The Peculiar Case of Gypsy and Dee Dee  

Thrown (Ţâpat) in , , , ,

A relatively recent tragic murder and Munchausen by proxy case is a pretext to look at how Romani / Gypsy / Roma people are perceived, the guilt of their children and mob mentality.

GypsyDeeDeeMichelle Dean’s article has this summary:

“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.”

Having read the article, I find the following direct quotes noteworthy.
  • Munchausen by proxy: a caregiver or spouse fabricates, exaggerates, or induces mental or physical health problems in those who are in their care, usually to gain attention or sympathy from others. (wiki-mbp)
  • In short, a person with the syndrome either feigns or induces physical and psychological symptoms for no obvious benefit other than attention and sympathy. If the person does this to themselves, it’s plain Munchausen syndrome; when the symptoms are feigned or induced in others, it’s called Munchausen by proxy. The DSM-V recommends distinguishing Munchausen syndrome from what is called “malingering,” that is, faking or inducing symptoms of illness where there is some hope of material benefit. Malingering isn’t considered to be a mental illness. It’s just plain fraud.
  • a new comment from Dee Dee’s account appeared on the status: “I fucken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER…HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO FUCKEN LOUD LOL.”
  • Gypsy Rose was born shortly after the couple separated, on July 27, 1991. Rod said Dee Dee liked the name Gypsy, and he was a Guns N’ Roses fan. As far as he knows, neither of them knew about Gypsy Rose Lee, the 1920s vaudeville child star turned stripper whose early life was the basis for the Broadway musical Gypsy (wiki-gypsymus). That Gypsy had a controlling stage mother too, one who lied about her daughter’s age to make her seem younger, one who kept forcing her daughter to perform even though she didn’t want to. [In Romania, one born with that name would run as far away as they could from it, much like the entire ethnic group has changed its name.]
  • Gypsy was healthy at birth, Rod said. But when she was 3 months old, Dee Dee became convinced that her baby had sleep apnea, that Gypsy would stop breathing in the night. It was then when Dee Dee began taking her to the hospital. As Rod remembers it, the doctors couldn’t find anything, in spite of three rounds of tests and a sleep monitor. The conviction that Gypsy was a sickly child took hold. She explained the increasingly bewildering array of problems to Rod by saying that Gypsy had a chromosomal defect. Many of Gypsy’s health issues, she claimed, stemmed from that one thing.
  • They remember going to the Special Olympics, too, but have good memories of it. “All smiles,” Kristy said.
  • The story of a mother and disabled daughter left without anything proved irresistible to local press. It worked on charities, too. Dee Dee and Gypsy were airlifted to Missouri in September 2005, where they rented a house in Aurora. They lived there until the Habitat for Humanity house on West Volunteer Way in March 2008.
  • Rod continued to send, as he always had, $1,200 a month in child support to a New Orleans bank account. He also sent the occasional gifts Dee Dee asked for, television sets, and a Nintendo Wii. He continued to send these things even after Gypsy turned 18, because Dee Dee said Gypsy still required full-time care. “There was never a question whether or not I was going to stop paying,” he said.
  • There were, occasionally, small signs of deception. When Rod called Gypsy to talk on her 18th birthday, he said, he was excited to make all the jokes dads make to their daughters about becoming an adult. But Dee Dee intercepted the call, he said, to remind him that Gypsy didn’t know her true age. “She thinks she’s 14,” Dee Dee said. She asked that he not upset Gypsy by claiming otherwise. Rod heeded the instruction.
  • “I think Dee Dee’s problem was she started a web of lies, and there was no escaping after,” Rod said. “She got so wound up in it, it was like a tornado got started, and then once she was in so deep that there was no escaping. One lie had to cover another lie, had to cover another lie, and that was her way of life.” They never saw all the local news stories about Dee Dee and Gypsy that had been written and filmed up in Missouri. They knew nothing of any charity drives and trips except what Dee Dee told them, which was very little.
  • Parents make your world, and Dee Dee made Gypsy’s into one where she did, indeed, have cancer. Gypsy told me her mother said some of the medications were related to it. Even as she grew older, she wasn’t sure how to question it. There are lingering questions, in fact, about exactly what medications Gypsy was given over the years. Some of them may never have been prescribed to Gypsy at all; her attorney, for example, suspects Dee Dee gave Gypsy some kind of tranquilizer.
  • A diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy is attached to the perpetrator, not to the victim. Because Dee Dee is dead, it’s impossible to diagnose her. She didn’t leave behind a diary or some other documentation of her intentions. She did keep a binder of medical information in which she seemed to be sorting through the different information she’d given to various doctors. And she did fit certain parameters that doctors often cite as red flags for Munchausen syndrome: For example, she had some medical training. The number of doctors she took Gypsy to see over the years, and her propensity for changing locations so there was no clear medical trail, is also common. So are the concerns over sleep apnea, which is one way Munchausen often seems to begin in the various documented cases.
  • Gypsy’s medical records are sobering. All the way back in 2001, doctors at Tulane University Hospital tested Gypsy for muscular dystrophy. Her tests came back negative. In fact, all scans of her brain and spine were relatively clear. The records of all those tests survived Katrina. Nonetheless, Dee Dee continued to insist to doctor after doctor in Louisiana and Missouri that Gypsy had muscular dystrophy. Most doctors appear from these records to have taken her assertion at face value and didn’t probe. Instead they proceeded to treat Gypsy for various vision, hearing, sleep, and salivation problems that were presumed to flow from the muscular dystrophy. (The records I reviewed for this article appeared to cover only some of Gypsy’s care. It’s impossible to say how many other relevant records might exist.)
  • Some interventions were surgical. Gypsy’s eye muscles were repeatedly operated on for alleged weakness. Tubes were put in her ears for alleged ear infections. She was given a feeding tube and ate very little by mouth, surviving on cans of the meal replacement PediaSure well into her twenties. Her salivary glands were first injected with Botox, then removed because her mother complained that she drooled too much. Gypsy’s teeth rotted out and had to be extracted, though whether that was because of poor dental hygiene or a mixture of medications and severe malnutrition, it’s hard to say.
  • The repeated invasions of Gypsy’s body in the name of these illnesses she turned out not to have were, in short, serious and prolonged. It is difficult to say now whether any of it was medically needed at all. What is not difficult to say is that all of it began when Gypsy was impossibly young and could hardly have been expected to challenge authority figures — her mother or her doctors — about how she was feeling.
  • For their part, doctors did not pick up on innumerable hints that Dee Dee’s stories did not add up — not even the sleep doctor, Robert Beckerman, who saw Gypsy both in New Orleans and in Kansas City. Instead he featured his treatment of Gypsy in the hospital newsletter and mentioned repeatedly in the medical files that she and Dee Dee were his “favorite mother, daughter patient.” (Beckerman did not reply to requests for comment for this story.)
  • There was one exception. In 2007, a pediatric neurologist named Bernardo Flasterstein, consulting on the case in Springfield, became suspicious. In a recent phone conversation, Flasterstein told me he had his doubts from the first time he saw Dee Dee and Gypsy. Dee Dee’s stories about Gypsy’s myriad illnesses didn’t fly with him. In his notes to Gypsy’s primary care doctor after the first visit, he wrote, in bold, underlined type, “The mother is not a good historian.” There was an “unusual distribution” to Gypsy’s weakness for a muscular dystrophy patient, he wrote in his notes. Still, Flasterstein says, he gave the case the “benefit of the doubt” and sent Gypsy for all the usual tests, the MRIs and the blood work. It all came back normal. “I remember having her stand up,” he told me, “and she could hold her own weight!” He said he told Dee Dee, “I don’t see any reason why she doesn’t walk.”
  • In between his visits with Gypsy, Flasterstein tracked down a doctor who had seen Gypsy in New Orleans. That doctor told him that the muscle biopsy in New Orleans had been negative for muscular dystrophy, and that Gypsy’s previous neurologist had explained that to Dee Dee. When confronted with the problem, Dee Dee simply stopped seeing those New Orleans doctors. Flasterstein never followed up. He told me that in the network of Springfield doctors Dee Dee saw, “everyone bought their story.” He remembers being told to treat the pair with “golden gloves.” He says he thought that if he reported it to social services, they wouldn’t believe him either.
  • She told them that the reason she sometimes used inconsistent birth dates and spellings of her name was to hide from an abusive husband. No one called Rod Blanchard, or checked on these claims. The police accepted the explanation. Gypsy “does suffer from some type of mental handicap,” they wrote in their report. The file was closed.
  • Her voice is still high-pitched, though now that we know what we know, it no longer seems unusually high at all. People heard what they wanted to. Gypsy speaks in long, beautiful sentences. She is sometimes so eloquent in conversation that it is hard to believe anyone could have ever spoken with her and thought her “slow,” as some put it. It reminded me of all the doctors who wrote in her files that in spite of Gypsy’s alleged cognitive defect, she had a “rich vocabulary.”

If you have read this blog before, you have probably guessed by now why I find this case so interesting.

This story resembles in my mind Stephen King’s Misery (wiki-misery). It’s a novel I have not read, only watched the 1990 movie. It still reverberates today, with a Broadway play starring Bruce Willis in 2015-2016. I see the same compelling metamorphosis of the caregiver (also former nurse!) becoming tormentor and being killed as the only way the protagonist can regain their freedom. I’ll always remember “I’m your number one fan”, which is also the last line in the movie, as I recall it. I’m not sure if that movie played some role in my decision to stay anonymous and do my best to avoid fame or even notoriety, which I see as a curse.

A paler echo is The Ageing Young Rebel / Gentle Cruelty, though no tormentor dies and there’s no escape, it’s the (anti)-hero that endures the metamorphosis.

What made this story, in my eyes, eligible for this blog is the name Dee Dee gave her child: Gypsy. If you bothered going through the story above, you might have found, like I have, the Internet mob’s accusations on the surviving child preposterous. She could not have done anything different, she was fully dependent on her mother, who further infantilized her through drugs and debilitating surgery, to the point where she perceives prison as a step-up. That is similar to the situation Gypsy kids forced into begging find themselves in, while facing general hatred and opprobrium.

As discussed ad nauseam on this blog (just see the romi category), the Roma/Romani/Gypsy are the most hated ethnicity not only in Romania but in Europe (even Sweden) as well. When discussing it with haters (not only Romanians but Europeans in general) I always discovered positions I would not expect in educated individuals:

  1. Gypsies cannot be helped
  2. Gypsies actively choose their lifestyle
  3. Crime is ingrained in their culture
  4. Gypsy children (puradei) are no less “guilty” than their parents
  5. Suggested solutions cannot work and are immoral and should not even be tried

Despite the aforementioned hatred and racism, in some segments of the population, Gypsies continue to be seen as having a romantic lifestyle. This is more pronounced on the American continent, due in part to the musical based on the stripper’s autobiography (wiki-gypsymus) and perhaps more so to the fact that there is less prominence of Gypsy migration in terms of sheer numbers. Shakira’s song is more of a reflection of it than it is a cause. I have to wonder, looking at the song’s chart performance: is it reflective of antiziganism in those societies?

  1. Austria: 11
  2. Flanders: 4
  3. Wallonia: 40
  4. Germany: 7
  5. Hungary: 39
  6. Spain: 47->3 (38w, pt); Singles 9, Airplay 11 (there was a Spanish version, Gitana)
  7. Switzerland: 12 (18w)
  8. US Bb Hot 100: 65 (Gitana - US Latin: 6, US Tropical: 18)
  9. Canada: 80

A similar view was held in communist countries before 1989, as shown in Satra (1975).

In the past few years, Gypsies (and Romanians, who are mis-identified as such by most of Europe) have been getting more of a free pass having been displaced from the public enemy #1 position by “terrorists” and Syrian refugees. Yet I suspect that the Syrian refugees / Islamophobia will not dominate the news cycle forever and antiziganism will soon take its place.

Recently, it became apparent that a large number of people who might think of themselves as educated hold similar views with respect to poor people in general, rejecting state aid to poor families and anti-poverty programs. Or maybe Internet mobs like to find someone to vilify and don’t really care who that is as long as they, the victims, cannot fight back.

The other subject I would’ve liked to touch upon is a few books I’ve read recently. However, their Romanian connection is rather weak which makes them better suited for other blogs.

Sources / More info: bz, wiki-mbp, wiki-gypsymus, wiki-maling, wiki-shakgypsy, wiki-misery, imdb-misery, yt-misery, wiki-gypsyroselee

Thank you for reading (mulţam fain pentru cetire)! Publicat Wednesday, October 12, 2016 . Similar articles under the following categories (poţi găsi articole similare sub următoarele categorii): (Subscribe), (Subscribe), (Subscribe), (Subscribe), (Subscribe) . Dacă ţi-a plăcut articolul, PinIt-uieste-l, ReddIt-eaza-l, stumble-uieste-l altora, trimite-l pe WhatsApp yMess şi consideră abonarea la fluxul RSS sau prin email. Ma poti de asemenea gasi pe Google. Trackback poateputea fi trimis prin URL-ul de sub Comentarii.
Aici vei găsi ştiri inedite, articole hazoase, perspective originale in politică, societate, economie şi relaţii interumane. QUESTIONS (Intrebări)? We got Answers (Răspunsuri există)!  
blog comments powered by Disqus