The man responsible for a rare murder on the Appalachian Trail won't be going to prison, but he won't be going free, either. A Virginia judge found 32-year-old James Jordan not guilty by reason of insanity and sent him to a psychiatric facility, reports the New York Times. He can't be released until doctors say he is no longer a threat. In 2019, Jordan attacked a group of hikers who had set up camp for the night and fatally stabbed 43-year-old Robert Sanchez. Jordan also stabbed a female hiker multiple times, though she escaped by playing dead and eventually hiked six miles to safety, per the Trek. Prior to the attack, Jordan had been ordered to stay off the trail because he'd been harassing other hikers. Afterward, doctors diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder and concluded he couldn't "appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts," per the Washington Post.
In a court statement, his lawyers say that he is now "deeply remorseful for the profound sorrow he has caused" and that he has suffered from lifelong mental illness. The woman who survived the attack, Kirby Morrill, gave a statement of her own to the court, saying she remains "haunted" by Jordan's actions. He "transformed before my eyes from a bewildered, confused man into a violent animal," she wrote. "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 Times notes that Morrill returned to the trail four months after the attack and climbed Maine's Mount Katahdin at its northern end. "Even if I was scared, are you really going to let a little fear stop you from what you want to do in life?" she said at the time. (Read more Appalachian Trail stories.)