A Massachusetts man charged with fatally stabbing an Iraq War veteran on the Appalachian Trail and severely wounding another hiker is not mentally fit to stand trial, a judge has ruled.
James L. Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, was arrested May 11 on charges of murder and assault with the intent to murder in a hunting knife attack that killed Ronald Sanchez – a 43-year-old Army vet from Oklahoma – and left a female hiker seriously wounded along a remote section of the 2,190-mile trail in Wythe County, Virginia.
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered that Jordan – who was known along the popular hiking route as “Sovereign” – be taken to a federal facility “to be restored to competency,” the Boston Globe reports.
A judge ordered in May that Jordan be detained for a psychological or psychiatric examination to determine whether he suffered from “mental disease or defect” that would make him unable to understand the charges he faces or help attorneys in his defense.
The judge’s order also called for clarity on whether Jordan lacked “substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness” of his alleged actions, the Globe reports.
Jordan had been acting in a “disturbed and unstable” manner before initially approaching four hikers on the trail, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.
“Jordan spoke to the hikers through their tents, and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death,” FBI Special Agent Micah Childers wrote.
The four hikers began to pack up to leave their campsite and two of them escaped, but Jordan tracked down Sanchez and stabbed him repeatedly until he collapsed, Childers wrote. The vet has hiked the Appalachian Trail to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, his sister told CNN.
Authorities said Jordan then chased a female hiker until she grew tired and threw up her arms to surrender before he stabbed the woman repeatedly. She then played dead and hiked six miles before finding another couple who called 911.
A spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy told the Bristol Herald Courier in May that Jordan was known to some experienced hikers after reported incidents in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia of a man threatening and chasing people with a large knife or machete.
Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told the newspaper that Jordan pleaded guilty in late April to drug possession and criminal impersonation after a confrontation with hikers in Tennessee, but was released on probation.
The hikers in Tennessee, meanwhile, declined to press assault charges against Jordan at the time or testify against him in court.
Jordan did not speak during Wednesday’s brief proceeding. His attorneys and a prosecutor agreed to the findings of the competency exam, the Bristol Herald Courier reports.
With Post wires