One Appalachian Trail hiker is dead while another is recovering from several stab wounds after a man attacked a camp in southwestern Virginia with a knife early Saturday morning. Massachusetts resident James Jordan was arrested by Wythe County Sheriff’s Office deputies in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest shortly after the deadly attack, and he was charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder in U.S. Western District of Virginia court today.
According to a criminal affidavit (which you can read below), Jordan was a somewhat notorious figure on the trail because of a recent incident. In April, he was arrested in Unicoi County and charged with criminal impersonation, as well as some drug-related charges, after he allegedly threatened several hikers in Tennessee and North Carolina. Jordan, who was also known as “Sovereign” in the trail, was reportedly seen brandishing a knife and a machete at several hikers at the time.
According to the affidavit, on Friday, Jordan approached four people identified as Hiker #1, Hiker #2, Victim #1, and Victim #2. He was acting “disturbed and unstable,” playing his guitar and singing while he hiked. The four hikers made camp later that night, and Jordan began “randomly approaching the hikers’ tents” where he “spoke to the hikers through their tents and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.”
At this point, all four people elected to pack up and leave. As they were trying to break camp, Jordan came at them with a knife. Hiker #1 and Hiker #2 successfully ran away from Jordan, and when he returned to camp, the affidavit says Victim #1 began arguing with him. Victim #2 later told the cops she watched as Jordan stabbed Victim #1 in the “upper part of the body,” and she ran away when she saw Victim #1 crumple to the ground. Jordan caught her, and she says she was stabbed multiple times, escaping because she played dead and Jordan eventually left to find his dog.
Victim #2 then ran towards civilization, eventually linking up with two other hikers who helped her travel an additional six miles to Smyth County to call 911. Dispatchers received calls from Hiker #1 and Hiker #2 shortly before Victim #2 reached them. Deputies reached camp around 6:15 a.m., where they arrested Jordan and pronounced Victim #1 dead. Victim #2 was taken to a nearby hospital, where she is expected to make a full recovery.
All three survivors identified Jordan as the attacker. The weapon he used is alternately described as a knife or a machete, and witnesses along the trail have claimed he was armed with both. Officials were able to find the camp with GPS data after Victim #1 sent out an emergency notification from his phone. “They pinged it on the Wythe County side of the trail. So, the phone company notified us and that’s when we went up there and found the suspect and the victim,” Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan told 10 News. “We had our whole team out there, so he wisely just surrendered himself.”
Here is the affidavit, via MassLive.