By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A Massachusetts man was charged on Monday with murder and assault in a machete attack that killed a hiker and severely wounded another along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, according to papers filed in federal court.
The suspect, James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was charged with a single count of murder and one count of assault with intent to murder in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia.
During a brief hearing on Monday, Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent ordered Jordan to be detained and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to a court document.
On Friday evening in Smyth County, Virginia, Jordan was acting disturbed and unstable as he approached four hikers, playing his guitar and singing, an FBI agent said in an affidavit filed in federal court.
Later that night, the charging document said, Jordan approached the hikers again after they made a camp in Wythe County, and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.
According to the affidavit, the hikers, fearing for their safety, began packing up to flee the scene.
After two of the hikers ran away, Jordan attacked the remaining two with what one of them described as a machete, the affidavit said.
One of the victims, a woman, played dead, later managed to flee the scene and caught up with the other two hikers, the document said.
The three hiked six miles (10 km) into Smyth County where they called authorities early on Saturday. Authorities took Jordan into custody and found the other victim dead at the scene of the attack.
Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive, or whether they believe the attack was targeted or random.
The female victim was being treated at Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol Tennessee.
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.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)