One dead after Appalachian Trail machete attack, man in custody named

Man arrested faces federal murder charge after one of two victims dies

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter, Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

WYTHE COUNTY, Va. - UPDATE Sunday, 11:45 a.m.:

One of the two victims in Saturday morning’s machete attack on the Appalachian Trail has died and law enforcement has now named the suspect under arrest.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said Sunday that 30-year-old James Jordan was arrested in the early morning hours Saturday. He faces federal charges that include murder and assault with the intent to murder.

The spokesman said Sunday that one of the victims has died. 10 News previously reported that investigators said one of the victims, a female, was expected to survive the attack, while the condition of the other, a male, was unknown.

The investigation is ongoing, the spokesman said.

Jordan is scheduled to have an initial appearance in federal court in Abingdon, Virginia on Monday morning.

“I commend local law enforcement in Wythe and Smyth Counties for mobilizing successful rescue and tactical operations in this remote region,” U.S. Attorney Cullen said in a statement.  “Thanks to their efforts, the suspect was safely apprehended and a seriously wounded victim received critical medical care.”

Jordan is from West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

As 10 News has previously reported, investigators said Saturday that the suspect attacked a man and a woman with a machete while they were hiking together on the Appalachian Trail near Crawfish Road. 

Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan told 10 News investigators are still searching the trail, worried that there may be more victims.

Jordan faced charges after a separate altercation on the Appalachian Trail in April, during which he threatened hikers in North Carolina and Tennessee. He is also known by his trail name “Sovereign.”

ORIGINAL STORY 

Two people were assaulted on the Appalachian Trail early Saturday morning, according to Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan, who told 10 News one person is in custody. That suspect is now facing federal charges.

Investigators say the suspect attacked a man and a woman with a machete while they were hiking together on the trail near Crawfish Road. Dunagan said the female victim will survive the attack. Law enforcement could not comment on the condition of the male victim.

Between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Saturday, Wythe County deputies were alerted about a man threatening Appalachian Trail hikers. Two hikers reported to the Bland County Sheriff's Office that there was a man with a machete assaulting people on the trail in Wythe County.

The male victim was found in Wythe County using GPS technology after he sent out an emergency notification on his cellphone. 

"They pinged it on the Wythe County side of the trail. So, the phone company notified us and that's when we went up there and found the suspect and the victim," Dunagan said. "We had our whole [tactical] team out there, so he wisely just surrendered himself."

Deputies found a machete on the trail that they believe the suspect was using.

Dunagan said the female victim was found in Smyth County after walking six miles, injured and bleeding, before finding a couple of hikers and calling for help.

The suspect was taken to a jail in Wythe County. Saturday evening, he was then transported by federal authorities to a jail cell in Washington County.

The sheriff's office would not release the suspect's name. However, the sheriff tells NBC affiliate WCYB in Bristol, Va. that this attack is connected to another altercation on the Appalachian Trail in April.

In that incident, James Jordan, 30, was charged with criminal impersonation and drug possession after police say he threatened other hikers on the trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Jordan, also known by his trail name "Sovereign," was released from jail, put on probation and ordered to pay fines.

Dunagan described the incident as "isolated." However, investigators worry there may be more victims and are searching the trail.

Virginia State Police confirmed to 10 News that troopers have assisted in the investigation. The U.S. Forest Service and FBI are also assisting.

U.S. Forest Service officials said about 18 miles of the Appalachian Trail is expected to remain closed on the Smyth and Bland County ends coming into Wythe until 6 a.m. Sunday.

The closure is about from the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area office to the Eastern Divide Ranger District boundary.

The section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Wythe County is about a mile long and is located in the west region of the county.

The map below shows the approximate location of the Wythe County victim.

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