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Charlottesville car attack suspect James Alex Fields Jr. to stand trial Monday

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Posted at 9:48 PM, Nov 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-23 21:49:14-05

An Ohio man whose high school history teacher described him as "infatuated with the Nazis" will on Monday morning face a jury and a murder charge in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Police and prosecutors believe 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., a resident of Maumee, Ohio, is the man recorded driving his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters at an Aug. 12 rally of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis.  

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old anti-racist activist who had been moved to attend the night before, died after the car struck her. Dozens more were wounded. 

Recordings of the impact and the car speeding away in reverse captured the most shocking moment of an event that had already included crowds of armed, torch-bearing Neo-Nazis chanting racist, anti-Semitic slogans such as "Jews will not replace us!

Fields was photographed alongside some of those Neo-Nazis -- members of neo-fascist group Vanguard America -- earlier in the day.

Although the organization would later deny he was a member, Randall K. Cooper High School history teacher Derek Weimer said Fields' interest in extremism and white racial purity was long-standing.

"I developed a good rapport with him and used that rapport to constantly try to steer him away from those beliefs to show clear examples -- why that thinking is wrong, why their beliefs were evil, you know, things like that," Weimer said days after the rally. "I thought at times I got through to him, but obviously not."

In addition to first-degree murder, Fields stands charged with eight counts of aggravated malicious wounding in connection to the attack. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

If convicted in Charlottesville Circuit Court, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.