WYTHEVILLE, Va. — A Nova Scotia woman survived a knife attack on the Appalachian Trail by playing dead after being beaten and stabbed — and then ran 10 kilometres for help, police in Virginia say.

James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Mass., is charged with murder and assault with intent to commit murder in the attack, which left an Oklahoma man dead.

Wythe County Chief Deputy Charles Foster says Ronald Sanchez Jr., 43, was found dead early Saturday, about 100 yards from where the suspect was arrested.

Foster did not have the name of the injured woman, but said it was his understanding that she was from Nova Scotia.

He said police in neighbouring counties had received reports of a man chasing hikers on the trail, and that the man was using a trail nickname of “Sovereign.”

He said at 2:21 a.m. police were notified by an “international emergency co-ordination centre” that they had received a SOS alarm from a keyholder on the trail.

“He had sent messages stating that there was a male subject who offered him a knife earlier on the trail and was trying to fight him. He also knew this guy as having the nickname of Sovereign,” Foster said. 

At 3:12 a.m., the Wythe County 911 centre received a call from a woman to say she had been stabbed several times, he said.

“She gave dispatch a clothing description and the actual name of the suspect, which was James Jordan, and that he went by that nickname. She also told us he had a dog with him.”

Foster said the woman told the dispatcher that she had been beaten and stabbed, and played dead until her attacker left to go after his dog.

Foster said the injured woman had to run for about 10 kilometres before she found someone to help her.

She was airlifted to Bristol Regional Medical Centre, just across the state line in Tennessee.

Police hiked about eight kilometres into the Jefferson National Forest and found the suspect using the ping from the male victim’s SOS call and the location given by the woman.

“A dog came off the ridge which alerted us and we saw a male subject right behind him in a thicket. We took him down at gunpoint and it ended up being our suspect,” Foster said.

The FBI has taken over the case, but so far has not released the woman’s name.

Janet Barlow, executive director of Hike Nova Scotia, said she didn’t know the identity of the hiker and was shocked to learn of the attack.

She said the trail tends to be quite safe even for people who hike alone.

“Others will hike in pairs, or if they start out alone they’ll meet up with a group and they hike together, and it ends up being quite a safe atmosphere. It tends to have quite a strong and supportive community of people who hike together,” she said.

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, stretching roughly 3,500 kilometres from Georgia to Maine.  

More than 3 million people visit the trail every year and over 3,000 people attempt to hike the entire footpath in a single year.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press