Ohio Girl Drugged By Her Mother To Fake Terminal Cancer: The Harrowing Story Of Hannah Milbrandt

Ohio Girl Drugged By Her Mother To Fake Terminal Cancer: The Harrowing Story Of Hannah Milbrandt

  • Hannah Milbrandt, now 21, was seven years old when her mother convinced her she was dying
  • Teresa Milbrandt tricked her daughter as well as residents of their hometown Urbana, Ohio, into thinking Hannah had leukemia
  • Police said the Milbrandts raised an estimated $31,000 from the community
  • After the nine-month hoax was discovered, Teresa and her then-husband Robert Milbrandt were charged with child endangerment 
  • Teresa served six and a half years in prison and Robert was jailed for four years and 11 months
  • Hannah spoke exclusively to DailyMail.com about her struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts and her determination to move on with her life.


An unfortunate young girl who was drugged by her mother to convince her she was dying from childhood leukemia in a scam that duped their town has spoken for the first time about the grueling ordeal and says she believes her mother ruined her life.


Hannah Milbrandt, now 21, was seven years old when her mother told her she had cancer, shaved her head, drugged her with sleeping pills, and taped bandages to the back of her head to cover a non-existent medical port.

Their small, close-knit hometown of Urbana, Ohio rallied around the Milbrandts, donating money to help pay for Hannah’s medical bills and organizing fundraising events. Police said the couple fooled 65 people and businesses to raise an estimated $31,000.

Nine months later, in 2002, Hannah’s illness was revealed to be a hoax after teachers at Hannah’s school became suspicious.

In 2003, both of Hannah’s parents were jailed. Teresa was jailed for six and a half years for theft and child endangerment. Robert maintained his innocence, saying his wife took Hannah to all her medical appointments, but pleaded guilty to child endangerment and served four years and 11 months in prison.

In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Hannah, who spent a year in foster care after her parents were jailed before being taken in by her paternal aunt, spoke about how the cancer hoax affected her, how she’s struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and how she has tried to move on with her life.

‘I remember a lot (of what happened). I remember feeling somewhat sick but not to the point of how I was being made out to be…but then I found out it was all not true,’ said Hannah, who is studying to be a middle school teacher at Wittenberg University and works part-time as a waitress.

‘My mother is still not a part of my life today and I’m thankful for that because she is a very toxic person and I don’t need that.

‘Deep down I have this fear of being around her because she’s not somebody I can trust and as far as I am concerned she ruined my life.’

She hasn’t communicated with her mother for more than a decade even though they occasionally see each other because they’ve ended up living just ten minutes apart in Springfield, Ohio. Teresa, Hannah’s mother said ‘no comment’ when DailyMail.com reached out to her. 

Hannah was reunited with her father after he was released from prison and is convinced he had no idea of the hoax and truly believed his daughter was seriously ill. The two remain close.

Teresa and Robert Milbrandt – a blue-collar family living in a three-bedroom ranch style house – had six children between them and had Hannah, their only child together, during their nine-year marriage.

In 2002 Teresa, a homecare nurse at the time, told her daughter she had cancer and even admitted to sending her to counselling sessions to prepare the child for her ‘imminent’ death. The church-going mother told her and thousands of others that her daughter had three tumors and kept up Hannah’s ill appearance by shaving her hair to mimic the symptoms of chemotherapy, placing bandages around Hannah’s body and fixing a surgical mask over her mouth to apparently protect her from infections.

To feed the lie she was taking Hannah to the hospital, Teresa confessed to giving her daughter sleeping pills so she would appear sickly and be unconscious for the chemotherapy appointments she had made up. She also said when the seven-year-old woke up, she would then tell her she had slept through the appointment.

‘I remember a lot (of what happened). I remember feeling somewhat sick but not to the point of how I was being made out to be…but then I found out it was all not true,’ said Hannah, who is studying to be a middle school teacher at Wittenberg University and works part-time as a waitress.

‘My mother is still not a part of my life today and I’m thankful for that because she is a very toxic person and I don’t need that.

‘Deep down I have this fear of being around her because she’s not somebody I can trust and as far as I am concerned she ruined my life.’

She hasn’t communicated with her mother for more than a decade even though they occasionally see each other because they’ve ended up living just ten minutes apart in Springfield, Ohio.Teresa said ‘no comment’ when DailyMail.com reached out to her. 

Hannah was reunited with her father after he was released from prison and is convinced he had no idea of the hoax and truly believed his daughter was seriously ill. The two remain close.

Teresa and Robert Milbrandt – a blue-collar family living in a three-bedroom ranch style house – had six children between them and had Hannah, their only child together, during their nine-year marriage.

In 2002 Teresa, a homecare nurse at the time, told her daughter she had cancer and even admitted to sending her to counselling sessions to prepare the child for her ‘imminent’ death. The church-going mother told her and thousands of others that her daughter had three tumors and kept up Hannah’s ill appearance by shaving her hair to mimic the symptoms of chemotherapy, placing bandages around Hannah’s body and fixing a surgical mask over her mouth to apparently protect her from infections.

To feed the lie she was taking Hannah to the hospital, Teresa confessed to giving her daughter sleeping pills so she would appear sickly and be unconscious for the chemotherapy appointments she had made up. She also said when the seven-year-old woke up, she would then tell her she had slept through the appointment.

Hannah said: ‘I remember she would take me to the Dairy Queen in Urbana and she’d give me the sleeping pill. I remember falling asleep and waking up in the same exact spot every time.’

Thousands sympathized with the Milbrandts, who were apparently paying $500 a week in medical bills.

The small church the family attended raised $7000, local firefighters, in addition to giving $500, donated a puppy and an all-expense paid trip to a water park – two things the little girl had been pleading with her parents for.

Teresa informed teachers at North Elementary of the proper procedure to follow if her daughter had a seizure while at school and staff there organized a ‘hat shower’ where all the children wore hats in solidarity with Hannah who always covered her shaved head with a blue hat. 

The scope of the con was such that a seriously ill wheelchair-bound teen who had spent nine years collecting pop can tabs to help pay for her own care donated her entire collection to help Hannah.  

At home Teresa, who Hannah says called her the ‘million-dollar baby’, became distant.

She said: ‘It’s kind of scary but she used to call me her million-dollar baby.

‘It makes sense now but to me, I thought she thought I was wonderful and worth everything…she spoiled me to death.

‘I do remember she stopped being as loving when the cancer hoax started.

‘I used to be afraid to be alone in my bedroom and she would make me sleep alone.’

Terrified the upcoming Christmas would be her last, she begged Santa Claus to spare her.

But by Christmas, an eagle-eyed teacher noticed Hannah’s short hair was cut evenly, even though patients who undergo chemotherapy lose their hair in patches, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family services were called to investigate.

On January 14 2003, police arrested the couple as well as Hannah’s maternal grandmother, Mary Russell, who was later acquitted of theft.

Teresa confessed but her husband maintained his innocence. At the time, Robert – who worked for a printing press company – said he was oblivious because his wife scheduled these supposed hospital appointments when he had traveled for work.

He told a 2005 documentary – in his only interview: ‘You look in hindsight and you’re like I should have caught this.’ He declined to be interviewed by DailyMail.com.

Even though Hannah believes he had no idea about her mother’s scam, Robert pleaded guilty later to child endangerment. He also entered an Alford plea to felony theft, which means he does not admit guilt but recognizes prosecutors have enough evidence to convict. 

It was he who told Hannah she wasn’t dying.

‘I remember feeling excited like I was not going to die anymore,’ Hannah said. ‘My happiness turned to me being afraid and not sure what was going to happen and I think that the part of it that was the scariest was being taken away from my family.’

Teresa maintained Hannah’s ill appearance by shaving her hair to mimic the symptoms of chemotherapy and fixing a surgical mask over her mouth to supposedly protect her from infections. Hannah, pictured here in 2002 with friends, was often seen with a mask that only covered her mouth and not her nose , something that Ubrana residents would later say they found unusual in hindsight

Hannah’s father served four years and 11 months in prison, an outcome that still ‘weighs heavy’ on her heart.

She said: ‘During all of it, when it was happening I knew my dad had no idea. I believe he was manipulated by my mother…she was his wife for nine years and nothing before this had ever happened. So why would he question his daughter was ill? He went to prison for five years of his life for doing nothing.’

Hannah believes that her father would have been acquitted had he allowed her to testify.

‘I firmly believe if I would have he wouldn’t have gone to jail. I have spent most of my life trying to get him justice and I haven’t been able to do that and that’s one thing that weighs very heavy on my heart because I know that man will do anything in this world for me and the one thing that has ruined his life, I can’t fix.’

Hannah’s mother pleaded guilty by reason for insanity claiming to have been diagnosed with Munchausen by proxy – a mental condition in which a caregiver invents or causes an illness of the person they are supposed to be looking after.

The judge ordered a mental evaluation and her insanity plea was rejected. She was sentenced to six and a half years, although she could have faced as many as 33 years in prison.

After her arrest, Teresa gave one interview in which she said she was so distraught by what she’d done to her daughter she could barely ‘live in her own skin’.

In a 2004 interview with the Columbia Dispatch, she said: ‘Last week, I said to someone, “I wonder if I could pay the doctor and have him give me a lethal injection”. I can’t take you to where I’m at. There’s no way. I can’t hardly live in my own skin.’

She said she concocted the cancer scheme to keep her husband from leaving and to show love to her children.

‘I knew how much he cared about Hannah and if she’s sick, I thought, he’s not going to leave us. 

‘I spent that money on my daughters, I bought them anything they wanted. We shopped, we ate out. Hannah’s room was immaculate. She had everything. That’s how I thought you got love – you bought it.’

Teresa was released in February 2010.

Hannah spent a year in a foster home after her parents were arrested before her father’s sister fought to gain custody of her.

Hannah moved in with her aunt, who was living with her husband and 19-year-old son. Soon, what she had been through began to gravely affect her.

In her early teens, she began to have bouts of depression and even attempted to take her own life.

Remembering those difficult times, she said: ‘There were very low moments, like I could die, like I didn’t want to exist…. I even made plans…. I reached a point I realized I couldn’t be as selfish.’

Hannah began seeing a therapist.

Soon after his release from prison in 2008, Hannah rekindled the relationship with her father and moved into his New York home. Although the then-14-year-old moved to live with him and his new wife, she was bullied in school, which catapulted her into a deeper depression.

With help from her father, Hannah made a recovery and made the decision to attend university in Springfield, Ohio – 20 minutes away from her Urbana home.

‘I want to try to make the best of the worst,’ she said. ‘I don’t want this place to be somewhere I have to avoid because of what happened to me.’

But her move back hasn’t been easy at times. She lives a ten-minute walk from her estranged mother and has run into her at a restaurant where she says her mother asked to be waited on by her. Hannah even remembers a day when she saw Teresa through her rear-view mirror, driving right behind her.

Now a junior pursuing a degree in English and Education, Hannah is better able to handle her depression even though she says there are days when it’s difficult. Still, she wants to use the pain she’s felt from the neglect to help others one day.

She said: ‘I feel like there are people out there who are struggling and have been abused in some way. ‘It might not be the same as mine but everybody has a story. One thing I want people to know is that even in the hardest points in life, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This life is worth something.’

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