Man arrested in deadly attacks on Appalachian trail hikers in Virginia

By Steve Gorman

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - A man accused of attacking hikers with a machete on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, killing one person and severely injuring another, has been arrested on murder and assault charges, federal and state authorities said on Sunday.

The suspect, James Jordan, 30, from the Cape Cod town of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was taken into custody early on Saturday on a portion of the trail that runs through Wythe County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, officials said.

The arrest came shortly after two hikers reported to local authorities that "there was a man with a machete assaulting people on the Appalachian Trail in Wythe County," the county sheriff's office said in a statement.

The sheriff's statement said a male and a female were injured in the attacks but gave no further information. A separate statement issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia said the attacks left one person dead and another severely injured.

Federal prosecutors said Jordan had been charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with intent to murder within the jurisdiction of the United States. No mention was made of a possible motive, or whether investigators believe the attack was targeted or random.

A section of the trail remained closed.

Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan told CNN affiliate station WSLS-TV that authorities managed to locate the man who was attacked using global positioning satellite (GPS) technology after he sent an emergency notification on his phone.

The injured woman was found only after she had walked 6 miles (10 km) while bleeding and found other hikers to assist her, Dunagan told WSLS.

Jordan was due to make his first court appearance on Monday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, about 240 miles (386 km) southwest of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The case is under investigation by the sheriff's office, state police, the U.S. Forest Service and FBI.

Designated a national scenic trail, the rugged 2,200-mile (3,540-km) footpath runs along the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountain range through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine. It is jointly administered by the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy, various state agencies and thousands of volunteers.

More than 3 million people walk a portion of the trail every year and over 3,000 attempt to hike the entire footpath annually, according to the conservancy.

The total elevation gain along the entire trail route, completed in 1937, is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times, the conservancy said.


(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)