On November 12, Neely Petrie-Blanchard of Pensacola, Fla. Set off on a 300-mile road trip to meet a man she said family members could help her regain custody of her three daughters said her family.
Petrie-Blanchard, 34, had been involved in custody battles for more than 10 years, and her mother had recently served as the guardian of her twin daughters. During this time, her behavior had become increasingly erratic, according to interviews with her mother and sister, and she had begun advocating conspiracy theories about child abuse, including QAnon – an internet-born conspiracy theory that unfoundedly claims that there was a secret war between them, President Donald Donald Trump and a cabal of elites who abuse children.
Her efforts to find a way to regain custody led her to see Chris Hallett, the man she was going to, the family said. His company, E ~ Clause Loss Prevention, offered online tutorials that encouraged followers to question government authority extensively, and often to disregard laws altogether.
Hallett and Petrie-Blanchard met online about four years ago, and she became a devotee who even once put an ECLAUSE license plate on the back of her car, her family members said. She often appeared in his livestream sessions on legal theory. The two found similarities in QAnon as well.
On November 15, authorities found Hallett, 50, dead from multiple gunshot wounds at his home in Ocala, Florida. Five days later, the Marion County, Florida Sheriff’s Office charged Petrie-Blanchard with second degree murder.
According to the police report, witnesses told authorities that she shot Hallett because she said he had conspired with the government to keep her children away from her.
“You hurt my kids, you bastard,” she told Hallett on the night of the shooting, according to a possible affidavit NBC News received from the sheriff’s office.
Petrie-Blanchard told NBC News of the Marion County Jail that a public defender had advised her not to discuss specific details about the night Hallett was killed.
Petrie-Blanchard’s mother, Susan Blanchard, said she received a call from her daughter on Nov. 15, shortly after authorities announced the shooting.
Petrie-Blanchard’s half-sister, Savannah Hendricks, said she was also on duty with Petrie-Blanchard alluding to allegations of child trafficking.
There is no evidence that Hallett was involved in child trafficking, although, according to Petrie-Blanchard’s family, his alleged legal advice sometimes encouraged people to abduct their own children. Instead, the circumstances of the shooting reflect other acts of violence linked to the QAnon community, particularly mothers who have tried to regain custody of their children. Hallett is not a licensed attorney in the state of Florida.
Hallet’s son and wife did not respond to a request for comment.
Two women in Utah and Colorado accused of abducting their own children appeared to be motivated by the unfounded QAnon belief, according to court records, that child welfare officials are deep state pedophiles.
Emily Jolley, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who faces a third-degree criminal offense for government interference across state lines, alleged on Facebook that the arrest warrants were forged and her son was denied abduction. Cynthia Abcug, the Colorado woman, has pleaded not guilty to the second degree abduction. Both cases are still pending.
The Daily Beast has reported that the E ~ Clause philosophy – a fringe law theory that encourages followers to largely question governance and often to disregard laws altogether – may have inspired several other unconscious parents to embrace the law themselves to take the hand.
Officials say Petrie-Blanchard fled to Georgia after the murder and relied on Hallett’s teachings about sovereign citizens when they arrested her the morning after the shooting.
“It implied that because of their belief in the sovereign nation, the laws of the United States did not apply to them and we should not arrest them,” said Ashley Paulk, Lowndes County sheriff. “Of course it doesn’t work that well.”
Petrie-Blanchard’s family said they believed Hallett’s death was preventable if she had consented to psychiatric treatment and not been bailed out of a separate criminal complaint. Petrie-Blanchard had been in custody at the time Hallett was shot after allegedly kidnapping her 8-year-old twin daughters from her grandmother Susan Blanchard in March. A Kentucky grand jury recently indicted Petrie-Blanchard with kidnapping that resulted from the alleged kidnapping. Blanchard had custody of the twins at the time.
Petrie-Blanchard said she was put on suicide watch while incarcerated at Marion County Jail, although she has since been released into the general population. According to the Marion County Clerk, she will be charged with second degree murder on December 22nd.
“They knew she was mentally unstable,” Hendricks said of her half-sister. “And then something terrible happened and now she’s gone forever.”