The story of Gypsy Rose Blancharde, a victim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and a convicted killer, has gained international attention and invited speculation from lay people and professionals in the medical community. On the night of June 14, 2015, deputy sheriffs in Greene County, Missouri, found the body of Dee Dee Blanchard face down in the bedroom of her house. She was lying on her bed in a pool of blood from stab wounds that had killed her days earlier. There was no sign of her daughter, Gypsy Rose, who was believed to have suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy, mental retardation, and other chronic conditions.
The neighbors, who notified the police after reading alarming Facebook posts earlier that evening, suggested Dee Dee may have fallen victim to foul play. They were also fearful that Gypsy Rose, whose wheelchair and medications were still in the house, may have been abducted.
Police found Gypsy Rose the next day in Wisconsin, where she had traveled with a boyfriend she had met online. There was public outrage that someone had taken advantage of this severely disabled girl and killed her mother, until it was revealed that Gypsy was not sick at all but, in fact, a victim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Further investigation found that many of the doctors who had examined Gypsy Rose did not find any evidence of the illness. Dee Dee had lied about her daughter’s condition and benefited from charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Dee Dee had been making her daughter pass herself off as younger, disabled and chronically ill. Throughout her childhood she had been subjecting Gypsy to unnecessary surgery and medication, controlling her as she aged through physical and psychological abuse.
This case brings up many questions about how this happened. How did Dee Dee manipulate doctors and everyone around her to keep Gypsy as her captive and how much can we blame Gypsy for being willing to kill for her freedom?
In-home daycare settings allow caretakers to work from home while offering working mothers an alternative to traditional day care settings. Parents weigh the benefits and drawbacks of their daycare options and most are satisfied with the care their children receive. When a tragedy occurs, as it did with the death of one-year old Maria Harris, the situation is reassessed in hindsight and unimaginable grief.
Maria was the adored child of her teenaged mother, Esther, both of them living in the supportive environment of her grandparents. It was Esther's determination to provide a better life for her daughter that led her to place Maria in Stephanie Spurgeon's in-home day care.
On August 21st, 2008, Maria's grandmother Patricia Harris picked up Maria from her first day in Stephanie's home. She left with Maria in her arms and a foreboding sense that something wasn't right. Maria was in too deep a sleep, heavy and limp like a sack of sand. She didn't rouse as she was buckled into her car seat. Her eyes did not open and her head lulled to one side. Maria would never regain consciousness.
One week later, Maria was removed from life support and several of her tiny organs were donated to children who needed them. The Harris family was living a nightmare and Stephanie Spurgeon would face a trial for the murder of Maria Harris.
At the quiet end today, Dick and I are talking about the injuries that caused Maria Harris' death as well as the law applied to her case. Shaken baby syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma, is a topic spurring debate and strong emotion. In "Death in a Home Daycare" we hope to shed some light on recent controversies and provide insight on prevention.
Tina and Gabe Watson were married in Alabama in October 2003. After the wedding, they went honeymooning in Australia. Gabe, who was a certified diver and diving rescuer, wanted his new wife, Tina, to go diving with him. Tina had prepared to dive with her new husband, taking lessons and investing in expensive diving equipment.
Tina drowned while on a dive with Gabe, in Queensland, Austrailia, on October 22, just days into their honeymoon. Gabe returned to the surface to get help for his new wife, leaving her behind at the bottom of the ocean. Gabe's behavior and his reaction to Tina's death raised suspicions immediately. His story contradicted the record of actions stored in his dive computer. It was believed, with supporting evidence from the dive computer, that he turned off Tina's air supply and held her until she was unconscious. Then, he let her sink to the bottom as he resurfaced. Tina's father said his motive to kill was the insurance policy that Gabe had repeatedly asked Tina to increase the amount of and make Gabe the beneficiary.
Tina's murder was a tragedy in so many ways. She was young, vibrant, and just beginning her life as a newlywed. Her family wasn't exactly impressed with Gabe from the beginning of their relationship. They blamed Gabe for her death. To fully understand what happened to Tina that day, we have contacted expert Michael McFadyen who has studied the full transcript of the Coroner's Inquest into Tina's death as well as all the evidence available to the Alabama State prosecutor and the defense in the 2012 trial.
In today's True Crime Brewery, Underwater: The Mysterious Death of Tina Watson, we're learning about Tina's life, her relationship with Gabe Watson, the scuba diving incident that took her life, and the trials of Gabe Watson.
At 7:36 pm on the first Tuesday in July 2008, Carol Kennedy made her nightly call to her mother. Ruth Kennedy lived across the country in Nashville, Tennessee. She was 83-years old at the time and Carol worried about her living on her own. She had called her mother almost every night since her father died in 2006. Despite her advanced age, Ruth was not immune to worrying about her daughter, who was recently divorced and also on her own. Carol reassured Ruth that she had locked her doors and was in for the night.
It was 7:59pm when Ruth heard her daughter say two last words: “Oh no.” The tone of the words was surprise, not fear, and then there was no sound at all. She didn’t hear the phone drop or any voices. Now the line was dead.
This episode of True Crime Brewery, An Inconvenient Woman, is the story of an apparently loving and long-lasting relationship. When one person ended up brutally beaten to death; the other would be the primary suspect.
We have no way of knowing what happens behind closed doors, in a marriage. When a marriage ends in a violent murder, some of their secrets come to light while others remain in the shadows. When a relationship turns from companionship to malice, from malice to murder, all we can do is find justice for the victim, seek punishment for the killer, and attempt to learn something about human behavior.
We all have someone in our family who is a little unstable. An eccentric aunt or a brother preparing for the zombie apocalypse maybe. But what happens when a family member sinks deeply into true madness, becoming a danger to himself and others? This is when interventions are needed or lives fall apart.
Susie Sharp was born to a prominent southern family. She was meant for greatness. Her cousin, Fritz Klenner, was the son of a physician, expected to take over his father’s practice. After a bitter divorce, Susie became volatile and paranoid. She was lonely. Her cousin Fritz was there for her. She became involved with Fritz, a college failure who was practicing medicine illegally. Fritz also had a frightening fascination with guns. He claimed to work for the CIA.
A child custody dispute over Susie’s children became bitter as Susie and Fritz isolated themselves from the outside world and did everything they could to keep the two young boys from their father. Then relatives began turning up dead. Five of them in all. Even as Fritz and Susie were suspected, her children were left in the control of two dangerous people.
Follow us through this tale of family destruction beyond what anyone could have predicted. This episode of True Crime Brewery is a stranger than fiction family tragedy: Love and Madness: Murder in a Southern Family.