'Out of a horror movie': Wythe County tactical team describes hunt for Appalachian Trail suspect

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. - Deputies say a man was killed and a woman seriously hurt when they were attacked with a machete over the weekend, and according to court documents, the woman played dead in order to survive.

The suspect, James Jordan, made his first court appearance in Abingdon Monday, and a federal judge ordered the 30-year-old to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Investigators say he has also threatened hikers in North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Police still won't release the name of the victim, but 10 News is learning new details about how deputies tracked down Jordan. 

The same tactical team that caught him and found the victim on the trail in Wythe County, trained Monday in the New River Valley. 

The team prepares for emergencies in rural areas, just like the Appalachian Trail. But this weekend, that remote trail made this mission tricky.

The Wythe County Tactical Team has to be ready for anything -- shootouts, standoffs and the call that came in early Saturday morning -- a man with a machete threatening hikers on the Appalachian Trail and possible injuries.

Assistant tactical team Cmdr. Chris Coleman says they used GPS to track the SOS ping from the victim's phone, hiking 4 miles in the woods at night to get there.

"Communication was horrible. Cell service. Higher we got up on the ridges, same thing, spotty," Coleman said.

When the team reached the trail, they found campers and saw a dog belonging to Jordan. Just yards away, they found Jordan when he yelled out to authorities not to shoot his pet. The team found the machete and the victim's body nearby.

"It was a gruesome scene. Definitely out of a horror movie," Coleman said. 

Sheriff Keith Dunagan said that the victim had been dead awhile. He later learned how the female victim, from Nova Scotia, escaped.

"She played dead, and took her chance," Dunagan said. 

Her escape became even more terrifying when she ran into two bears.

"She screamed, and ran away," Dunagan said.

Despite the challenges, Dunagan and the deputies were proud of the team's quick response.

"Especially with the stress involved in it, it can be overwhelming at times but we try to stay prepared for that," Dunagan said. 

The tactical team is recruiting more members and looking to buy more GPS systems and two-way radios to improve communication.

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