Texas Mom of Three Accused of Munchausen by Proxy
If You've Heard of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard, You'll Want to Read This
I will never understand how a mother could subject her own child to years of medical child abuse to satisfy her own twisted psychological needs. I’ve read books about it. I’ve interviewed experts on it. And I still don’t get it.
Luckily, if true, this mother picked the wrong county to perpetrate it. I’ve known Tarrant County investigator Mike Weber for years and no one is going to pull the wool over his eyes. He has seen more of these unusual cases than anyone I know. He also knows how hard they are to prosecute. I think this one is going to be a win.
Three Times a Charm?
Suspicions have swirled around since 2013. This was before she became a mother-of-three; she’s added a few kids since then. This Haltom City mom is currently accused of medically abusing all three of her children.
This is not Reynolds’ first rodeo. She’s been investigated twice before for faking a child’s illness. Reynolds was investigated by Child Protective Services in 2013 for suspected medical child abuse against her then-infant daughter. The baby was temporarily removed for her care but, due to a lack of evidence, no charges were filed and, after several months, the baby was returned. In 2019, a medical professional at Cook Children’s Medical Center similar suspicions. And again, due to insufficient physical evidence, nothing was done.
In October, 2021, a school nurse contacted CPS with concerns that Reynolds’ now eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son were in danger. This time Tarrant County detectives got involved. On Tuesday, November 2, she was arrested. She will likely be charged with child endangerment and bodily injury to a child.
That’s Not What I Saw
These are extremely serious allegations. There are strong laws protecting a parent’s right to parent as they see fit, even if we don’t always agree with their choices. This includes medical treatment.
There are parents who forgo vaccines. There are parents who run to their pediatrician every time their child sneezes. Covid-19 has certainly brought to light different parental beliefs about what is acceptable medical treatment for their child and who has the right to make those decisions. It is a touchy subject.
In this case, according to the recent affidavit and arrest warrant, there appears to be a surprising consensus among relatives, teachers and medical professionals. They have all said that Reynold’s description of her children’s illnesses was in stark contrast to what they saw and what the children told them.
For example, school nurses told Detective Weber she had recently talked to Reynolds about her five-year-old son’s “health problems.” At the same time Reynolds was telling the nurse she was going to get him an electric wheelchair and “someday (his) heart will just burst and (he) will die,” he was observed running around the hallway and playing with other children. A grandmother recalled one phone conversation in which Reynolds said her 5-year-old son needed a wheelchair. As Reynolds told the grandmother this, the grandmother was watching her grandson run around the house yelling, “Hey granny, watch, I’m a tornado.”
Reynolds is accused of making up bogus medical problems for her five-year old. She allegedly had him on a double-digit number of unnecessary medicines. She made him use a wheelchair. There does not appear to have been any medical reason for any of this treatment.
If these allegations are true, Lord only knows what the eight-year-old daughter has gone through. Remember; her mother was suspected of medical child abuse when she was just a baby. During her first nine months of life, she was taken by her mother to urgent care twenty-eight times.
In September 2021, Reynolds told doctors and nurses the girl was constipated and would not take her medicine. As a result, the girl was given a nasal gastric tube — a tube inserted through the nose and into the stomach to carry food and medicine into a person’s stomach. According to the affidavit, the girl told Detective Weber the feeding tube insertion, “felt like I was being eaten by a rattlesnake.”
Let’s Call It What It Is – Abuse
Several people said that Ms. Reynolds seemed to relish the attention she received from her children’s alleged medical conditions (“a possible genetic disorder, respiratory distress, severe gastrointestinal issues, high blood sugar, seizures”). She often posted about them on Facebook.
The kids didn’t act sick. Their physical ailments seemed to disappear when their mother wasn’t around. The eight-year-old and the five-year-old’s father have also said she would put one of the kids in a wheelchair, or hook him up to an oxygen tube, to skip the line at theme parks.
If verified, all of these behaviors fit a pattern of a psychological disorder known as Factitious Disorder Imposed Upon Another. You may have heard of it as Munchausen by Proxy. In this syndrome, a caregiver fakes or exaggerates a child’s illness for attention. The parent — usually a mother — might lie about a child’s medical history or symptoms to convince doctors to give their children medical treatments. They might even give the child drugs or injure the child deliberately to cause the medical problems.
But, let’s be clear. There may be psychological dynamics driving it, but it is abuse. In this case, there are allegations of other types of physical abuse in this case.
All three children (we don’t know the age of the third child) said their mother’s boyfriend would force them to drink hot sauce when they got into trouble. Each time they misbehaved, the hot sauce would be hotter. (Yes, even the five-year-old with “severe gastrointestinal problems). Sometimes, it was so spicy, they would throw up. Susan Reynolds would sit and watch.
The Bottom Line
This is a case that has not gone to trial. We don’t know if Ms. Reynolds has done all of the things she has been accused of. We do know that – rarely - other parents have done these things and, in one out of every ten cases, a child dies.
Update from Last Week’s Case: This past week, Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu received six life terms, one for each of the murders she was found guilty of. Each term has an indeterminate length and may last for the remainder of the offender’s life. It is a mandatory punishment for premeditated murder, gang rape, serial rape, or rape where the rapist was HIV positive or if the victim was either under eighteen or disabled.
See you next week, fellow Mind Detectives. Got a case you’d like me to cover? Let me know!