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FBI Agent: Appalachian Trail Murder Suspect Threatened to Burn Hikers Before Attack

Alleged killer played guitar, argued with victims, affidavit says.

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The suspect in an attack that left one Appalachian Trail hiker dead and one hospitalized over the weekend threatened to pour gasoline over hikers’ tents and set them on fire, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court this morning.

In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Micah J. Childers said that James Jordan, 30, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, approached four hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Wythe County, Virginia, on Friday evening while playing his guitar and singing. The hikers recognized Jordan, who went by the trail name Sovereign, through social media reports of his conflicts with trail users in Tennessee, and thought he was “acting disturbed and unstable.”

Later that evening, Jordan allegedly approached the hikers’ camp and made threats to them through their tent walls. When the hikers decided to break camp and leave, Jordan brandished a large knife. Two of them fled north, with Jordan in pursuit; they escaped and later alerted law enforcement in neighboring Bland County. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the campsite, and confronted the remaining two hikers, a male and a female. (Law enforcement officials have not yet identified the victims.)

According to the complaint, the female victim saw Jordan stab her hiking companion multiple times in the upper body. She attempted to run, but Jordan caught her and stabbed her as well. When she fell to the ground and played dead, Jordan left to find his dog, the affidavit says. Once he was gone, the female hiker ran down the trail and encountered two other hikers, who helped her hike 6 miles to safety. She later identified Jordan to investigators who interviewed her at the Bristol Regional Medical Center.

A tactical team from the Wythe County Sheriff’s office found and arrested Jordan, who reportedly had blood stains on his clothing, after they encountered his dog while tracing an SOS signal from the male victim’s cell phone. The male victim was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the affidavit, officers located a large knife, believed to be the weapon used to kill him, near his body.

Federal prosecutors are charging Jordan with one count of murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder; Jordan has not entered a plea. On Monday, Judge Pamela Meade Sargent ordered that he undergo a full psychiatric evaluation. 

Read the full affidavit below.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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