James Alex Fields Jr. was charged with first-degree murder on Thursday. The self-identified neo-Nazi is accused of driving his car into a crowd protesting white supremacist gatherings in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The 20-year-old from Maumee, Ohio, is charged with driving his Dodge Charger into the counter-protest on Aug. 12, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 other people. He was initially arrested after fleeing the scene and charged with second-degree murder.
The upgrade to a first-degree murder charge means that now Judge Robert Downer believes there is proof that the murder was pre-meditated. With a second-degree murder charge, Fields had a shot at just 30-40 years in prison, but if found guilty he will serve life without parole.
The case is scheduled to go to a grand jury on Dec. 18.