Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, accused of fatally hitting 32-year-old Heather Hayer as he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, will be charged with first-degree murder. A judge upgraded the second-degree murder charge against James Fields Jr. at a preliminary hearing on Thursday
James Alex Fields Jr had previously been charged with second-degree murder for the death Heather Hayer, as well as other charges related to the incident, but on Thursday, prosecutors upgraded the murder charge against Fields.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Fields will also face one felony count of hit and run and five felony counts of aggravated malicious wounding.
Fields is accused of murdering Hayer in the midst of heated protests and counter protests during a white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Fields has been described as a white supremacist and Hayer was involved in counter protests disavowing the white supremacist rally.
But during Thursday’s hearing, Fields’ attorney, Denise Lundsford, tried to gain sympathy for her client when she cross-examined Det. Steven Young, who was on the scene during the initial arrest. Young said Fields repeatedly apologized when he was arrested and cried when he was told Hayer died.
The incident was part of a deadly weekend in Charlottesville that began as a purported protest against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and spun into a national controversy. On Friday night, white supremacists marched across the University of Virginia campus with torches and chants of “Jews will not replace us,” and wound up brawling with counterprotesters.
The next day, Unite the Right, a white nationalist demonstration, brought hundreds of demonstrators and counterprotesters also came to downtown Charlottesville. Among them was Heyer, 32, who friends say always spoke up against racism and anything that she felt was wrong.
Fields’ case is scheduled to go before a Grand Jury on Monday.