Mom Influencer Accused Of Abusing 3-Year-Old Daughter With Medical Tests She Didn’t Need
A Texas mom well-known on TikTok for posting about her daughter’s illnesses to thousands of followers is suspected of medically mistreating her 3-year-old in a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, authorities said.
According to a July 11 arrest warrant, Jessica Gasser, 27, was taken into custody on suspicion of bodily injury to a child, a felony, for lying about her daughter’s medical history, which caused the girl’s blood to be drawn unnecessarily about 28 times for a fasting study. In a July 17 news release, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Worth asked people to get in touch with detectives if they had contact with Gasser via text, email or social media, where she used the screen name MedicalMamaJess.
The arrest warrant documents a history of reports by medical staff expressing their suspicions that Gasser had been medically abusing her daughter by falsifying her medical history, “doctor shopping” to obtain a specific diagnosis and medication, and withholding formula from her daughter’s feeding tube. People with Munchausen by proxy, a psychological disorder that usually affects mothers, seek attention by exaggerating or fabricating the symptoms of a child in their care.
Gasser has taken down all of her social media accounts, but authorities said they were able to preserve them, including her TikTok account, which had more than 24,000 followers and on which she was most active. Gasser posted there several times a day, authorities said, sharing videos of her daughter in medical settings, posting details about her condition, and offering support and encouragement to other “medical” parents or parents with medically complex children, as some in online communities describe themselves. As news of her arrest spread, several commenters who’d believed her child was chronically ill shared their shock.
In one post, viewed more than 96,000 times, Gasser claimed that she and her daughter spent two and half hours at a pediatrician’s office because her daughter’s blood sugars had “crashed” there, according to the warrant. The pediatrician, however, told detectives it had been a 15-minute telephone appointment and that no mention was made of blood sugars, the warrant says.
Gasser also appeared to have a thriving Etsy business, EnchantedTubieTapes, which sold custom-designed tape to hold feeding tubes and other medical devices in place. It has 749 five-star reviews, with many customers sharing pictures of the tape they purchased in a wide range of cheerful designs, including Baby Sea Turtles, Boho Sloths on Rainbows, and Bees and Flowers.
Gasser was listed as the organizer for a GoFundMe set up to raise money for a trip to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for medical treatment — long after doctors had told Gasser that her child did not need it, according to the warrant. A philanthropic organization also paid for Gasser and her child’s $1,638.60 flights there.
A GoFundMe spokesperson told HuffPost that the campaign has since been taken down and that people who donated have gotten their money back.
“GoFundMe has zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform and we cooperate with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing. This fundraiser has been removed from our platform and all donors have been issued a refund,” the spokesperson said.
From June 12 to 15, Tarrant County investigators said internet searches found on Gasser’s cellphone included questions about police access to social media and search histories, and phrases like “is lying to a doctor about a child illegal,” how do you fix munchausen by proxy,” “social media and medical child abuse” and “countries that take families on asylum from CPS,” apparently referring to Child Protective Services.
Because Gasser’s daughter wasn’t gaining weight, the child was equipped with a feeding tube. When she still did not gain weight, a nurse became suspicious that Gasser was not feeding her enough calories, according to authorities, and reported Gasser to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which includes CPS. Another physician made a DFPS report because Gasser had been discovered “venting” her feeding bag, preventing the formula from going through the tube, police said.
The profile of the Etsy shop under Gasser’s name says: “Hello! I am the mom to a medically complex child who has a feeding tube. She has had her tube most of her life and absolutely loves picking out fun tapes! So I decided to start printing tapes for her and selling them for other tubies.”
Some of Gasser’s TikToks can still be seen in other users’ posts. In one, video of a young girl using a pacifier and clambering on chairs that appear to be in a doctor’s office or hospital is captioned “Goes to get labs done for being failure to thrive…” and “out of range results blamed on being thin and dismissed😵💫”
As of June 14, the Etsy shop is listed as “taking a short break.” A note from the shop’s owner says, “we are on vacation mode due to family emergency. don’t know if or when we’ll be back. thank you for your patience.”
After the 3-year-old girl was removed from Gasser’s care, she began eating without the gastric tube, gained weight and was weaned off a medication that had caused her adrenal gland to stop functioning, authorities said. The girl is now “thriving,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
It is unclear whether Gasser has been charged or a court date has been scheduled in the case. The Tarrant County district attorney referred HuffPost’s questions to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, which has not responded to a request for information about the status of the case.
Tarrant County officials have for several years advocated for laws that would criminalize medical child abuse. In Texas, a committee recently approved H.B. 3381, which would make it a crime to misrepresent medical history “to obtain unnecessary medical treatment for a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual.” Known as Alyssa’s Law, named after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn’s foster daughter, the legislation would be the first of its kind in the U.S. The sheriff testified at the state Capitol in April that Alyssa’s biological mother had mistreated her when she was a toddler, feeding her feces through a feeding tube she administered.
“At the time, I said, how did law enforcement miss this? Why haven’t we been involved? It’s very complicated to get involved,” Waybourn said in his testimony.