Eight days ago, police in Springfield, Mo., put out an urgent call to the community: a mother and her wheelchair-bound teenage daughter were missing, and officials needed the public’s help in locating them.
“We want to find these women safe and sound, so please share the social media posts and their story,” the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said on the night of June 14.
Hours later, though, came a startling update to the “endangered person advisory”: the mother, 48-year-old Clauddinnea “Dee Dee” Blancharde, was found dead at home, and the search, local authorities said, had “turned into a homicide investigation.”
“This situation has taken a very tragic turn,” Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said in a statement. “Ms. Blancharde was an apparent victim of foul play and her daughter Gypsy is still missing.”
On Facebook, two ominous messages posted on the mother-daughter’s joint account — including one reading “That B—- is dead!” — had prompted friends to call the police, leading to the discovery of Dee Dee Blancharde’s body.
Her mysterious, violent death marked the tragic end to the story of a mother who, police believed, had already survived Hurricane Katrina with her daughter. Neighbors said the elder Blancharde was a giving person and a committed mother to a daughter who they believed suffered from several medical problems, including leukemia and muscular dystrophy.
That was apparently a lie.
The sheriff’s office soon announced a series of shockers. Gypsy, 19, was found alive and unharmed in Wisconsin. She walks “well” without the assistance of a wheelchair. And she was arrested and charged with her mother’s murder.
Gypsy’s boyfriend, Nicholas Paul Godejohn, was also arrested and charged with the crime. According to police, it was Godejohn who wielded the knife, stabbing Dee Dee Blancharde in the back multiple times.
According to documents filed by police, both Gypsy Blancharde and Godejohn confessed to their roles in the crime.
Godejohn carried out the killing with a knife Gypsy Blancharde gave him, he told police. He stabbed his girlfriend’s mother to death while Dee Dee Blancharde slept. Gypsy Blancharde waited in the bathroom.
“He stated he would not have killed anyone unless Gypsy had asked him to, and this is why he killed Clauddinnea,” detective Stan Hancock wrote in the document.
In a separate interview with the police, Gypsy Blancharde said she could hear her mother screaming from the bathroom.
“She admitted to knowing her boyfriend was going to stab her mother, and she did nothing to stop it nor did she report it to the authorities,” Hancock wrote.
After the fatal stabbing, police said, Gypsy Blancharde went on Facebook and wrote the comment announcing her mother’s death.
Blancharde and Godejohn also took several thousand dollars from a safe kept in the home when they fled Springfield, according to police. Blancharde told investigators that she and Godejohn fled the scene in a taxi after cleaning up some of her mother’s blood.
That would be shocking enough if it was the whole story, but it wasn’t.
The alleged murder opened a Pandora’s Box of lies that police say call into question everything they know about the mother and daughter.
“Things are not always as they appear,” Arnott, the sheriff, said at a news conference.
“We have unearthed the appearance of a long financial fraud scheme along with this tragic event,” he added, noting that the tragedy is “surrounded by mystery and public deception.”
The details haven’t yet been fully uncovered, but police say they no longer know with any certainty whether the two survived Hurricane Katrina. They have several birth dates on record for Gypsy Blancharde, which could make her anywhere between 19 and 23, Arnott said.
A cousin, Bobby Pitre, told the Springfield News-Leader that Dee Dee Blancharde confined her daughter to a wheelchair that she didn’t need for years and gave her seizure medicines that caused her teeth to fall out. She also shaved her daughter’s head to make people believe she had leukemia, Pitre said.
“She took Gypsy and it seemed like she almost imprisoned her,” Pitre told the paper.
The resentment between mother and daughter was a “ticking time bomb,” Pitre said.
Anna Condren, who lived next door to the Blanchardes, told the Kansas City Star that Gypsy appeared frail.
“I always saw her in a wheelchair,” Condren told the newspaper. “There were times when we saw her on a daily basis, when she was supposedly feeling good. She would come out and check the mail in her wheelchair. She never talked much. She had a feeding tube and everything.”
It’s unclear what the motive for the violent crime might have been, but police said that they are now investigating the fundraising accounts associated with the family. Dee Dee Blancharde also bought a home built by Habitat for Humanity in Springfield. Larry Peterson, executive director for the Springfield Habitat for Humanity told KSPR that it is unclear what will happen to the home now.
“We don’t know the extent of the fraud,” Arnott said, “but it seems pretty lengthy.”
Blancharde and Godejohn were arrested in Big Bend, Wis., where Godejohn lived — and where, police said, he had mailed the knife used to kill Dee Dee Blancharde.
On Friday, Blancharde waived her right to extradition proceedings in Wisconsin and will be brought back to Springfield to face charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Cathy Ussery said Monday morning that Blancharde was not yet in the Greene County Jail; citing security concerns, Ussery declined to say when Blancharde might be transported back from Wisconsin.
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