Hope Ybarra

In 1998, right after she married her husband, she told him that she was going to school for her Ph.D. For one full year, she would leave her home on Tuesday and Thursday nights, claiming that she was attending classes.

After the year was over, she proclaimed to her husband that she had finished her Ph.D. program and began printing “Ph.D.” all over her business cards and in her email signature. Her husband thought it strange that she could finish her Ph.D. program in one year part-time, but said that he was proud of her nonetheless. When the investigation began that led up to her conviction in 2009, it was discovered that Ybarra had never obtained a Ph.D. 

In 2001, Ybarra claimed that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer. For the next eight years, her cancer facade grew more and more complex. She claimed that the cancer had spread to her brain and lungs. She shaved her head and claimed that it was the result of ongoing chemotherapy. She learned sign language and got a cochlear implant, which she claimed was necessary as a result of the cancer’s destructive effects on her hearing. She even moved to Alabama for eight months to get treatment she claimed she couldn’t get anywhere else. 

And we know all this because she had a blog where she chronicled her battle with cancer. She claimed she was on her third relapse of cancer—that the end was imminent  and how the cancer had spread, sharing how she broke the painful news of her looming death to family and friends. She also wrote loving and encouraging notes to her three children, the youngest of whom was struggling with terminal cystic fibrosis.

“How I wish I could carry your burdens for you. You are such a brave little girl, and I am so very proud of you. You keep fighting this monster and never give up. When God calls you to join me, I will be waiting for you with open arms. I will reserve a garden of butterflies for you to play in.”

Family and friends saw Hope as a loving, brave and fearless mother and provided her with gifts and money. News outlets reported on her family’s difficult journey.

While she was reportedly still receiving chemotherapy, she told her family that she had become pregnant with twins. She wore maternity clothes, named the twins, and arranged for a baby shower.

Five months into her pregnancy, she informed her family that she had a miscarriage as a result of the chemotherapy treatments. Ybarra took a large sum of money out of their bank account and held a funeral. She claimed that she had the twins cremated, got a commemorative tattoo for them on her back, bought a commemorative angel statue that they kept in the backyard, and put two sealed urns on their mantle, which were purported to be full of their ashes. These urns were later discovered to be completely empty.

When Hope had her second child in 1999, she’d told many family and friends—including her own husband—that the child had cerebral palsy, and put the girl in braces.  Her ex-husband said that for more than a year, his oldest daughter wore ankle braces off and on. “I think she was fine because she ran all the time without them,” he said. “… Now that I look back, I think that might have been the start of it.”

However, this condition seemed to fade away and disappeared completely around the time her third child was born in 2004.

Born prematurely,Hope’s daughter’s life was wrought with medical issues from her birth. Hope Ybarra’s abusive relationship with her second daughter appeared to begin when she brought her daughter to the hospital and claimed that her daughter had a swallowing dysfunction, which prompted the doctors to surgically install a gastronomy feeding tube. Using this feeding tube, she was able to trick doctors into thinking that her daughter was suffering from terminal cystic fibrosis by feeding her daughter dangerous amounts of salt. As the test for cystic fibrosis involves testing the sweat for unusually high sodium contents, Ybarra routinely force-fed her daughter salt in hopes of achieving a false-positive result. 

Since cystic fibrosis patients need to take many medications, Ybarra’s daughter had an intravenous central line, an access point straight to her heart, surgically inserted. It is believed that Ybarra was using this access point to continually remove blood from her daughter’s body, hoping that it would make her daughter look anemic.

Doctors claimed that Hope’s daughter would arrive at the hospital very anemic and then be fine by the time she left, which was one of the first tips that there was foul play involved. Hope’s daughter nearly died when she received an iron dextran infusion for the anemia she didn’t have.

Despite being middle-class, Hope claimed her family was struggling to pay the young girl’s medical bills and held a number of fundraisers, the last of which raised almost $100,000.

Seemingly qualified for the job with her forged Ph.D., Hope Ybarra worked as a lab director at a pharmaceutical company, which granted her access to some very dangerous pathogens. During the investigation into Hope Ybarra, her employers claimed that she had been suspected of poisoning two of her coworkers.

As the investigation continued, it was discovered that Hope Ybarra had ordered several pathogens that were not used at the lab, one of which was Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria known to cause pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients. Indeed, several of these pathogens were found in Hope’s daughter’s blood, implying that Hope was attempting to cause pulmonary infections in her own daughter.

Hope pled guilty on October 18, 2010 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her actions. Years later, when she was interviewed by the Star-Telegram, her pattern of pathological lying continued. She introduced herself with a yellow card that identified her as a hearing-impaired inmate and began the interview with a speech impediment and used sign language throughout her conversation. Not long into the interview, however, her speech impediment was completely gone and her hearing appeared to be fine.

Though she admits to being sick and hurting her daughter, Hope has downplayed some of the abuses and claimed that she was just trying to get the girl the help she thought she needed. Yet Hope’s illness continues to rear its head even from prison; these days, she claims to suffer from memory loss from diabetic comas as well as hearing impairment, caused by the failure of her cochlear implant.

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