Gary Blankenship Codington County Detention Center

A purported cult leader who caused a stir in northern Maine over the winter has been arrested in South Dakota.

Gary Blankenship, 36, was arrested in Watertown on Thursday as a fugitive from justice. He had apparently been living with his family in Sisseton in an old school bus.

Gary Blankenship Submitted photo

He is being held in the Codington County Jail without bail while law enforcement officials track down the details of a warrant issued for his arrest by the state of Tennessee, according to his jailer.

Warrants were issued in Tennessee in March alleging Blankenship was involved in the theft of a vehicle, a felony, and hindering a secured creditor. He was briefly held in Maine in relation to the warrants, but authorities freed him.

Blankenship told the Sun Journal weeks ago that the warrants were the result of a misunderstanding and should have been cleared up by local police in Tennessee.

Blankenship was ordered in February to leave a Civil War-era house he had occupied in St. Agatha. By early March, he had departed.

At the time, the North Carolina native said he might head somewhere warmer. But he appears instead to have gone to South Dakota, a 28-hour drive from northern Maine, after online followers invited him.

In a voicemail this week, Blankenship said he “was busy saving the world” there and staying active.

Blankenship has said he was run out of St. Agatha by a campaign of “slander, gossip and lies” by local residents who accused him of, among other things, running a cult and wanting to shoot up a school.

The arrest of Gary Blankenship in South Dakota on Thursday. Provided by Nessa Miramontes


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