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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sovereign citizen gets life in prison for murdering Ocala man helping her regain custody of her children

A 37-year-old self-proclaimed sovereign citizen who represented herself at trial will spend the rest of her life behind bars after a jury found her guilty of murdering a man in Ocala that she enlisted to help her regain custody of her children in 2020. 

After approximately 30 minutes of deliberating on Friday, April 19, jurors found Neely Raye Pesognellie Petrie-Blanchard guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm in connection with the shooting death of 50-year-old Christopher Hallett.

Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard was found guilty of the 2020 fatal shooting of 50-year-old Christopher Hallett. (Photo: Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office)
On April 19, 2024, a jury found Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard guilty of the 2020 murder of 50-year-old Christopher Hallett. (Photo: Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office)

According to court records, the fatal shooting occurred on November 16, 2020, at a residence located near SW 34th Court Road in Marion Oaks. On that day, Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the home after receiving reports of shots being fired in the area.

Upon arrival, deputies discovered the deceased victim, Hallett, on the kitchen floor. He had sustained “numerous apparent gunshot wounds.”

Two witnesses at the scene identified Petrie-Blanchard as the shooter.

The witnesses told investigators that they had heard what sounded like a firecracker going off inside the Marion Oaks home. When they exited their room and walked into the living room, they saw the victim on the kitchen floor, and Petrie-Blanchard was standing behind him while holding a black pistol.

According to statements from the witnesses, Petrie-Blanchard pointed the gun at them and pulled the trigger, but the firearm jammed. Both witnesses were able to flee to safety, and they advised that Petrie-Blanchard told them that they were “hurting (her) children” before firing off additional shots.

Investigators learned that Petrie-Blanchard had enlisted the help of the victim, Hallett, in a “last attempt to regain custody of (her) children.” In addition, both Petrie-Blanchard and the victim were determined to be associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement, as well as the QAnon group.

An arrest warrant was issued for Petrie-Blanchard. A day after the fatal shooting, Petrie-Blanchard was located and arrested in Lowndes County, Georgia.

Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard
Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard, 37, of Pensacola (Marion County Jail booking photo)

In 2021, Petrie-Blanchard was indicted by a grand jury for one count of premeditated murder in the first degree with a firearm.

Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard represented herself during the murder trial. (Photo: Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office)
Neelie Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard represented herself during the murder trial. (Photo: Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office)

The case ultimately went to trial in Marion County, and Petrie-Blanchard chose to represent herself in court. Following the trial and guilty verdict, the judge sentenced her to life in prison.

Petrie-Blanchard was taken into custody and remanded in the Marion County Jail, where she awaits transportation to the Florida Department of Corrections.