Police: Florida man who questioned government powers slain
By CURT ANDERSON
AP Legal Affairs Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man who questioned government authority over individuals living in the U.S. through an online forum was fatally shot, allegedly by a woman who has espoused similar “sovereign citizen” views, police said Tuesday.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that Neely Petrie-Blanchard was arrested in Georgia one day after the killing of Christopher Hallett in his Ocala-area home. Witnesses to the shooting said Petrie-Blanchard accused Hallett of working with the government to deny her custody of her children.
Hallett, 50, ran an entity called E-Clause LLC that featured a Facebook page filled with documents, graphics and articles about whether governments have authority in many instances over individuals. This viewpoint is frequently summarized as the “sovereign citizen” movement.
Petrie-Blanchard, who turns 34 on Thursday, was being held without bail Tuesday in a jail in Lowndes County, Georgia. It was not clear if she had a lawyer to represent her.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said Petrie-Blanchard, after her arrest, began questioning whether his office had 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.”
In another twist, court records in Logan County, Kentucky, show Petrie-Blanchard was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on charges related to the abduction last March of her twin daughters from their grandmother’s home. Petrie-Blanchard only had permission for supervised visits.
When Kentucky authorities were searching for the two girls, they said Petrie-Blanchard was driving a Fort Escape with a license plate that read, “ECLAUSE,” according to an Amber Alert issued at the time.
The Kentucky records show Petrie-Blanchard is charged there with two counts of custodial interference and one count of being a persistent felony offender. She faces a Jan. 28 arraignment date.
Petrie-Blanchard was free on $10,000 bail in the Kentucky case when Hallett was killed. The child custody issue appears to have been behind the slaying of Hallett in Florida, investigators said in a probable cause affidavit.
Witnesses to the shooting said it occurred “due to her (Petrie-Blanchard) belief that the victim might have been working against her or working to assist the government, in keeping her children away from her.”
Officials did not release further information on that dispute.
Authorities say Petrie-Blanchard will be returned from Georgia to Marion County to face a murder charge.
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.