Wythe County, VA – A man who calls himself “Sovereign” attacked hikers on the Appalachian Trail in southwest Virginia on Saturday, leaving one dead and another seriously injured.
James Jordan, 30, who goes by the moniker “Sovereign,” was already on probation for an arrest after he threatened hikers with a knife on the Appalachian Train in Tennessee in April, FOX News reported.
Jordan, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation, possession of marijuana, and public intoxication in Unicoi County, Tennessee.
He was sentenced to probation and fined, according to FOX News.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Micah Childers said Jordan initially approached four hikers on Friday, and they recognized him from pictures posted on social media about the Tennessee incident.
“When Jordan approached the four hikers he was acting disturbed and unstable and was playing his guitar and singing,” Agent Childers said.
Later that night, Jordan approached the group again where they had made camp and threatened to set their tents on fire, FOX News reported.
The hikers decided to break camp because of the threats, but Jordan returned and threatened them with a knife.
Two of the hikers made a run for it with Jordan on their heels, but then he returned and went after the other two people still there, FOX News reported.
The two who escaped called 911 at about 2:30 a.m. on May 12.
Jordan chased the hikers and caught up them.
He stabbed the male hiker to death. But before he died, the man was able to send an SOS from his phone, WBUR reported.
Brian King of the Appalachian Train Conservancy said the hikers who were attacked were about eight miles from Interstate 81.
“A lot of [hikers] use a device called Spot,” King told WBUR. “When you camp for the night, you can push one button, and it tells the people at home that you’re safe and sound for the night and where you are. There’s another button that goes to a dispatch center in Texas that there’s an emergency. They contact the nearest local authority and send them out to help.”
Jordan also attacked the female hiker but she saved her own life by playing dead after he stabbed her, FOX News reported.
“Victim # 2 watched Victim # 1 fall to the ground, at which point she ran,” Agent Childers said.
“Victim # 2 began to tire at which point Jordan caught up with her,” he said. “She turned to face Jordan and raised her arms as if to surrender when Jordan began stabbing her and received multiple stab wounds.”
Believing the woman was dead, Jordan left to go find his dog and then the woman ran away looking for help, FOX News reported.
She walked for six miles bleeding before other hikers found her and got her to a hospital.
Wythe County deputies used the dead hiker’s earlier GPS signals to find Jordan at the hikers’ campsite with blood on his clothing, FOX news reported.
He was arrested and charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with intent to murder, WBUR reported.
Jordan appeared in court on Monday but the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia said he did not enter a plea.
Unicoi Sheriff Michael Hensley, whose department arrested Jordan in Tennessee in April, told the Roanoke Times that he worried Jordan was dangerous after that incident.
However, the hikers he threatened refused to press charges and testify in court because they didn’t want to have to come off the Appalachian Trail.
“I did everything in my power to get this guy off the trail,” Sheriff Michael Hensley said. “And I took him off the trail, I did. But the courts deemed something else.”
The last murder on the Appalachian Trail was in 2011, but King said that doesn’t mean hikers should relax.
Instead, he advises them to keep their street smarts on high alert.
“Be wary of strangers. Don’t tell people where you’re going, don’t give your plans except to the people at home. And really trust your gut,” King said. “People go to the trail to get away from bad things in the world whether it’s low-level stress or anything else, but they’ve got to remember that the world can still get to the trail. It’s completely accessible.”