ABINGDON, Va. — Thirty-year-old James Jordan didn’t utter a word last Wednesday, when a U.S. District Court judge found him not competent to stand trial in the death of an Appalachian Trail hiker and attack of another.
Jordan, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, appeared briefly in Magistrate Judge Pamela Sargent’s courtroom in Abingdon for a competency hearing.
Jordan was arrested in May on charges of murder and assault after two thru-hikers were attacked on the trail near the Wythe and Smyth county line. Authorities believe Jordan fatally attacked Ronald S. Sanchez Jr., 43, of Oklahoma, and injured a Canadian woman.
The man has since undergone a competency examination, which was conducted locally and submitted to the court under seal.
“He suffers from a mental disease or defect,” said Sargent, who agreed with the report’s findings that he is not competent to stand trial.
Jordan’s defense attorneys and prosecutor Zachary Lee, who declined to comment to the Bristol Herald Courier on Wednesday, also agreed to the findings. Neither counsel requested additional evidence.
Sargent ordered that Jordan be transported to a federal facility for mental health treatment to possibly be restored to competency, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Brian McGinn.
The judge said she would like Jordan to be sent to a close facility rather than one that is across the country, noting that some defendants have recently gone to the West Coast for treatment.
McGinn said the court’s findings mean the criminal complaint will remain pending as Jordan undergoes treatment.
Authorities said Jordan stabbed both hikers multiple times after first threatening them while they were resting in their tents at a campsite. Multiple people contacted law enforcement that night to report that Jordan, who went by the trail name “Sovereign,” was terrorizing hikers. Officers eventually located Sanchez’s body, the female hiker and Jordan.
Law enforcement in Bristol and Unicoi County in Tennessee previously encountered Jordan after receiving 911 calls from hikers on the Appalachian Trail and a business owner regarding the man’s behavior.
When he approached the hikers in Southwest Virginia, he was acting disturbed and unstable, playing his guitar and singing, the federal complaint states.
Jordan is currently being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.