While its details might sound as though they were taken out of a Gillian Flynn novel, the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard is, in fact, a true story. With The Act, Hulu is turning the real-life case into the first installation of its true-crime anthology series. The season features a talented cast that includes Patricia Arquette and Joey King as the leading characters. The show draws out the emotional narrative between Dee Dee and her daughter Gypsy Rose, who, after years of being the object of her mother's Munchausen syndrome by proxy, resorts to murder. The story isn't black and white, and it's tragic and terrifying in equal measures. Here are the dark facts of the case that viewers should know before watching the series.
Dee Dee and Gypsy had been living in Springfield, MO after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in 2005. For years, Dee Dee told friends and family that Gypsy suffered from a range of different ailments, including leukemia, epilepsy, and muscular dystrophy, on top of having the mental capacity of a 7-year-old child. She kept her daughter in a wheelchair even though Gypsy was perfectly capable of walking — and as it turns out, perfectly healthy, period. Gypsy would go with her mother's plans in fear of physical retaliation.
Dee Dee went to at least 150 different doctors for her daughter's alleged illnesses, even crossing state lines. During these checkups, physicians would prescribe the young girl treatment for her supposed vision, hearing, sleep, and salivation problems. While one neurologist suspected that something seemed off because of Gypsy's clean bill of health, nothing came out of his suspicions.
Dee Dee was able to collect donations in order to sustain her and her daughter. Their house, for example, was built by Habitat for Humanity in order for Gypsy to have a handicap-accessible home. Friends and neighbours were also keen to help them, not really knowing what was going on.
Over time, Gypsy wanted to break free from her mother. She began discreetly corresponding with men online even though her mother monitored her Internet usage. Eventually, she started an online relationship with Nicholas Godejohn, the man from Wisconsin who would kill Dee Dee.
On June 14, 2015, Godejohn used Dee Dee's Facebook account to post a message that read, "That B*tch is dead!" This prompted concerned friends to contact authorities, who eventually found Dee Dee's body. She had been stabbed multiple times and had been dead for several days. Thanks to a tip from a family friend about Gypsy's relationship, police tracked down Godejohn's IP address in Big Bend, Wisconsin. Police found both of them in Godejohn's home. Godejohn eventually received a life sentence. Gypsy admitted to asking him to stab her mother, and for a charge of second-degree murder, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Much of what we know about the case comes from Michelle Dean's in-depth Buzzfeed story. It's the foundation of the Hulu series, of which Dean is one of the executive producers. Gypsy's story has been widely publicized since the piece came out. HBO has even created a documentary on it called Mommy Dead and Dearest (trailer above), which features interviews with Gypsy herself. In January, Lifetime also released a movie based on the story called Love You to Death, starring Emily Skeggs and Tate Donovan.
Gypsy has even appeared in a segment on Dr. Phil. In the interview, she spoke of how Dee Dee taught her to lie.
"I'm changing that. I'm trying to be a good person now," she said. "I don't want to be like my mother."