OCALA, Fla. — A Florida woman who espoused “sovereign citizen” beliefs shot and killed a man with similar beliefs after accusing him of working with the government to keep her from her children, authorities said.
Neely Petrie-Blanchard, 33, is accused of fatally shooting Christopher Hallett, 50, of Ocala, on Sunday. She is being held in Lowndes County, Georgia, awaiting extradition to Marion County, Florida.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office officials said deputies were called around 9 p.m. Sunday to Hallett’s home in the Marion Oaks neighborhood, where they found he had been shot several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“According to eyewitnesses, Neely Petrie-Blanchard was the person who shot Hallett because she believed he was unable to help her regain custody of her children,” a news release from the department said.
Witnesses were able to identify Petrie-Blanchard from a photo lineup, authorities said.
A nationwide “Be on the Lookout” bulletin was issued for Petrie-Blanchard. In a twist of luck, the bulletin was seen by a deputy in Lowndes County — who happens to be the brother of one of the Marion County deputies on the case.
The Georgia deputy called his brother in Florida to get more details of the suspect’s vehicle.
“A short while later, the LCSO deputy was at a gas station, where he found Petrie-Blanchard and transported her to the Lowndes County Jail on a hold for MCSO,” the news release said.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk told The Associated Press that upon her arrest, Petrie-Blanchard questioned whether the department had the authority to detain her.
“She’s one of these people who claim they’re not part of the United States — sovereign people,” Paulk said. “They don’t believe any of the laws apply to them. Obviously, she’s not leaving.”
The AP reported that both Petrie-Blanchard and Hallett appeared to hold those beliefs. Hallett, who described himself on social media as a congressional oversight defense contractor, ran an entity called E-Clause LLC.
The entity’s Facebook page is filled with documents, articles and images regarding government authority over individuals.
Though it is unclear how, Hallett had apparently convinced Petrie-Blanchard that he could help her get her twin daughters back. Kentucky court records obtained by the AP indicate that Petrie-Blanchard abducted the girls from their grandmother’s home last March.
She was only allowed supervised visits at the time, the records show. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Petrie-Blanchard had gone to her mother’s home in Russellville, Kentucky, on March 20 for a visit with the 7-year-old twins, Isabella and Audrianna.
She took the children to a friend’s house in Dawson Springs, but when it was time to return the girls to their grandmother, she refused, the Courier Journal reported. An Amber Alert was issued March 25 for the mother and children.
In the photo of Petrie-Blanchard publicized with the Amber Alert, she wore an E-Clause T-shirt and a baseball cap emblazoned with the words “We the People.”
She was also described as driving a black 2014 Ford Escape with a specialized Florida license plate reading “ECLAUSE.”
All three were found safe the day after the Amber Alert was broadcast.
Petrie-Blanchard was indicted Tuesday on two counts of custodial interference and one count of being a persistent felony offender, the AP reported.
She was free on bail of $10,000 in the Kentucky case when Hallett was gunned down, according to the news agency. The custody battle appeared to be the motive behind Hallett’s slaying.
Witnesses told investigators 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 AP reported.
Hallett’s friends mourned him on the E-Clause Facebook page following his death.
“Chris Hallett is now with the great cloud of witnesses the Bible so clearly talks about,” a woman wrote. “Now he is cheering us all on to finish the enemy off and save our children from abuse.”
“You’ve been a bright light in this dark dystopic nightmare,” another woman wrote. “I pray you continue to fight for us before the (throne) of God in Heaven. You’ll be sorely missed but never forgotten.”