Charlottesville Suspect Faces New Murder Charge

Prosecutors upgrade charge against James Alex Fields
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2017 1:00 AM CST
Charlottesville Suspect Faces New Murder Charge
Police officers block the front of the Charlottesville Circuit Court building ahead of the preliminary hearing for James Fields on Thursday on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.   (Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him. Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Alex Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the Aug. 12 collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured, the AP reports. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields to proceed. Fields' case will now be presented to a grand jury for an indictment.

Authorities say the 20-year-old, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of counterprotesters the day of the "Unite the Right" rally that drew hundreds of white nationalists from around the country. The attack came after the rally in this Virginia college town had descended into chaos—with violent brawling between attendees and counterdemonstrators—and authorities had forced the crowd to disband. Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, sat quietly in a striped jumpsuit with his hands cuffed during the hearing. Charlottesville Police Det. Steven Young said authorities had identified 36 victims of the car attack, including Heyer—a number higher than officials have previously given. (Heyer's mother says she blames President Trump for her death.)

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