March 29, 2023

TRAGIC? Charlottesville tiki torch marcher meets his end to escape trial

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When a group of White supremacists showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a rally that they christened “Unite the Right,” no one expected to see columns of tiki torch-bearing neo-fascists parading down the streets of the sleepy college town.

Yet, as the first demonstration of how the Donald Trump presidency had emboldened the most extreme racists in our nation to creep out of the shadows, the “Unite the Right” rally produced an image that went on to haunt the country ever since.

In the black shirt, squarely in the center of the photo above — so redolent of the churning hatred, resentment, and anger of the White supremacist groups that participated in the march that eventually resulted in the death of counter-protestor Heather Heyer — is a man named Teddy Joseph Von Nukem.

(Yes, that’s his real name, although one he petitioned to have his original name changed to in 2012.)

Von Nukem’s name resurfaced today when it was revealed by Charlottesville journalist Molly Conger that he had shot and killed himself on January 30th rather than face the charges of drug trafficking that he was scheduled to go on trial for that morning.

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According to an account in The Daily Beast:

“The 35-year-old skipped out on his first day of trial for a drug trafficking charge in Arizona on the morning of Jan. 30, according to court records. At the very moment a federal judge was issuing a warrant for his arrest, Von Nukem was actually still back at his home in Missouri, where had walked out in the snow behind the hay shed and shot himself.”

The coroner’s report reveals that Von Nukem left suicide notes for both his wife and five children — all under the age of nine— and for law enforcement.

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The charge that Von Nukem was facing was for transporting 15 kilos of fentanyl hidden in the back seat of his car as he crossed the border from Mexico to the United States.

Even as Republicans continue to blame President Biden for the wave of illegal drugs coming over the border from Mexico, it’s ironic that it’s one of their own MAGA White supremacists who was caught at the border bringing deadly fentanyl into the country for his own enrichment.

It’s hard to muster much sympathy for a suicide victim who uses his own death to escape accountability for his actions, and Von Nukem’s despicably racist ideology certainly doesn’t help either.

According to Molly Conger, it appears as if Von Nukem also managed to escape accountability for the vicious beating of a 20-year-old Black special education aide as well.

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It’s not surprising that someone capable of this kind of assault would be too cowardly to face the penalties for his criminal actions.

It is a shame, however, that Teddy Von Nukem never allowed himself the chance for repentance and redemption along with a renouncing of his racist views.

Instead, he is a man who presents a cautionary tale of how a twisted ideology can result in a tragic end.

Original reporting by Molly Conger and by Jose Pagliery at The Daily Beast.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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