Two hikers attacked on Appalachian Trail Saturday, one victim dead

A man who has been terrorizing hikers on the Appalachian Trail since at least April has been charged with murder after the brutal attack of two hikers over the weekend. James Louis Jordan, 30, also known as “Sovereign,” was arrested Saturday morning after police followed the SOS signal triggered by one of the victims.

Wythe County, Va police say that a group of hikers camping on Friday night reported being threatened by a man wielding a large knife. The man pursued two of the hikers who fled north but they were able to elude him and reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. The other two hikers in the group fled south, and the man caught up to and attacked the hikers. The male hiker triggered the SOS signal on his phone before his murder. The female hiker suffered defensive wounds and was seriously injured. She played dead until the attacker left the scene, and then ran for help, eventually encountering another group of hikers six miles away.

A Wythe County tactical team entered the forest Saturday morning to locate the SOS signal. While talking with other hikers, Jordan’s dog wandered up to the police and led them to the suspect who was arrested without incident. A 20-inch knife was found along the trail shortly before police discovered the male victim.

In late April, Jordan was arrested for drug possession and using a fake ID in Unicoi County, TN. Though it was well known that Jordan was threatening hikers along the trail, he was sentenced to probation, fined and released from jail. Police say they knew Jordan was a threat but because hikers refused to press charges and testify against him in court, their only recourse was to fine and release him. Homicides are rare on the Appalachian Trail. The last homicide to take place on the famous footpath happened in 2011.

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