In a bizarre and deeply disturbing turn of events, a proponent of QAnon has been arrested for allegedly shooting and killing a crank legal theorist who was widely known and respected among a certain subset of QAnon supporters, whom she had relied on for bogus legal advice in an effort to regain custody of her twin daughters.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with the people involved, Neely Petrie-Blanchard and Chris Hallett. The Daily Beast has written numerous stories about Chris Hallett, who along with his associate Kirk Pendergrass founded a group called E-Clause that has become closely tied with QAnon believers who promote the idea that Child Protective Services agents are stealing people’s children with the intent to traffic them. For this group of QAnon supporters, E-Clause is now their one-stop-shop for incredibly bad legal advice claiming that the government has limited or no authority over its citizens, advice that is seemingly heavily influenced by the sovereign citizen movement.
Here’s how the Daily Beast described Hallett and E-Clause in August:
Hallett and Pendergrass run E-Clause, a fringe Florida-based legal outfit that draws on unorthodox and legally ineffectual tactics that have echoes of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement. Hallett has claimed Trump inspired him to create E-Clause.
Neither Hallett, who lives in Florida, nor Pendergrass, who lives in Idaho, are registered attorneys in their states, nor do they appear to have legal degrees. But that hasn’t stopped them from soliciting donations to fund E-Clause, a for-profit company.
In an echo of the oddball legal tactics that anti-government sovereign citizens use to attempt to wriggle out of their legal issues, E-Clause filings are filled with quotations, strange phrasing, and even mathematical formulas like “[Negative Nexus] [(-1 x -1) = 1].” Those unorthodox tactics appear to have universally failed to sway judges at either the federal or state level.
In January, ruling on a lawsuit Hallett filed in his own child custody case, a baffled federal judge called Hallett’s filings “rambling” and “patently frivolous,” and claimed that Hallett believed Trump wanted him to create “a private, legal-system alternative.”
“The Court declines to entertain Plaintiff’s fantasy that he is acting at the behest of the President,” the opinion reads.
But Hallett’s bogus and bizarre legal ideas found an eager audience with QAnon believers, particularly women who had lost custody of their children, and it’s pretty clear that Hallett and Pendergrass deliberately targeted moms who were embroiled in ongoing custody battles. As the Daily Beast noted, they “promoted their services on QAnon YouTube shows to build a following among a community of desperate mothers who had lost their children, and solicited donations for their services.” One of those QAnon “desperate mothers” was Petrie-Blanchard, who in March of this year, inspired by Hallett and E-Clause’s legal advice, allegedly abducted her two daughters who were in the custody of her mother. Again, via the Daily Beast:
Days before she vanished with her twins, she delivered letters filled with E-Clause legal theories to Logan County, Kentucky, Sheriff Stephen Stratton and other county officials, declaring they had “no legal jurisdiction against me.” The Amber Alert issued during her twins’ alleged abduction noted that Blanchard’s car had the vanity license plate “ECLAUSE.”
Blanchard was arrested in another county a few days later, allegedly hiding out with what a sheriff described to The Daily Beast as a group of sovereign citizens. Her twins were recovered unharmed.
“She’s actually a member of the E-Clause thing in Florida,” Stratton told The Daily Beast, noting that Blanchard networked with other QAnon believers on Facebook.
According to the Daily Beast, even after being arrested and charged with kidnapping, Petrie-Blanchard still remained committed to QAnon. As the Daily Beast noted in August, after her arrest, she “posted a video on Facebook showing herself taking the QAnon oath.”
But something soured her on Hallett. On Sunday, Hallett was found dead in his home in Florida, his back riddled with multiple gunshot wounds, and Petrie-Blanchard was arrested over his death, having been identified as the shooter by an unnamed witness who was in Hallett’s home at the time.
More, from the Daily Beast:
A witness who was in the house when the shooting happened told police that Petrie-Blanchard had become convinced that Hallett himself was involved in a plot to keep her children away from her. Hallett had been working on Petrie-Blanchard’s custody case at the time of his death, according to the witnesses.
“It was speculated that the victim was shot by [Petrie-Blanchard], 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 reads.
The unnamed witness, according to the police report reviewed by the Daily Beast, reported that she and her daughter “heard what sounded like a firecracker go off in the kitchen:”
They saw Hallett standing with a “pained look on his face,” and Petrie-Blanchard standing behind him holding a pistol that appeared to have been fired and jammed, according to a witness statement.
“Oh shit, oh God, please, no,” Hallett said, according to the witness.
“You’re hurting my children, you bastard,” Petrie-Blanchard said, according to the witness’s daughter’s statement to police, before allegedly aiming the gun at the witness and her daughter.
As the witness and her daughter fled to the back of the house, they heard more shots fired into Hallett. When sheriff’s deputies investigating the gunshots arrived on the scene, they found Hallett “obviously deceased from numerous gunshot wounds,” and shell cases and live bullets scattered around the house.
Petrie-Blanchard reportedly fled to Georgia, where she was arrested, and is currently awaiting extradition to Florida, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and will be charged with murder.
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast reported that Pendergrass, Hallett’s E-Clause co-founder, is pinning the blame for Hallett’s death on the “deep state,” instead of what seems to me to be an example of the worst that can happen when one preys on vulnerable people who have fallen down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole and are already primed to take desperate action. “You know how the deep state doesn’t like to be exposed,” Pendergrass said during a YouTube livestream.