A Kentucky mother has been accused of killing a Florida man who was allegedly helping her regain custody of her children through their involvement in a bizarre QAnon network of self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens.”
Neely Petrie-Blanchard, 33, was arrested Monday on a homicide charge in the fatal shooting of Christopher Hallett, 50, at his Florida home, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.
An eyewitness told authorities that Petrie-Blanchard killed Hallett because she believed that he was working with the government to keep her children away from her, according to a police report provided to BuzzFeed News.
The Daily Beast reported that both Hallett and Petrie-Blanchard belonged to a network of QAnon supporters who proclaim to be anti-government “sovereign citizens” using bizarre legal tactics in child custody battles. QAnon is the collective delusion that preposterously claims President Donald Trump is saving the world from a satanic cabal of elites who run a vast child sex abuse ring.
Authorities said that Hallett was helping Petrie-Blanchard regain custody of her twin daughters through bogus legal claims, but that she allegedly killed him after believing that he was working against her.
Officers responding to the shooting on Sunday found Hallett dead from several gunshot wounds lying facedown on the kitchen floor at his Ocala home. An eyewitness, who was with her daughter at Hallett’s house, told authorities that she saw Petrie-Blanchard fatally shooting Hallett and fleeing the scene in a vehicle.
The witness said that after the first shot was fired, she heard Petrie-Blanchard say, “You’re hurting my children, you bastard,” followed by the sounds of additional gunshots, according to the police report.
After authorities issued a nationwide alert to law enforcement agencies, a deputy in Lowndes County, Georgia, found Petrie-Blanchard at a gas station and took her into custody. It is unclear whether she has an attorney.
Petrie-Blanchard was indicted Tuesday on separate charges of kidnapping, relating to an incident in March when she allegedly abducted her twin daughters from their grandmother’s home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Associated Press reported.
Her mother, Susan Blanchard, had obtained sole guardianship of the two 7-year-old girls through a court order that described Petrie-Blanchard as “extremely unstable,” according to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office. On March 25, Petrie-Blanchard was taken into custody after she failed to return her twin daughters to Susan’s home during a visit five days before.
Police said Petrie-Blanchard had a history of mental illness. She was a self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen” who reportedly possessed a handgun, according to Logan County authorities.
Hallett appeared to be helping Petrie-Blanchard regain custody of her children through his involvement in a company called “E-Clause” that purports to use legal tactics rooted in the “sovereign citizen” movement.
Self-proclaimed sovereign citizens “hold truly bizarre, complex, antigovernment beliefs that are rooted in racism and anti-Semitism,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Members believe they get to decide which laws to obey and ignore, and think that they shouldn’t have to pay taxes. They also participate in anti-government protests and file bogus lawsuits and fake liens to advance their beliefs.
Petrie-Blanchard appeared to have put her faith in Hallett’s help to get custody of her children. After she allegedly abducted her daughters from her mother’s house in March, she was seen driving a Ford Escape with a Florida license plate that read “ECLAUSE.”
In a photo released by authorities in March, she was wearing a T-shirt that read “E ~ Clause.” She also retweeted some of Hallett’s tweets on her account.
But eyewitnesses who spoke to authorities “speculated” that Petrie-Blanchard shot Hallett “due to her belief that the victim might have been working against her, or working to assist the government, in keeping her children away from her,” the police report said.
Social media accounts that appeared to belong to Petrie-Blanchard showed that she was a supporter of President Trump. She posted a Facebook Live video from a November 2018 Trump rally that she attended with her twin daughters who were both dressed in red T-shirts that read, “E~ Clause + Trump Girls.”
Her Twitter account was also peppered with phrases and wild conspiracy theories linked to QAnon.
As the Daily Beast has reported, QAnon believers affiliated with “E-Clause” have been associated with similar crimes that include inciting parents who have lost custody of their children to kidnap them from relatives or foster homes.