did it alone. Gypsy literally could have got up and walked away and shattered Dee Dee's Munchausen long con, but Gypsy must have been filled with deep rage from her life of medical abuse. And instead of walking away, she acted on it. She is not stupid and knew it was wrong. So she deserves prison time, but not a life sentence. She may not be ready to live on her own in society anyway. She seems to be getting something positive from being treated as an adult while being provided for in a structured environment.
posted by knoyers at 4:58 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


who he thought was a 15-year-old.

No, he thought she was 19. It was Deedee who claimed otherwise and the guy immediately backed off. Creep, maybe, but I'm not judging anybody in this story, especially not on the small amount of actual information we have about the entire situation. I was struck by DeeDee's ex-husband suggesting that Deedee had slipped into something she didn't know how to get out of. Perhaps wisdom from a guy who was 17/18 when he married 24-year-old Deedee. I think any judgements are premature at this juncture.
But, Hey! feel free to follow your own path.
posted by CCBC at 5:09 PM on August 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I read the article this morning and can't stop thinking about it. The horrible physical and mental abuse from the mother, and the fact that nobody was able to stop it, makes me viscerally angry. I think Dee Dee got what she deserved.
posted by Vitamaster at 5:09 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gypsy should get time off from her sentence for what she served in the living hell of her mother's medical prison.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:10 PM on August 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Even the doctors who were literally looking at lab results and saying "Gee, no sign of muscular dystrophy, but oh well, Mom says she has it so she must have it."

This!

What I gleaned from this part of the story is that muscular dystrophy is something that can be tested for. (Unlike someone who goes to the ER and says, "I have a tummyache.") Lab tests result in objective data, not subjective opinion. So all these medical personnel (and there had to be a lot, not just the doctors) were being wilfully blind to factual evidence right there in front of them.
posted by scratch at 5:16 PM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Lab tests can be wrong though. Which is why observed symptoms/reported history are part of a diagnosis. And Dee Dee was apparently very quick to sever relationships with doctors/clinics who got suspicious.

At least one doctor in the story admitted to being almost positive that it was all lies, but after Gypsy was taken out of his care he didn't think the follow up would be worth the professional capital it might cost.

Who wants to believe that a seemingly loving and engaged mother is abusing her child?
posted by sparklemotion at 5:38 PM on August 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "Free Gypsy,

I'll cosign that.

maybe Free Nick also.

But here I'm not entirely understanding why Nick didn't say, "hey, how about we just run away together and not do the murdering part?"
"

I would hypothesize that if he really cared about her, he might be angry about everything she had been through. I don't know if I would murder someone, but I would be seriously steamed in the same situation.
posted by Samizdata at 7:43 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not a teary eyed type reading news, usually if I get an emotion anger or amusement or frustration is how it manifests.

But this one got me going a few places near the end. To have a life so bad that you commit this horrible crime, knowing it's horrible, then get stuck in a Missouri prison--and you thrive because that's more nurturing than what you had.

I would only form an opinion on if she should be in prison or not if I were actually paid to do it.

It would be a little weird to call Godejohn creepy if you are sympathetic to Gypsy's POV.

Not to me. I assume he's also got problems so who knows what he "deserves" in the scheme of things, but "meet a girlfriend online and conspire to kill her mother" is not at all the same sort of story to evoke sympathy as being trapped in an brutally abusive prison for 20 years.

Lab tests result in objective data, not subjective opinion. So all these medical personnel (and there had to be a lot, not just the doctors) were being wilfully blind to factual evidence right there in front of them.

I've seen a lot of stories here about individuals (usually women) who had doctors who didn't believe them because "the tests" were clean and spent years in discomfort or misery before someone who actually trusted them, followed up, and solved the problem.

On a personal note my father (late '70s) has spent a few years with a problem that gives symptoms like a few known syndromes, none of which he tests positive for. He was so diminished when my brother (who lives out of town and doesn't see him often) had dinner with him he called me afterwards in near panic find out what was wrong. They finally decided to treat him as if he had the disease they know he doesn't, and after a few changes in treatment he's doing a lot better. So no, lab tests are not objective--they are an observation that humans need to interpret.
posted by mark k at 7:45 PM on August 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


The part where Gypsy automatically adopted the "positive but soulful" victim during the interview really got to me. Not only was she terribly abused, she was completely brainwashed to be a cheerful sick person in the public. I wonder what DeeDee could have been thinking the future could possibly be. Some part of her must have known Gypsy couldn't keep up the charade forever, that she was getting well past the age of being a completely controlled child. I wonder if DeeDee would have killed Gypsy.
posted by areaperson at 8:21 PM on August 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


if ever murder could be justified I think this is it. She had no choice, or no choices that made any sense. Her mother had shown that she'd do anything to keep her under her thumb. She destroyed her methods of communication, she gave her unnecessary surgeries. She emotionally and physically abused her. Doctors and police officers did nothing to protect her, they just went by her abuser's narrative. Just exactly what hope does that leave a young woman, no persons of authority have ever helped her, and her mother had everyone fooled.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 8:45 PM on August 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I would think that in the vast majority of cases, health care providers erring on the side of trusting the patients is a good thing. Too bad that it turned out horribly in this particular case.
posted by Harald74 at 11:10 PM on August 19, 2016


But giving someone a surgery because their mother says so, when there is no medical proof that said surgery is needed... I don't see how something like that is possible, how does that even happen? What kind of doctor just does that because someone asks them to? How can there not be checks in place to prevent things like this from happening? Who advocates for those who can't protect themselves, we all know that not all parents are good parents. If not the doctors, who?
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:51 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Stonkle: "I'm amazed and impressed that Gypsy Rose managed to escape that situation. She must have had a little kernel of defiance and independence in her all along. I am not surprised that she thought murdering her mother was the only way out. Many abused children quickly learn that adults in authority don't give two shits about them; they're on their own to figure it out themselves."

I know they feel that way, but it isn't true. The adults that do give at least 1.75 shits are generally too overburdened to get anything done.
posted by Samizdata at 12:43 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


See, and there's why homeschooling is just a godawful terrible idea.

Be careful with that. I lived the outlier childhood you're talking about, the abuse and the isolation and the quiverfull and all of it. My adult life has had all the struggles you might expect, and I've spent many years unpacking the experience, but I still believe that homeschooling was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I used its tools to bootstrap myself right on out of that environment, as did most of the other kids in my cohort, and the pattern of continuous self-education has been serving me very well ever since.
posted by crotchety old git at 9:30 AM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


That first fb screen cap is interesting. (not the picture of them, the one from "last June")

No likes, 122 comments, 255 shares.

Interesting.
posted by sio42 at 11:42 AM on August 21, 2016


Wow just finished the article. Interested to see what happened to her in the future.
posted by sio42 at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2016


Hmm after reading all the comments here I too am wondering about all the doctors who did surgeries and rxd meds based on no lab tests whatsoever.

I mean, we have multiple multiple posts in the blue and green where people can't get medical care they need for which they have actual diagnoses so how does this happen???????

That is the part that blows my mind more than anything about this I think.

In her mind, there was no alternative except to get rid of her mother. Leaving her wouldn't solve anything. That makes for sad yet understandable outcome.

But the medical professionals... How? Why? Who does eye surgery on a girl who does not have eye problems? Who treats MD when there are no symptoms?
posted by sio42 at 12:16 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love longform true crime pieces like this. Thank you so much for posting.
posted by invisible ink at 2:09 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


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