I am following two online journals of current hikers attemping a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Sadly, there is no word from Mileage or from the Rothman’s (Rock and Roots). Both of their online journals are silent. I am still hopeful that they are still hiking NOBO and, if nothing else, maybe they will post a final entry from the big brown sign on Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Since I have nothing from the trail in 2021, let me share some past news from the AT. Two years ago I wrote a couple of posts about an event of tragic violence on the Appalachian Trail. Recently, I discovered the legal conclusion to the murder that occurred on the Appalachian Trail in 2019. I have a close friend who was thru-hiking the AT at the time and was involved in helping the injured hiker to safety.
On May 10, 2019, James Jordan, aka Sovereign, murdered a thru-hiker (Robert Sanchez), attempted to murder another thru-hiker, Kirby Morrill, and threatened several other hikers along the Appalachian Trail. On May 11, he was captured, arrested, and held for trial in Smyth County, Virginia. James Jordon was charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder.
The judge ordered that Jordan be detained for a psychological or psychiatric examination to determine whether he suffered from “mental disease or defect” that would make him unable to understand the charges he faces or help attorneys in his defense. After this initial examination, Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent agreed to give the Bureau of Prisons 120 more days in the “period of restoration.” She also stated that: “…the treating psychiatrist or psychologist shall report his/her findings to this court as to the following: a. Whether the defendant is suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assist properly in his defense; and b. If so, whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future the defendant will attain the capacity to permit his trial to proceed.”
On April 22, 2021, a federal judge accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity from Jordan. Both the prosecution and defense reached an agreement for the plea after a sanity evaluation found that he suffered from schizoaffective disorder and concluded that he was “unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Schizoaffective disorder symptoms may vary from person to person. People with the condition experience psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, as well as symptoms of a mood disorder — either bipolar type (episodes of mania and sometimes depression) or depressive type (episodes of depression). Although the development and course of schizoaffective disorder may vary, defining features include a major mood episode (depressed or manic mood) and at least a two-week period of psychotic symptoms when a major mood episode is not present.”
The Mayo clinic website also cites the following signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder: Delusions: having false, fixed beliefs, despite evidence to the contrary; Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there; Impaired communication and speech, such as being incoherent; Bizarre or unusual behavior; Symptoms of depression, such as feeling empty, sad or worthless; Periods of manic mood, with an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep over several days, and behaviors that are out of character; Impaired occupational, academic and social functioning; Problems with managing personal care, including cleanliness and physical appearance
James Jordan was committed to a psychiatric institution and “will not be released until a court finds by clear and convincing evidence that his release would not create a substantial risk of injury to anyone else.” His lawyers attorneys Juval O. Scott, Lisa Lorish, and Matthew Engle say that Jordan is now “deeply remorseful for the profound sorrow he has caused” and that he has suffered from lifelong mental illness.