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Accused Appalachian Trail killer will undergo local sanity exam, judge says

James L. Jordan, 31, is being held in an Abingdon, Va., jail.

The Massachusetts man charged with murdering one hiker and assaulting another on the Appalachian Trail in 2019 will undergo a sanity exam at the southwest Virginia jail where's he now being held, a federal judge has ruled.

Federal prosecutors had asked that James J. Jordan, 31, be evaluated at a federal North Carolina facility where he's previously been examined and treated.

The defense, however, objected, arguing it's better for Jordan and easier for all involved if a doctor simply meets with him in the local jail in Abingdon. Jordan is an inmate at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority.

"Based on the information before the court, I find that the defendant should not be transferred to a (federal) facility because the Government has failed to demonstrate that it is impractical for the required psychiatric or psychological evaluation to be performed while the defendant is detained locally," U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent wrote. "Furthermore, the defense persuasively has argued that a transfer of the defendant to a BOP facility, at this time, would unnecessarily put at risk both his mental and physical health."

It's up to the government to identify the expert and ensure the exam takes place, the magistrate wrote.

Her order was put down Nov. 23 and the government has 30 days to get the task done.

The point is to determine if Jordan was insane in May 2019, as the defense contends, when authorities say he killed an Iraq War veteran on an AT hike in Virginia. He also attacked a female hiker, according to the government.

His defense team argues he has a history of mental illness.

On the trail he went by the name "Sovereign."

After his arrest, Jordan was taken to a federal center in Butner, N.C.
After treatment, he was deemed competent to proceed with prosecution.

He's charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.