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A Massachusetts man has been found not guilty by reason of insanity for the machete murder of a US Military veteran on the Appalachian Trail.
James Jordan, 32, was found “not guilty solely by reason of insanity” on Thursday, court records from the U.S. District Court of Western Virginia, obtained by the Boston Globe.
Jordan, a hiker who went by the alias “Sovereign” — a nickname which means supreme ruler — attacked two hikers with a machete in a West Virginia section of the trail in May of 2019. He killed 43-year-old Ronald S. Sanchez, Jr. of Oklahoma and injured a woman. She played dead and then walked six miles before she could flag down other hikers for help.
Sanchez was a military veteran who was in the process of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail: a remarkable 2,190 mile feat.
Jordan will be committed indefinitely to a Bureau of Prisons psychiatric facility, the Associated Press reports. He has a history of mental illness. Forensic psychologists who examined him determined that he suffers from a schizoaffective disorder and acute psychotic symptoms. They concluded that he was “unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts,” according to court documents.
He took a plea deal and waived his right to trial by jury and an additional evaluation.
Jordan's attorney stated that his client was “deeply remorseful for the profound sorrow he has caused,” according to the Associated Press. “He regrets that his lifelong battle with mental illness ultimately resulted in this trauma and loss for innocent hikers and their families.”
Statements from Sanchez’s family and the survivor were also filed in court last week.
“What gets me the most is wondering how my sweet brother took his last breath,” Jayme Miller, Sanchez’s sister, stated. “I can’t imagine being stabbed multiple times and then left there in the dark, cold wilderness to bleed to death.”
The survivor, who has not been named, wrote in a statement that she is “haunted” by the attack.
“And, as a direct consequence of his actions, I am also haunted by my own decisions,” she stated, according to MassLive. “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.”
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