NEW DETAILS: Hiker suspect in assault on Appalachian Trail, sheriff says

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Multiple agencies continue to investigate after a man hiking along the Appalachian Trail was found with a large knife and drugs, according to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley.

Deputies said they found James Jordon with a 17-inch knife, large enough to be mistaken as a machete.

News Channel 11 spoke with Madison County Sheriff Department, who met Jordon on the trails and then let him go. They said that at the time they spoke with Jordon there were no pending charges. The Sheriff Department said it’s common for hikers to carry knives on them, which isn’t illegal in North Carolina. They did search him but they were looking for a machete because that’s what was reported. They didn’t find any drug paraphernalia on him nor was he under the influence at the time. 

Then later in the day, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department received a call, leading them to Jordon. 

“We received a call from some folks at the state line in Sams Gap on Old Ashville Highway. When my officers arrived, they observed this guy fitting the description we’d been looking for. They approached him and found out he was on some type of drug,” said Sheriff Mike Hensley

Several reports by hikers said this man was threatening people on the Appalachian Trail. 

“This guy has been causing problems along the Appalachian trail not only in my county but in Greene County and Madison County as well,” said Hensley.

James Jordon is a suspect in connection to an assault of a juvenile on the Appalachian Trail, according to Sheriff Hensley

Hensley said another hiker met with investigators about the alleged assault.

Deputies said the assault happened at a shelter along the trail called ‘Jerry Cabin’ in Greene County. 

Sheriff Hensley said the agencies working on the investigation include: Unicoi, Greene and Madison, N.C. County Sheriff’s Departments, as well as the National Forestry Service.

Officers in both Madison County, NC and and in Unicoi County were searching for him on Monday. Hikers reported he had a machete and was chasing people with a shovel. 

“Several hikers was calling it a machete. It is a very large knife,” said Hensley. Then after Madison County spoke with Jordon, Hensley says, “It was reported that he only had a guitar. This is far from a guitar,” Holding up the 17-inch knife that was found on Jordon. 

 Other hikers were warning one another on the trails. 

“A lady named sprout, she’s back a ways, had heard about this and had told about six people, and those people tell people, and you talk about it at the shelters and stuff. When I got to the Laurel Hostel last night, they just said he’d been apprehended,” said Chris Bilgrim from Colorado. 

Reporter Kristen Gallant met two Appalachian Trail hikers who said that they ran into the hiker who goes by “Sovereign” four separate times on the trail. The two hikers from Massachusetts met him for the first time in Hot Springs, NC on April 17th. They say, the man we now know as James Jordon, ran into them on the trail, at different hostels, and at shelters. Each time they saw him, his personality “got worse.” The hikers saying that sometimes he would hiss like a cat at people, and that he was unprepared in the bad weather by not having rain or snow gear. They say his dog, who he called Falisha, was wearing a service dog vest and collar.  The female hiker that spoke with News Channel 11 said she once went to get water down a hill and away from other campers when he followed her. Making her feel uncomfortable, she picked up a rock and headed back to the other campers. She said, “it was clear he was violent.” Both hikers said, at the time they saw Jordon, he did have a guitar and a knife. The male hiker saying that he’s, “So happy he’s off the trail.”

Bilgrim said she too is glad he’s no longer on the trail. 

“There’s a lot of interesting people out there and you just meet them and be cautious. Most people are helping you out, not in any threatening way at all. One less worry.”

Jordon is facing several charges including aggravated assault, criminal impersonation, possession of schedule six drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He is currently being held in the Unicoi County Jail on a $25,000 bond. 

“Hundreds, thousands of people walk the Appalachian trail. We want to make sure that trail is safe.” Says Hensley. 

The dog that was found with Jordon was with him when he was taken in and Sheriff Hensley said someone is taking care of it in the meantime. 

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