Prosecutors allow accused Appalachian Trail killer to plead not guilty by reason of insanity

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Jordan will be committed to a psychiatric facility

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — Prosecutors will allow the man accused of fatally stabbing an Appalachian Trail hiker and injuring another in 2019 to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

James Louis Jordan is accused of killing Ronald Sanchez of Oklahoma and injuring a female hiker by stabbing her multiple times in Wythe County in May of 2019.

Under the plea agreement, Jordan “will admit to the conduct charged and rely on the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity to counts one through five” in the indictment against him.

An indictment charged Jordan will the following counts:

  • Count One: Jordan “Willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation and malice aforethought, did unlawfully kill Ronald Sanchez.”
  • County Two: Jordan “attempted to commit murder of Victim KM.”
  • Count Three: Jordan “did assault Victim KM with intent to commit murder by stabbing her multiple times with a knife.”
  • Count Four: Jordan “did assault Victim GH with a dangerous weapon, namely, a knife, with intent to do bodily harm.”
  • Count Five: Jordan “did assault Victim JH with a dangerous weapon, namely, a knife, with intent to do bodily harm.”

According to court records, Jordan will be committed to a psychiatric facility.

But just because he is committed, does not mean he will not be released.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office told News Channel 11 that Jordan is in the Attorney General’s custody “pending his ability to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that his release would not create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person.”

Matthew “Odie” Norman is a trail angel, meaning he takes care of long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail. He lives on a converted school bus, in which he travels annually from Georgia to Maine along the trail to offer aid to weary hikers.

In 2019, Norman said he heard about Jordan from other hikers and decided to try and help.

“I started getting a lot of information about James being threatening and scary in general, and I knew that he was arrested twice before. I had gotten information that he was in Tennessee there at Roan Mountain and I decided that I would drive down and see if I could actually talk him into leaving the trail, because I feared for his safety, as well as you know the safety of others. So I go down and he had a service dog with him. I recognized him immediately because I had seen several photos. So I pulled up and asked him if he wanted to go out for lunch and then I would buy his lunch and told him that I would buy his dog a hamburger too, to which he obliged,” Norman explained.

He said he talked with Jordan for about 20 or 30 minutes over hamburgers and said he had talked the Massachusetts man into going home.

“He agreed that he would but he didn’t have the money, which is why he was walking, and I said ‘well, I’ll buy you a bus ticket.’ So, it was me and a couple of other local business owners in the Roan Mountain that actually paid for the ticket. So I drove him to Johnson City, and I went to put him on a bus, but the bus didn’t leave till the following day. So I put him in a hotel and made sure that he understood. You know what he needed to do as far as getting on the bus to leave, and then left on the bus the following day, but unfortunately got off that bus in Atkins, Virginia or Marion, Virginia. He got off the bus in Marion Virginia and made his way back on the trail. It was about six days after I had put him on the bus that he committed the murder,” Norman said.

The victim who was stabbed, but survived – the victim who we’re calling “KM” – said in court documents that she is “haunted.”

The victim wrote: “I watched and listened in helpless near-disbelief as Mr. Jordan transformed before my eyes from a bewildered, confused man into a violent animal. I saw him attack and murder a good, kind man. And I remember his eyes when I tried to run, and when I looked back over my shoulder. They are burned into my mind.”

The victim goes on to say they understand that Jordan is mentally ill but that “it is anguishing to have him labeled not guilty in any fashion.”

Norman said in the time that he was with Jordan he described him as “a little more harsh than someone that would be normal,” and though he knows prosecutors overturned every stone to find a solution to this case, to him, it doesn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter to me, he’s guilty of murder, and he should definitely stay under the supervision of the federal government. If that is into a mental institution or a prison, I think that a mental institution would be better for him. But, for the love of God. Please don’t turn him out again,” Norman said.

Follow News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais on Facebook and Twitter for news updates.

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