ABINGDON, Va. (CBS/AP) — A federal judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation for a Massachusetts man accused of killing one hiker and severely injuring another on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, appeared in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia Monday where federal charges of murder and assault were filed against him.
In an affidavit, an FBI agent said Jordan approached four hikers multiple times Friday in southwestern Virginia, singing, playing his guitar and making noises. Jordan, who used the trail nickname of “Sovereign,” also allegedly threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.
The agent said two hikers got away, but Jordan stabbed a man who later died, and a female hiker, who survived. The man was able use his cell phone to call for help before he passed away. The woman pretended to be dead, then walked six miles injured and bleeding to call police.
Initial reports said the attacker used a machete, but the affidavit called it a knife.
Officers tracked down Jordan and he surrendered.
“We went up there and that’s where we located the suspect and the victim,” said Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan. “He wisely surrendered himself.”
Jordan was arrested just last month for threatening people with a large knife along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.
“We push ourselves to the limit and then you have people who come out here and do this, and that’s a very sad factor,” a hiker said.
Jordan also has three outstanding warrants in Yarmouth, for open and gross lewdness, assault and battery, resisting arrest and drug charges.
At this time of the year the section of the trail in southwestern Virginia is usually packed with hikers making their way along the entire 2,100-mile (3,379-kilometer) length of the trail, from Georgia to Maine, said Brian King, a spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
“We give a lot of safety advice, which people tend to follow, but with someone with an intent to do evil, how do you guard against that?” King said.
Sheriff Mike Hensley of Unicoi County, Tennessee, said he did everything he could to keep Jordan locked up after he threatened hikers there and in other communities along the trail last month.
Hensley said hikers called his office in late April and said a man was threatening them and said: “It’s going to be a bad day for hikers on the trail.” He said he sent officers to the location described by the hikers, but the man was no longer there.
The next day, some other hikers complained about a man threatening them. Hensley said his officers found Jordan, who was intoxicated, and gave them a fake name and a fake identification. He was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and criminal impersonation.
Jordan pleaded guilty to the charges and was later released. Hensley said the judge ordered Jordan not to return to the Appalachian Trail, but he was not charged with making threats because none of the hikers were willing to testify in court.
“The fact is nobody wanted to step up to the plate and press charges,” Hensley said. “They were on the trail walking and they didn’t want to come back — they told my investigators that.”
“It’s just heartbreaking that this happened, and our prayers go out to the victims’ families and to this young girl that was stabbed,” he said. “I did everything that I could do. I did get this man off the trail. That’s all I could do.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)