Last month, Teddy Joseph Von Nukem, whose face was one of the most noticeable ones lit up by tiki torches at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killed himself right before his criminal trial.
Court records show that the 35-year-old skipped out on the first day of his drug trafficking trial in Arizona on January 30. At the very moment a federal judge was issuing a warrant for his arrest, Von Nukem was actually still at his home in Missouri, where he had walked out in the snow behind the hay shed and shot himself.
The details were written down in an autopsy report that The Daily Beast got its hands on Tuesday. The coroner’s report states –
“Suicide notes were found at the scene, left for law enforcement and his children, however, handwriting was somewhat inconsistent.”
Von Nukem became well-known after he went to a hate speech rally on August 12, 2017 that aggressively brought back a nativist movement in the United States.
He praised the violence, and people who study domestic extremism think he was a key player in a brutal beating of a black man that day.
Molly Conger, an independent journalist in Charlottesville who has become a key anti-fascism researcher in the years since the rally that shook the city, was the first person to report Von Nukem’s sudden death.
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An obituary said Von Nukem left behind a wife and five children aged under nine. “Some people who knew Ted knew he was a different kind of person with different ideas,” it said.
Conger’s research showed that one of the men who attacked Deandre Harris in a parking garage was Von Nukem. She also put the pieces together to show that Von Nukem bragged about the attack in text messages to another white supremacist rally organiser, who was later charged in a separate case.
Journalists, researchers, and anti-fascist activists spent months carefully looking at photos and videos of the violence that day to find white supremacists and hold them accountable.
Von Nukem was quickly found out by his old classmates in his home state because he was right in the middle of some of the most famous parts of the hateful march.
One former student told the local Springfield News-Leader that in school he was known as a “token goth kid” who had what the newspaper described as “an unsettling interest in Nazi Germany.”
Von Nukem told the newspaper at the time that he backed Donald Trump and agreed with white supremacists that white people are now “disadvantaged.”
He told the newspaper then –
“I don’t mind showing solidarity with them.”
“You have to pick your side. You have to throw your support behind the army that is fighting for you.”
Teddy Landrum, who is now known as Von Nukem, told the outlet that he changed his name in 2012 to honour his German roots and the video game character Duke Nukem.
At the rally, Neo-Nazis yelled at immigrants and people of colour, who racists say hurt the country. That made it even funnier that Von Nukem was arrested on March 17, 2021, as he was crossing the border from Mexico into the United States.
Customs and Border Protection agents found 15 kilogrammes of fentanyl pills hidden behind the seats and in the floor compartment of his 2019 Nissan Pathfinder as he drove into Arizona.
Police records show that Von Nukem quickly admitted that he was paid 4,000 Mexican pesos (about $215) to bring the pills into the country illegally.
He was freed until his trial, and last month he was supposed to go back to Tucson to go to federal court. But Von Nukem didn’t show up on January 30. After an hour, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez gave him an arrest warrant.
She didn’t know that 1,145 miles away, Von Nukem’s wife had just found his body in the snow behind the shed, still warm. The coroner’s report says that when a sheriff’s deputy and an EMT arrived, he still had “a faint pulse.”
The coroner in Texas County, Missouri, Marie Lasater, checked with the Department of Justice to make sure he was who he said he was. On Thursday, federal prosecutors tried to get the case thrown out. The judge put an end to it the next day.