Munchausen Syndrome is when someone fakes being sick so they can get sympathy or attention. Unlike hypochondria, where a person fears they are ill, those with this syndrome are, well, to put it bluntly, looking for attention. It’s considered a mental disorder because it’s often accompanied by emotional issues. The even scarier version is Munchausen by Proxy, wherein someone claims their child or spouse is ill in order to gain sympathy. This is abuse and sometimes results in their death. And even still, there are others who fake illness just to make a profit off of the good charity of others. Looking for examples? Here are 25 Shocking Cases Of Munchausen Syndrome That Are Truly Disturbing.
Belle Gibson was a famous healthy lifestyle blogger from Australia who claimed to have been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015. She claimed to have shrunk her tumor with a diet that excluded coffee, sugar, dairy, and grain. She wrote a book about it, and even collected charity money. Except it was all a lie. And the money never got to the charities.
A woman in the UK named Lisa Hayden-Johnson had a son born prematurely in 2001. While the boy did need specialized medical care and a feeding tube at first, he did, in fact, get better. However, his mother still needed the attention and started telling everyone that he was quite ill with food allergies and required a feeding tube. She also claimed he was in a wheelchair and suffered from cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy and needed several operations for these various issues. She even went on TV in the UK and met the Duchess of Cornwall. Donations included a new car, vacations, and a decent bit of cash. After six years, a pediatrician caught on to her scheme; Lisa Hayden-Johnson ended up with three years and three months in prison for her crimes.
A woman named Dee Dee Blancharde was murdered by her daughter, Gypsy, after forcing Gypsy to play the part of an ill teen for years. Gypsy was given medications she didn't need, forced to pretend she had leukemia and muscular distrophy, and even use a feeding tube and undergo surgeries she didn't need. This is technically torture. Gypsy had no other friends because her mother kept her isolated and even forced her to stay confined to a wheelchair when she was fully able to walk. In fact, Gypsy didn't even know her true age as Dee Dee told her she was a decade younger than she was. HBO did a documentary about the two called "Mommy Dead and Dearest." To be fair, Dee Dee is getting at lot of media attention now....
Marybeth Tinning is perhaps one of the most well known cases of Munchhausen by Proxy, though her crimes were committed before there was such a term. It's unsure how many of her children she smothered and how many did in fact die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but her death count is somewhere between 2 and 9 children. She is currently serving time for the deaths of three of her children. Although she's been up for parole every 2 years or so, she has yet to show significant remorse to allow her out of prison.
In March of 2015, a Chicago area gay rights activist named Adam Hoover took to social media stating that he'd been kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a car, and that his kidnappers were going to kill his family. He even gave a description and tag number of the vehicle. Turns out the whole thing was a hoax, and no one is sure why it was done in the first place.
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In 2006, Judy Pickens was arrested and charged with child abuse of her two children, Mikal and Kheemata, and for the murder of Mikal, who had died from poisoning. The children had the same symptoms - diarrhea and vomiting, as well as trouble breathing. Doctor's tried everything they could think of, including inspecting the daycare the children attended. turns out that Judy had poisoned her children with her own blood pressure medication. She was sentenced to two life sentences.
In 2010, a woman from New York named Jessica Vega was charged with Fraud and Grand Larceny because she claimed to be dying of leukemia. Why? She wanted to get a free fancy wedding. She was in fact, not dying of leukemia. The marriage, shockingly, did not last.
In 2007, a woman named Suzy Bass was supposedly battling stage IV breast cancer in Knoxville, TN. In her early 40's, Bass was popular at the private school where she taught, despite being relatively new to the community. The kept her fed, covered her classes if needed, and put on a "walk" to raise money, even dedicating their prom as a fundraiser. Bass even went so far as making her last wishes known to her friends and those close to her. Everyone was very sad at the prospect of losing such a dear friend until...someone called and spilled the beans. Apparently Bass had pulled the same shenanigans at a school in Georgia where she had previously taught, and before that with her family when she was a young woman. Bass to this day maintains that at the time, she thought she was really dying, each of the 3 times she faked having cancer, despite the fact that she was faking her symptoms.
A 24-year-old woman named Melissa Rice actually committed suicide in 2009 after her cancer scam was found out. She was pretending to be a 15-year-old boy named Jonathan Jay White who had brain cancer. People cared, money was given, gifts were sent, and loads upon loads of attention was placed on this woman, until she was found out. "Johnathan's" twitter account even had around 10K followers. That's a lot of attention for someone who probably felt invisible before making up this elaborate hoax. When she was found out, not only was she not special anymore, she was a villain.
Pastor and worship leader Michael Guglielmucci, of Adelaide, Australia, claimed to have terminal cancer for nearly two years until he confessed in 2008. Why did he claim he was dying? To hide his pornography addiction. His father was the founder and head of the pastors where he worked and pledged to return the money people donated if they wished.
While Howard Richman, former top executive for Biopure, didn't fake colon cancer to get attention, he DID fake terminal colon cancer to get out of legal trouble and an investigation. He pled guilty to obstruction of justice and received the maximum sentence of 3 years in jail.
Victoria Gotti claimed she had breast cancer, and even went so far as losing 25 lbs to convince others she was going through chemotherapy. She was part of an A&E Reality TV show called "Growing up Gotti," about growing up in the family of an organized crime boss. The mother of three maintains that she had precancerous cells, and it was just a mix up in reporting.
Heather Faria was a special education teacher in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She accepted over $35K in donations for her cancer treatment and then went and spent them on jewelry and vacations. She was sentenced to two years in prison for fraud.
A woman in Nevada named Victoria Morrison claimed her ten-year-old son had died from a terminal illness. She spent months on the ruse, including a fake memorial service. Things that were given to her included money through a Go Fund Me, shopping sprees, gift cards and money for the little boy, and even a helicopter ride. More disturbing than milking people's goodwill, is that Morrison actually told her son he was dying. She was charged with child abuse, along with obtaining money under false pretenses.
In 2010, a 23-year-old women named Ashley Anne Kirilow faked cancer and ran a fake charity to get attention and money from people. While the charity was merely a Facebook page and never actually a registered charity, people just handed Ashley money and rolls of coins. She also claimed that she had been disowned by druggie parents. In truth, her parents were alive and well, just divorced with new families. Ashley states she knew what she was doing was wrong, but she wanted the attention, and she wanted to get her family back together.
In 2012, a New Jersey woman named Lori E Stilley accepted around $15K in donations, was supported by faithful friends and a community that wore "Team Lori" t-shirts, and negotiated deeply discounted prices for her wedding. She stated that she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died. These people put in all this effort and agreed to these things because Lori was supposedly dying of bladder cancer. However, Lori was not dying of cancer. She was only given 500 hours of community service as she still had custody of her two children at the time of sentencing.
The first woman to ever be tried for Munchhausen by Proxy was Priscilla Phillips, in 1981. She was convicted of killing one of her two adopted kids by poisoning their food. From all appearances, she was a caring and devoted mother to all of her children, until their adopted daughter, Tia, started getting sick, a lot. At first, it was normal things like ear infections that wouldn't go away and diaper rash, but then it was mysterious fevers, vomiting, dehydration, and high amounts of sodium in her blood. Tia died of sodium poisoning in 1977.
In 2012, a Truman State University grad student named Victoria Ann Marut was stressed out about her schoolwork. Instead of, you know, cutting her social time, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated, she decided to deal with the situation by saying she had cancer. She even went as far as shaving her head and faking a doctor's note. This worked pretty well. Her professors started to feel pity and take it easy on her, until one called her bluff and called the doctor's office on the note she supplied. Whoops! She pleaded guilty to felony forgery.
Rachel Kinsella of Meadvill, MO, poisoned her 9-year-old son for nearly a year in early 2014-2015. Doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital figured out that the boy's symptoms all were caused by medication he should not have been given. Turns out Rachel was having her son treated at two different hospitals and having them both give him different prescriptions. She was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She maintained her innocence, stating she "may have" given her son the wrong medication "on occasion."
Julie Gregory was the victim of Munchhausen by Proxy. She was starved, forced to work until she had headaches and heart palpitations, and then taken to doctors for heart trouble she didn't have. Her mother even went so far as to attempt to have a heart catheterization when 13-year-old Julie sat up on the bed and yelled, "MY MOM IS MAKING THIS UP!" She's written a memoir about her experiences, called "Sickened: Memoir Of A Lost Childhood."
A woman named Elisabeth Hunnicutt had two sons, both of which were diagnosed with failure to thrive. The youngest son eventually had a feeding tube installed, and a hole drilled in his skull and a monitor put on his brain. She was telling her husband - who was deployed - that the child was born with brain damage, and the doctors feared he might have cerebral palsy. Hunnicutt's mother-in-law saw Hunnicutt slipping a blue pill into the youngest son's food, and the whole story started to unravel. As of 2015, Elisabeth Hunnicutt terminated her parental rights to her sons, who now live with their father.
Kathy Bush played her daughter Jennifer's "illness" so well that at one point in the 90's, she appeared with Hillary Clinton to push for healthcare reform. The abuse went deep - Jennifer spent over 600 days in the hospital and had over 40 operations, including having organs needlessly removed. Kathy was also giving her drugs to keep her sick and creating infections in her feeding tube. For the torture of her daughter between the ages of 2 and 9, Kathy spent a mere three years in jail.
A woman from Texas named Hope Yabarra not only faked her own cancer (going so far as to order her casket and burial plots), and faked the miscarriage of twins, but she also started faking illness in her children when the attention for her face cancer wasn't enough. Starting with their eldest daughter, Hope claimed she had cerebral palsy and forced her to wear ankle bracelets. Then in 2004, she had another daughter who was born prematurely. Once her daughter was out of the NICU, Hope help the ruse up, claiming the girl was sick. She went so far as to alter her tests for cystic fibrosis, water down formula in her feeding tube so she didn't gain weight, and removing blood from the little girl to make her sicker. Hope was sentenced to ten years in jail in 2010.
A 23-year-old woman named Blanca Montano was sentenced to 13 years in prison for infecting her infant daughter with bacteria on purpose. Several months before, both of her children had mysterious bacterial infections. While her son got better, her young daughter got ill again and again. All in all, she was treated for nine rare bacterial infections, and Blanca started insisting on a bone marrow transplant. When the hospital suspected Munchhausen's, they put a camera in the baby girl's hospital room, and found Blanca contaminating her IV line.
Lacey Spears was a "mommy blogger," who was eventually sentenced to 20 years to life for the second degree murder of her five-year-old son, Garnett. She spent years documenting her son's medical issues. What or who was the cause of his issues? Turns out she was as she was poisoning him with dangerous doses of salt via feeding tube. While she maintains her innocence, the judge stated she has a mental illness she refuses to acknowledge.
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