[Update] One Person Dead Following Attack on Appalachian Trail, Suspect in Custody

Updated May 12, 12:21pm EST

One person has been pronounced dead, and another injured in the attack reported yesterday in the southern Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail.  The suspect, James Jordan, is in police custody and has been charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder. The trail closure has been lifted as of 9am EST.

james jordan assault appalachian trail

Image via wjhl

Updated May 11, 10am EST 

Per the Virginia State Police, 16 miles of the Appalachian Trail is closed from the Partnership Shelter in Sugar Grove, Va., to where the AT crosses Highway 42. Officers are posted at both trailheads.

The suspect in question had reportedly returned to the Appalachian Trail north of NOBO mile 545, and on the night of May 10, attacked a young woman. She was transported for treatment and law enforcement became involved. The suspect has been arrested and is currently in jail.

Authorities state that this incident appears related to a previous incident, but no suspects have been officially named.

Hikers alerted each other along the trail, and officers were on the Appalachian Trail in the early morning hours. The closure is being noted as a crime scene, though no official updates or reports have been made at this time.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will be posting updates on their Facebook page as they become available

Image from previous arrest. Via WJLH

On April 25, James Jordan plead guilty to several charges after being apprehended and arrested on the trail in Georgia on April 22, WJHL TV reported. Reports of him brandishing a knife and threatening hikers at Devils Fork Gap and in Madison County.

The TV station said Jordan, 30, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in court in Erwin, TN, to criminal impersonation, possession of a Schedule VI drug, and public intoxication. He was fined and put on probation, WJHL said.

The TV stations reported that Jordan was being held in the Unicoi County jail.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Note: An earlier version of this story state that Jordan had been named as the suspect of this incident, which has not officially been confirmed.  Update 5/12: Jordan is officially in police custody.

Lead image via

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Comments 58

  • Broadwing : May 11th

    Sign of the times as no where is totally safe. Personally I don’t go into a hiking or wilderness area unless I have some form of protection and the knowledge to use it. Sure it might weigh a little bit but better that than being helpless as apparently this young female hiker was.

    Reply
    • Frank Looper : May 11th

      It’s safe on the AT. Attacks are so rare that they always make the news.

      Reply
      • Jamie Burris : May 11th

        Just another example of our failed judicial system letting know threats walk the streets with law abiding citizens.

        Reply
        • Steve Gillette : May 12th

          It wasn’t the judicial system that failed. The hikers that were harassed refused to testify (so that they could continue hiking). At that time there was no more the court could do without witnesses, so he was released and continued on having been put on probation.

          Reply
          • HikerGal : May 13th

            Thank you, Steve! Why is everyone so quick to blame the wrong person? If the hikers had testified this would not have happened. The Sheriff pleaded with them to testify and they would not be bothered. Shame on them!

            Reply
            • Broadwing56 : May 14th

              Hikergirl, well put as the attitude of most thru hikers I’ve met is just get it done regardless. They only really care about miles per day, ultra light equipment, completing the trail as fast as they can, and for quite a lot of guys, free nookie in the wilderness!
              The constant overload of advertising of the trail to include female bloggers posting topless photos even a back shot with a scenic overlook behind them is asking for trouble and opens the trail up for unsavory characters, etc. with all the access points available anyone can gain get on the trail and cause trouble. Your going to see more intrusive, unstable people on the trail in the future.

              Reply
          • Hillbilly : May 17th

            We did a section and this tragedy happened the day we finished this sicko was probably a day behind us too bad he was not jailed after the first incident I feelsorry for the thru hiker who died I hope Jordan this POS gets the death sentence personally As a veteran I would like 15 minutes alone with this trash no knives just him and me

            Reply
      • Joanna : May 12th

        Everywhere is safe until it is not. Personal protection and responsibility is for everyone no matter where you are. It’s just common sense. I’d rather keep an attacker, 2 or 4-legged, away from me instead of trying to o wrestle for my life.

        Reply
  • Clay Bonnyman Evans : May 11th

    While it’s true that nowhere is 100% safe, statistically people are safer on the AT than in an urban area or on a college campus. High-profile incidents of violence, such as this one allegedly committed by a person already arrested and convicted for earlier offenses in the northern Tennessee/North Carolina area, are scary. But we should not forget that this is a tiny statistical blip when considering the hundreds of thousands of miles hiked on the AT each year.

    Regarding whether one chooses to bring a weapon of some kind on the trail, no doubt the hikers allegedly assaulted by Jordan were caught by surprise and likely would not have had time to draw or use a weapon, whether gun or knife. There is certainly an argument for keeping a can of pepper spray in an easily reachable location, but even then, an attacker usually has the advantage.

    Weaponizing the AT is not the answer. Some people bring weapons, as is their personal choice, but encouraging more weapons on the trail in response to incredibly rare events is not, IMO, a great suggestion.

    Reply
    • Tank : May 11th

      Hey, Clay… opinions vary and most should be held. Hike your own hike. Be good to others. Carry on.

      Reply
      • Opie : May 11th

        “Hey, Clay… opinions vary and most should be held. Hike your own hike. Be good to others. Carry on.”

        I’m sick of HYOH being used in this dismissive, condescending way.

        Reply
        • David : May 11th

          I agree with Tank.

          Reply
        • Tank : May 11th

          Maybe a mental facility could help you with that sickness?

          Reply
          • Drew : May 11th

            “Oh no! Someone disagrees with me! They must be crazy!”

            Grow up…

            Reply
            • TaoJones : May 13th

              I think you’ve misunderstood what happened above, Drew. Tank made a point, David stated he agreed with Tank, Tank kiddingly teased David that maybe a mental facility could help him with that “sickness.” What sickness? The agreeing-with-Tank sickness.

              I realize this is a somewhat contentious thread and that probably leads some readers to read and react emotionally without clearly following the meaning of each post or not correctly connecting a response to an earlier post, but c’mon man . . . lighten up.

              TJ

              Reply
    • Takanori Masui : May 11th

      I read a whole lot of comments on the last article about this guy giving him the benefit of the doubt, despite multiple reports from women on the trail.

      If your kneejerk reaction to this guy was to defend him and his reputation, I hope you can make some time to reflect on this sad story.

      Reply
      • Clay Bonnyman Evans : May 11th

        Hey, Takanori. I can’t tell, but it appears that you are replying to my comment. If so….

        I’m not defending the suspect or his reputation, not in the least. I made no public comment of any kind after the first incident, so can hardly be accused of giving him the “benefit of the doubt.”

        Here’s the story:

        James Louis Jordan, 30, was charged with criminal impersonation, possession of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia, in Unicoi County, Tenn. on April 22, after he was reported to have threatened hikers on the AT. He pleaded guilty and was released on probation (i.e. time served).

        He reportedly was given a ride and a bus ticket by a well-known trail angel to get him away from the trail.

        Obviously, he came back. It has now been reported that Jordan has been arrested for allegedly attacking two hikers, according to WBIR in Knoxville — https://www.wbir.com/article/news/she-was-cut-up-pretty-badly-authorities-say-two-people-were-assaulted-on-the-appalachian-trail/51-0a904958-bb0d-4e53-96f8-145ea027a7e6 (this is the most detailed story to date).

        The point of my post, which I stand by, is: This is a terrible crime, and if found guilty, this guy needs to be removed from the community. But statistically speaking, the AT is an incredibly safe place to be — there’s not zero risk, but statistically, you are more likely to be harmed by another person in an urban area or on a college campus.

        Where in there did you see me “defending” the suspect, I wonder.

        Reply
    • Broadwing : May 11th

      I said “some form of protection,” not gun. To me bear spray, stout hiking stick, or even a folding or fixed blade knife can be used just in case. Sure the AT is as safe as a baby’s crib for most all people but there is always that chance and being in an area where help is not always available quickly, it just makes common sense to have something, anything to protect you in case of any emergency that might come up. You do what you want to do. I go prepared with personal protection and I’m wary of anyone I meet be it animal or human!

      Reply
      • Slabs : May 12th

        I usually carry my 10″ machete and tie a 9mm to my hip when I shower, iust in case.

        Reply
    • Broadwing56 : May 12th

      Just read that the female hiker had to walk 6 miles to find other hikers for help while bleeding. Jesus people ever hear of seri strips, compression bandage, or Celox at a minimum in your outdoor/hiking first aid kit? I know it weighs a couple of ounces and it’s all about ultralight and the need for speed but common sense dictates you stay prepared. It’s not an urban environment or a college campus, it’s friggin wilderness.

      Reply
      • Pam : May 12th

        Broadwings56, Perhaps she was trying to get away from her attacker as fast as she could! I know if it were me my first action would be to get away and keep going as fast as I could under those conditions. I would guess to say her actions of keeping on the go and NOT stopping to bandage herself may have saved her life!….just a thought, eh? Perhaps you may have details I haven’t read about yet where she had the time and opportunity to bandage herself but she lacked common sense, as you so assume? You sound so harsh and condescending! If I am wrong in the way I read and understood your post please forgive me in advance! So easy to assume things without knowing all the details, eh?

        Reply
        • Broadwing56 : May 12th

          Your probably correct that she was running for her life and we, I don’t know the severity of her injuries, the news stated serious, saying that I’d still try to apply first aid if I’m bleeding, scared or not, if I could, how about you? Regardless, it’s a sad day for AT fans, hikers, and supporters. My main point was instead of going minimal for gear it might help to have a better kit just in case! I was under the impression she wasn’t prepared first aid wise.
          I’ve been on the trail many times in Rocksyvania and I’ve seen people have to drop out because they weren’t prepared that might have finished otherwise.

          Reply
          • Ey : May 13th

            It’s also possible that she had a top notch first aid kit and was well prepared. But I’m guessing that after the attack she wasn’t running back to grab her pack and to look for it. But hey I guess everyone isn’t as perfect as you.

            Reply
  • Brianna V : May 11th

    Have all the trek AT bloggers/vloggers been accounted for and okay?

    Reply
    • Clay Bonnyman Evans : May 11th

      Actually, if we’re talking guns, it’s *not* that simple.

      Consider:

      * Open-carry is not legal on all of the AT, with a patchwork of regulations along the way (and much of the trail it’s not legal).
      * Open-carry is also a way to alienate and spook a lot of hikers — how, exactly, are they supposed to tell a bad-dirtbag (I use the term lovingly) from a good-dirtbag on the trail?
      * Concealed carry, i.e. inside your pack or a pocket, isn’t going to help that much if you are attacked. Not many attackers will politely stand by to let someone unshoulder their pack and rummage around for a weapon.

      Yes, someone with a weapon, in the unlikely circumstance that she came upon a crime in process, could be of help. But how often is that going to happen?

      In my opinion, it couldn’t hurt to have people with ill intent thinking that *some* hikers might have a gun. But encouraging tons of hikers to bring guns is not a great idea.

      Honestly, pepper spray, where it can be easily accessed, is probably a better strategy.

      And let’s not forget that this kind of thing is *exceedingly* rate on the AT, considering that (per the ATC) some 3 million people a year hike some part of the trail.

      Thanks for listening.

      Reply
      • Ann : May 12th

        “Concealed carry, i.e. inside your pack or a pocket, isn’t going to help that much if you are attacked” – you’re speaking for yourself, just don’t speak for others. Not all are slow/without agility. Hike your own hike, please, and don’t teach others what to carry or not.

        Reply
      • Ann : May 12th

        “Yes, someone with a weapon, in the unlikely circumstance that she came upon a crime in process, could be of help” – full of misogyny. In this day and age some apparently think that women are second class people incapable of defending themselves and needing “someone”. Wrong! That someone was her.

        Reply
  • Matt : May 11th

    Arm yourself. It’s that simple.

    Reply
  • Larry “Porkchop” smith : May 11th

    We ran in to this guy a few months back at partnership shelter. He came in like 10 o’clock at night threatened to burn down the shelter. I called the police. He ran off. We called him the fight angel. Because he threw a cigarette at me and wanted to fight. Now we realize he went on down the trail and was causing trouble

    Reply
  • Larry Porkchop smith : May 11th

    I did a vlog about it on YouTube when it happened on April 1st https://youtu.be/FAlPGigUf8s

    Reply
  • Letshike2 : May 11th

    Quit letting men get by with it…in person, through the courts, through any system…its ridiculous that women have to he hyper vigilant at all times while men act like pieces of human garbage.
    And yes this is directly voiced to the Male population…if you see a garbage man, man up, put them off the trails, out of the club, off the beach…women should not have to shoulder the burden of bad men alone. That’s why they think its acceptable.
    From a solo female that has had to stand up for my safety too many times on trail…I should not have to change my hike, go 5 extra miles or 2 miles less because some guy is a freak.

    Reply
    • Zygote1972 : May 12th

      It was a man who died, guess he did not “shoulder the burden” enough for you. Nice job of erasing that victim. https://wcyb.com/news/local/attack-on-the-appalachian-trail-turns-deadly-man-killed-suspect-charged

      Reply
      • joe : May 12th

        Agreed, men who are men stand and fight, so do the women, least thats how things are round my parts but the men fight first. It’s been an all out attack on the males in our society, in good part due to post feminist theory gone awry. Good to see you speak up, I’m right with ya. I’m all for equal rights not special rigbts.

        Reply
    • joe : May 12th

      Your logic is flawed, your statement demonstrates your shallowness. Are you a pimply faced thirteen year old girl ? Or, perhaps a professor of gender studies with a severe bias ? Either way your blanket assertions directly contribute to the problem of the polarisation between the sexes of which are binary, male and female. A responsible “male” with a gun should be no more threatening than a responsible “female” with a curling iron. Get over yourself and grow the f up.

      Reply
      • Myra Marcus : May 13th

        Totally agree Joe, thanks for trying to shut that down. So embarrassed to be inadvertently lumped in with the “everything women do is amazing and men are scum group” just because I’m female. To Letshike: Men are amazing they are not “garbage”. Women are amazing. There was a crazy scary person on the trail who did bad things. Yes he was male. No that doesn’t mean men are bad, one guy was. He is gone. It is nobody’s fault. Get over your self-righteous, man hating self and stop the generalizations they are for stupid, naive, insecure people.

        Reply
  • Dave : May 12th

    If I did the AT I would have a 380 with me. Just 2 many People, Towns, Hitches, Machete Caring Drugged Out Wanna Be Hippies Etc.

    Reply
    • will : May 12th

      bravo sir

      Reply
      • Johnny Raysor : May 12th

        I like your thinking sir!

        Reply
  • HUMAN HONEY STINGER : May 12th

    Self policing culture…If criminals think the AT is some kind of safe space for them to terrorize and assault others then let’s show them how we deal with trash. LEAVE NO TRACE. Let’s turn him into a human honey stinger. Anybody got some rope?

    Reply
  • Backwards Hat : May 12th

    You are the only news source naming the suspect by name. Everything reported is the police, ATC, NFS and now FBI, haven’t released the suspects name. Yet you do with a picture. Do you have inside source or know it is in fact Sovereign? I did see mentioned that this crime was tied to a previous one last month and we can connect the dots to assume it is Sovereign- but without an official name of the suspect made by law enforcement, It’s not a fact. Unless you have Info no one else does…. Can you explain more?

    Reply
    • Broadwing56 : May 12th

      On the update, now one of the hikers is reported as being killed, dare I say murdered? God rest their poor soul and may they find safer trails in heaven to hike. All you snowflake, love fest thinking hikers, male and especially female need to take notice. The AT can be dangerous to your health. This isn’t the 60’s people.

      Reply
      • Ann : May 12th

        As if these horrible things never happened in the 60s… well just watch “Easy Rider”…or “Deliverance”…seriously, these crimes had been happening in every decade

        Reply
        • Roadwing56 : May 12th

          Come on Ann, those were fictional movies, but yes strange things did happen, but I hiked, hitchhiked throughout the West especially Colorado from 67-70 with no issues at all. Didn’t run into weirdos like you do today!

          Reply
  • Johnny Raysor : May 12th

    Personally, I don’t go hiking without some form of protection. Fox OC, knife, and firearm. I know it weighs a little more, but it helps to have some piece of mind. Because today’s world one should always be prepared no matter where your at.

    Reply
  • Shocktop : May 12th

    Ok, not wanting to be attacked by posters, but my two cents: people (ok, MEN) with guns on AT= no. Just no. Spent miserable night in shelter in Shenandoah w one.

    Reply
    • PapaJohnnyRoad : May 12th

      Please don’t make blanket judgement based on one negative experience. I welcome responsible hikers with firearms. However, there is no need to make it known to others they are carrying.

      Reply
    • Ann : May 12th

      And no machetes, knives, trekking poles or, well, forks! Because someone encountered a psycho with one. It’ll be tooth and claw…against armed criminls.

      Reply
    • Dean : May 12th

      Not busting your chops. Since you know he had a gun, he must have made you aware of it.

      What did he do that was offensive?

      Was he offensive because he had the gun and made it an offensive issue, or, was he just a jerk who happened to have one?

      Reply
    • joe : May 12th

      Men + guns = no ? Women + guns = ? How about responsible men + women + guns = yes everywhere. Your singling out MEN is biased and discriminatory.

      Reply
  • Shocktop : May 12th

    All I mean is: I’d rather fight some dirtbag w my knife and bear spray than put up with some yahoo who wants to shoot anything that makes a noise.

    Reply
  • Shocktop : May 12th

    But, actually, I am good with blanket statements. So: (cue blanket statement): I would prefer to not ever, again, hike with those who carry firearms on the AT, or, in fact, those who think carrying firearms on the AT is a good idea, and I am just stupid.
    Done. Bam. HYOH.

    Reply
    • Ann : May 12th

      Just don’t hike at all, then. Or quit telling others how to protect themselves.

      Reply
  • Shocktop : May 12th

    And yes, I’ve dealt with creepers and two shelter whackos, so I’m not a dilletante. Guns change everything. People, desicions, reaction times. Ok.

    Reply
  • Shocktop : May 12th

    Y’all have fun. I’m out.

    Reply
  • Andrew Carter : May 12th

    Here’s a link to a more thorough article from the Washington Post, Sunday afternoon:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/massachusetts-man-held-in-connection-with-brutal-attack-on-appalachian-trail-hikers/2019/05/12/b81c6a24-74ce-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html?utm_term=.c07c36c88b461

    Reply
  • Jackson : May 12th

    Even Appalacian Trail hikers argue rudely with each other online…

    Reply
  • Future AT Hiker : May 13th

    1) Thank you to all the hikers out there who helped the stabbing victims get the help they needed. I am so very sorry the male victim died.

    2) I am a women and both men and women are awesome. I am sick of this I am woman hear me roar and watch me belittle all the men out there. You do not stand for me and you stand against everything you preach as you are judging a male based on their physicality instead of based on how you are demanding men treat you. You are a hypocrite.

    3) If one chooses to carry a defense item, (be it a gun, mace, knife, bear spray, etc), it is a tool and should be handled and used properly. REGARDLESS of what your defense item is, first get trained on it’s proper usage, maintenance, and care. Secondly, NO ONE should know you have it unless you need it in self defense regardless of where you are. If you do not do these two things, you have ZERO business having that tool.

    4) I am a stand offish person when hiking, so truly, it’s me it’s not you. I do hike my own hike…hell, I do truly march to the beat of a different drum. I trust very few people and I don’t hear certain volume levels well. I zone out as I’m hiking as I’m enjoying the birds, trees, rocks, clouds, etc. So if we are ever hiking past each other, you say something, and I don’t respond, I probably did not hear you. So if you are uber social, I am sorry, but I probably won’t talk much. So please don’t be offended if I skitter off after only a few moments. Besides, you might have an even better conversation with the next person you meet. They might be extra friendly.

    Reply
  • Andrew Carter : May 13th

    Monday afternoon news report from the Washington Post:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/appalachian-trail-alleged-attacker-james-l-jordan-threatened-to-burn-hikers-to-death-fbi-says/2019/05/13/702763d4-7593-11e9-b7ae-390de4259661_story.html?utm_term=.088c077c7667

    Reply

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