Federal authorities have identified the man fatally stabbed on the Appalachian Trail over the weekend as Ronald S. Sanchez Jr.
The 43-year-old man from Oklahoma died and a woman was wounded in an attack on the footpath in Wythe County early Saturday morning. Authorities did not identify the woman who was stabbed multiple times with a large knife, and her condition is unknown.
James Louis Jordan, 30, of Massachusetts, has been charged with murder and assault with intent to murder. Little is known about the man known as “Sovereign” on the trail who hikers said had created an unnerving atmosphere for weeks along the trail in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. He appeared Monday in federal court in Abingdon, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent ordered Jordan to undergo a competency examination.
Through word of mouth and online forums, hikers warned their peers about a man behaving erratically and threatening people with a knife. They said he verbally attacked people who tried to share a shelter with him, left graffiti such as swastikas on the shelters and damaged shelter registers that hikers use to document their travels.
Some hikers traveling within 10 to 15 miles of him said they planned around his whereabouts to avoid camping near him at night.
Jordan was arrested in April in Unicoi County, Tennessee, after he allegedly threatened other hikers and was arrested on misdemeanor charges. He pleaded guilty to charges of possession of marijuana and providing false identification. He was fined, placed on probation and released.
The sheriff there has said he couldn’t do much more to hold Jordan since hikers didn’t want to press charges and return to testify in court.
On Friday night, Jordan approached four hikers in Smyth County, according to court documents. The hikers were familiar with him based on information circulating about him.
The hikers made camp in Wythe County. Jordan approached their tents and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death, according to an affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Micah Childers.
According to the affidavit, as the four people prepared to leave, Jordan came at them with a knife. Two hikers ran and escaped Jordan. When he returned to the campsite, he stabbed Sanchez. The woman with Sanchez ran, but Jordan caught up with her, stabbing her multiple times. After she played dead, Jordan left, and the woman was able to run to find other hikers to help her and call 911 about 2:30 a.m.
It’s unknown if the four hikers are all connected. It’s not uncommon for hikers to set off alone and form groups.
This is the season when hikers are trying to complete the entire trail. The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,190 miles through 14 states — from Georgia to Maine.
Violence is rare on the Appalachian Trail. There have been eight documented killings at the hands of another person since 1974, which is when the first known killing happened.