true crime

Hope Ybarra planned her funeral and told her kids she was dying. It was all a lie.

It was 2008 and Hope Ybarra's story of pain and courage captured the hearts of the Fort Worth, Texas, community. The young mother-of-three, then only 33, had been battling brain, bone and lung cancer for eight long years, documenting her journey online to friends, family and the world.

But now she was dying, a brave and inspiring woman who simply wanted to find peace in death.

"She's a very strong woman, and she wants truly to live, but unfortunately the cancer seems to be stronger than she is," Father Ken Robinson from a local church told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the time.

Watch: Gypsy Rose Blanchard speaks exclusively to Dr Phil. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Dr. Phil.

Ybarra had even planned her own funeral, with her preferred flowers, and doves to be released at the memorial. The casket was picked out, too: pinkish stainless steel with white velvet lining. 

Her three daughters believed they were about to lose their mother, and her husband Fabian, believed he was soon to become a widow. Facing eviction, the family's sad story saw their loved ones and strangers raise $100,000 to help them in their time of need.


No one dared to question Ybarra's story of illness and heartache. 

But it was all a lie.

How was Hope Ybarra exposed?

It was Ybarra's mother, Susan, who discovered the ugly secret by accident in 2008. Ybarra's cancer - a bone cancer known as Ewing's sarcoma - had 'returned' for the third time, but her doctor couldn't find any records of the illness. 

So, Susan searched Ybarra's home for any medical forms or proof of the cancer treatment. Nothing. 

"I’m not seeing CAT scans. I’m not seeing MRIs. I’m not seeing oncology visits," Susan told CNN.

The next day when she met Ybarra's doctor, she told him her theory: that Ybarra had Munchausen syndrome, a rare type of mental disorder where a person fakes an illness or makes themselves sick.

"I was aware of the disorder; I’d just never seen it," Susan admitted.

Her hunch was right. Hope confessed straightaway, and naturally, her mother began to fear the worst. 

"You really start to question everything you’ve been told. Every single thing you’ve been told," Susan said. "That includes medical conditions that surrounded my grandchildren. Then you start to wonder if any of that’s true, too."

Did Hope Ybarra fake her daughter's illness too?

Disturbingly, faking her own cancer wasn't the worst of Ybarra's almost decade-long act of deceit. She and her then-husband Fabian's youngest daughter had experienced a plethora of health conditions in her short life - all manufactured by her twisted mother.  


Soon after she was born, the young girl was in and out of hospital for the next four years, treated for Cystic Fibrosis - a genetic disease that thickens mucus in the lungs and other organs. In her case, it was supposedly terminal. And it gave Ybarra an opportunity to play the devoted mother: joining committees at the hospital and taking part in fundraising campaigns.

"She was born premature. She started having problems," Ybarra later told NBC. "In my neurotic thinking, I saw the attention that brought in, so I would start to exaggerate some of the things that were going on with her."

But she did more than exaggerate – inflicting unimaginable abuse on her youngest child in a tragic case of Munchausen's by proxy.

Ybarra, a former chemist who claimed to have a master's in science, stole harmful bacteria from a lab where she was working at the time and injected it into her daughter. 

Investigator Michael Weber, from Tarrant County police, said he'd found out from Ybarra's workplace that "she had access to nine pathogens, and four of those pathogens had shown up in her daughter."

Hope made her youngest daughter gravely ill. Image: CNN Health/From Susan, Hope Ybarra's mother.

But that wasn't the worst of it. The mother-of-three tampered with the results of a sweat test for Cystic Fibrosis to present a convincing diagnosis.


She was suspected of draining her daughter’s blood gradually with a syringe to make her anaemic. When doctors gave the child treatment for the anaemia, she went into anaphylactic shock. The ordeal almost killed her. 

While she claims a diabetic coma has made her memory blurry, Ybarra confessed she had fabricated her daughter's health problems to "get attention", a standard symptom for someone with Munchausen's by proxy. 

"Some of it, I'm sure, I've blocked out," she said. 


Dr Jayme Coffman was involved in assessing Ybarra's case and told CNN of the syndrome, "It's not a psychiatric disorder. They're not crazy. They know what they're doing."

When investigators prodded deeper, they found the young girl had endured 30 to 40 unnecessary hospital procedures.

"There are many things I could have done that would have straight up killed her," Ybarra later admitted. "Obviously I was hurting her, but I wasn't trying to."

She was arrested in 2009. 

Where is Hope Ybarra now?

In 2010, Ybarra was jailed for 10 years for serious bodily harm to a child.

While serving time at Gatesville Texas prison, Ybarra was interviewed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a project titled, Moms to Monsters. Her lies and crimes were also the subject of an episode of Something's Killing Me in the US in 2017.

"I still feel like I'm a monster because of what I did," Ybarra insists. 

Ybarra was due for release in 2019, though her whereabouts are unknown. Her three daughters now live with her ex-husband.

Feature Image: Getty.

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