What authorities say happened during the deadly attack on the Appalachian Trail

Massachusetts resident James L. Jordan is accused of fatally stabbing one hiker and wounding another.

This Saturday, May 11, 2019 booking photo provided by the Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office shows James L. Jordan, of West Yarmouth, Mass. Federal authorities say Jordan was arrested in an attack on the Appalachian Trail that left one person dead and another severely injured. He was arrested early Saturday and charged with murder and assault. (Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office)
James L. Jordan, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was ordered by a judge on Monday to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. –Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office

A 30-year-old man from West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, is facing charges in Virginia, where authorities say he fatally stabbed one hiker and injured another while they were camping on the Appalachian Trail.

James L. Jordan was arrested early Saturday morning by deputies with the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office. He’s been charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Abington, Virginia, the events leading to the deadly attack began on Friday, when Jordan allegedly approached four hikers on the trail within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Smyth County, Virginia. The 30-year-old was “known by the hikers as a suspicious person through social media,” according to the court filing. The reputation stemmed from an incident in April when Jordan allegedly threatened hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Unicoi County, Tennessee.

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Jordan, known by the trail name “Sovereign,” was charged with criminal impersonation and drug possession in April, according to reports from the time. Unicoi County Sheriff Michael Hensley wrote in a post on Facebook in April that hikers had been threatened in Madison County, North Carolina, as well.

In late April, Jordan was sentenced, given probation, and released.

When the 30-year-old approached the four hikers on Friday, he was “acting disturbed and unstable, and was playing his guitar and singing,” according to the criminal complaint.

At some point later in the evening, authorities said the four hikers made camp on the trail in Wythe County.

“Jordan began randomly approaching the hikers’ tents, making noises and threatening the hikers,” authorities wrote in the complaint. “Jordan spoke to the hikers through their tents and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.”

All four of the hikers decided to pack up and leave their campsite out of fear of the 30-year-old, authorities said. But as they tried to leave, he approached them with a knife, according to the filing. Two of the hikers ran, with the West Yarmouth man chasing after them. But he then returned to the campsite, approached one of the remaining hikers — identified only as “Victim #1” by authorities — and began arguing verbally with him. The other hiker, identified as “Victim #2,” told investigators she watched as Jordan began stabbing the man in the “upper part of the body.”

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“Victim #2 watched Victim #1 fall to the ground, at which point she ran,” investigators wrote in the criminal complaint. “Victim #2 began to tire at which point Jordan caught up with her. She turned to face Jordan and raised her arms as if to surrender when Jordan began stabbing her and she received multiple stab wounds.”

The woman fell to the ground and “played dead,” authorities wrote, and Jordan then left to “find his dog.”

The woman then ran down the trail toward Smyth County, and, on her way, she got assistance from a male and female hiker who helped her hike the remaining six miles to where they could call 911.

According to the complaint, Wythe County authorities received a 911 call around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday from a man and a woman, believed to be the two hikers who ran away from Jordan at the campsite, reporting that they were being chased by a man with “a machete.” Around 3:12 a.m., a 911 call came in to authorities in Smyth County from Victim #2, reporting the attack. She was transported to a hospital.

Around 6:14 a.m., officers with the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the campsite where the alleged attack began. They took Jordan into custody and “observed some blood stains on his clothing.”

The male victim was found and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the complaint. A knife was found near his body.

The man and woman who ran from the campsite identified Jordan as the person who approached and chased them with a knife, and Victim #2 identified him as her attacker, according to the complaint.  

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At his initial court appearance Monday, Jordan was ordered held for a mental competency evaluation. He will return to court on Aug. 1, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  

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