Suspect in grisly murder on Appalachian Trail will make court appearance today
VIRGINIA — A man who allegedly attacked two hikers on a remote stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, killing a man, will make his first appearance in court on Monday, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.
James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was arrested Saturday morning and charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder, the office said. Charges will be formally filed in US District Court in Abingdon.
Authorities in Wythe County in southwest Virginia, where where the slain man was found, said a machete was used in the attack. A woman survived the attack and is receiving medical treatment, authorities said.
CNN has not been able to determine whether Jordan was represented by an attorney.
CNN affiliate WSET reported that Jordan was arrested in April in Unicoi County, Tennessee, after threatening other hikers with a knife.
He was charged with criminal impersonation, possession of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department said. He was given probation and ordered to pay fines following his hearing.
Jordan is also known by his trail name of “Sovereign,” WSET reported.
Megan Newsome, 22, the fiancee of Jordan’s brother Dustin Wildes, said she and Wildes had not been in touch with Jordan since their mother died in March. At the time, she said, he had been living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Newsome said she and Wildes were unaware of the incident in April.
“The whole Appalachian Trail community of hikers and volunteers is profoundly sickened by the horrific and deadly attack Saturday morning,” said Suzanne Dixon, president of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, according to reporting in the Roanoke Times.
Part of the National Park System, the trail, which extends 2,190 miles over 14 states between Springer Mountain, Georgia, and Katahdin, Maine, “is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world,” according to the conservancy.
it attracts more than three million people a year and more than 3,000 people try to hike the path in a single year, the conservancy said.
Injured woman walked six miles
Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan told CNN affiliate WSLS authorities were able to find a man, who later died, using GPS technology after he sent an emergency notification on his phone.
“The phone company notified us and that’s when we went up there and found the suspect and the victim,” the sheriff said. “We had our whole (tactical) team out there, so (the suspect) wisely just surrendered himself.”
An injured woman was found only after she walked six miles while bleeding, found other hikers and asked for help, Dunagan told WSLS. No information was available on her condition.
The victims have not yet been identified.
Rescue in a remote region
US Attorney Thomas Cullen applauded local law enforcement agencies in Wythe and Smyth counties “for mobilizing successful rescue and tactical operations in this remote region” and taking Jordan into custody.
“Thanks to their efforts, the suspect was safely apprehended and a seriously wounded victim received critical medical care,” Cullen said in the news release. “We will continue to work with our state and local partners to bring the perpetrator of this senseless and brutal attack to justice.”
The investigation is ongoing, the statement said.
Crime on the trail
The conservancy, which says the trail is “safer than most places,” but is “not immune from crime” lists safety and crime prevention tips on its website.
Among them are:
“Be aware that cell phones and earbuds may distract you and prevent you from seeing or hearing cues” that could help avoid danger.”
“You are safest with a group; neither a single partner nor a dog is guarantee of safety. If you are by yourself, there is no need to broadcast that you are hiking alone or give information about your plans.”
“Be wary of strangers” and “avoid or get away quickly from people who act suspiciously, seem hostile, or are intoxicated.”
“Don’t bring jewelry. Hide your money. If you must leave your pack, hide it, or leave it with someone trustworthy. Don’t leave valuables or equipment (especially in sight) in vehicles parked at Trailheads, and don’t camp near roads.”
“Hikers needing to get into town should make arrangements beforehand and budget for shuttles or a taxi. If you must hitchike, be sure to have a partner. Make a careful evaluation before entering a vehicle. Size up the drive, occupants, and condition of the vehicle. If anything just “doesn’t add up,” decline the offer.”