The hiker who was hacked to death with a machete while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia has been identified as an Oklahoma native who served three tours in Iraq- and took up hiking to manage his PTSD.
43-year-old Ronald S. Sanchez Jr., was killed after he was reportedly attacked by James “Sovereign” Jordan along in Wythe County.
A native of Massachusetts, Jordan had become infamous along the trail after threatening hikers in Tennessee a month earlier, claiming he would immolate them.
Sanchez and three companions were on the trail in Smyth County last Friday when they were approached by Jordan, who approached them while “playing his guitar and singing.”
Later, when the group struck camp in nearby Wythe County, Jordan showed up once again.
“Jordan began randomly approaching the hikers’ tents, making noises and threatening the hikers,” FBI Special Agent Micah Childers said in a federal affidavit obtained by the Daily Mail. “Jordan spoke to the hikers through their tents and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.”
The hikers attempted to get away from Jordan, who chased them with a large knife described as a “machete.” In the ensuing melee, Sanchez was mortally wounded.
During the attack, one female hiker was stabbed several times, surviving only after she feigned death. After Jordan (incorrectly) determined her to be dead, he got up and looked for his dog.
Sanchez’s sister, Brenda Sanchez Loera, still has a hard time believing her brother is gone and said he sought outdoor activity as a way to cope with the traumas of war.
“He was adventurous and he got out of his shell and we were so proud of that because for a while he was in darkness,” she said.
The veteran’s ex-wife, Elizabeth Kordek, stands with his sister in thinking that Sanchez probably fought back.
“We’re really wondering how those last moments were,” Kordek said. “He’s strong and he’s a fighter…He was a good person. He had a really good heart.”
Sanchez, who went by the trail name “Stronghold,” praised the VA for helping him get back on track, particularly after he left the Army.
“These programs at the VA just kind of opened it up for me,’ he told an Oklahoma newspaper in 2018. “Before the VA, my health was just going downhill. I sat around and ate junk food all the time. The VA was welcoming, and it’s been a good program for me. I tell everybody about it.”
Jordan was captured after the three survivors of the attack managed to walk six miles to a phone, allowing them to call emergency services in an area known for poor cellular signal.
The Wythe County Sheriff’s Tactical Team was dispatched to the campsite, where the found and arrested Jordan.
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