Appalachian Trail attacker threatened to burn hikers alive, court documents say

Court documents say James Jordan, before allegedly killing one hiker, approached tents at a campsite Friday night and threatened to pour gas on them.

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By Tim Stelloh

A man accused of killing one hiker and gravely wounding another in an alleged machete attack on the Appalachian Trail threatened to pour gasoline on hikers' tents and burn them to death, according to federal court documents filed Monday.

James Jordan, 30, from Massachusetts, was charged with murder and assault with the intent to commit murder, according to the documents filed in the United States District Court in Abingdon, Virginia.

James Jordan

The documents say that Jordan, of West Yarmouth, allegedly approached a group of four unidentified hikers on Friday on a section of trail within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in southwestern Virginia.

During the initial encounter on the trail, Jordan appeared "disturbed and unstable" while playing a guitar and singing, the documents allege. Later that night at the campsite, he apparently began randomly approaching their tents, making noises and threatening to burn them to death, the documents say.

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When the group decided to leave the site, Jordan allegedly appeared with a knife. Two of the hikers ran and Jordan chased them before returning to the site and arguing with a third hiker, the documents allege.

Jordan allegedly began stabbing the hiker's upper body, at which the point the victim collapsed, the documents say, adding that the fourth hiker, a woman, saw this and ran.

When Jordan caught up with her, the documents allege, "She turned to face [him] and raised her arms as if to surrender when Jordan began stabbing her."

She fell to the ground and played dead, the documents say, "at which point Jordan left to find his dog."

The woman eventually found two other hikers who helped her trek another six miles to a spot where they dialed 911, the documents say.

Authorities arrested Jordan shortly after 6:00 a.m. Saturday at the site where he'd allegedly attacked the campers, the documents say. The body of the hiker was also found there.

A knife, which the documents say was described by the hikers as a machete, was found near the victim's body.

The woman's condition wasn't immediately clear. Federal authorities said Sunday that she'd been "severely injured."

Jordan appeared in court Monday in shackles and said he understood the charges against him, according to NBC affiliate WCYB. During the hearing, a judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, the station reported.

His lawyer, Lisa Lorish, declined to comment on the case.

Jordan was arrested last month in a separate incident on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee after allegedly threatening other hikers. He was charged with criminal impersonation and drug possession and sentenced to probation, WCYB reported.