Man charged in Appalachian Trail attacks competent for trial

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A Massachusetts man accused of killing an Appalachian Trail hiker and attacking another with a machete in Virginia last year has been declared competent to stand trial.

The Bristol Herald Courier reports that U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Pamela Sargent reviewed the finding of mental health evaluators and ruled Thursday that the case against James Jordan can proceed.

Jordan, 31, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was arrested in May 2019 and charged with murder and assault after two hikers were attacked near the Wythe and Smyth county line in southwestern Virginia. He is accused of killing Ronald Sanchez Jr., 43, of Oklahoma, and injuring a Canadian woman.

During a court hearing last July, Sargent found that Jordan was not competent to stand trial and ordered him to receive mental health treatment to determine whether he could be restored to competency.

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He was admitted to the mental health unit of the Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, in October, according to court filings.

A psychiatric report was filed under seal with the court May 21. Sargent did not go into specific details of the report during a court hearing Thursday.

After being found mentally component, Jordan was advised of the charges against him — murder and assault with intent to commit murder. In response to questioning by Sargent, Jordan said he understood the charges.

A preliminary examination and detention hearing is scheduled for June 25.

Jordan is currently being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.

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