Not Guilty: Appalachian Trail Killer Cleared Due To Insanity

The disturbed hiker killed one man and stabbed a woman nine times on the Appalachian Trail in 2019.

In 2019, James Jordan killed one person and injured another on the Appalachian Trail with a hunting knife. This week, the court accepted his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Jordan will now be indefinitely committed to a prison psychiatric facility.

Such outcomes are rare. Only one percent of defendants plead insanity in such cases, and only a quarter of those are successful. Jordan has a history of mental health problems and has been diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder.

In court, Jordan gave a short apology. His attorney said that he was “deeply remorseful…and regrets that his lifelong battle with mental illness ultimately resulted in this trauma and loss for innocent hikers and their families.”

Jordan was initially arrested in May 2019 after killing Ronald Sanchez Jr, 43, and attacking Kirby Morrill. Morrill suffered nine stab wounds and 40 individual lacerations in the attack.

“I look like Scarface now,” she told Canada’s National Post. Prior to the attacks, a mobile app used by backpackers had warned several times about a male hiker who was threatening people, but Morrill was already on the trail.

Kirby Morrill. Photo: Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan


Two managed to escape. Two did not.

“He wandered around the campsite talking to himself,” Morrill recalled. “Then he came around the tents threatening to kill us in a variety of ways and telling us why we deserved to die.”

Jordan wandered off, and Morrill and the three others at the campsite, including Sanchez, decided to leave. As they packed, Jordan returned. Two managed to escape.

After Jordan had stabbed her, Morrill played dead. When he eventually left, she had to walk 10km in the dark to the next campsite. With every step, blood spurted from her leg. She ended up using duct tape to patch her wounds.

After the court decision, Morrill wrote, “It is anguishing to have him labeled not guilty in any fashion, though I accept the legal ramifications of those words are very different from the effect they have on me. If he is truly unable to recognize that his actions have deeply harmed people, if he is truly unable to recognize that he ended a good man’s life, if he truly must not be held responsible for his actions, then I beg you to please use what power you have to still keep that man under lock and key. Keep him from harming anyone else.”