Hikers who encountered Mr. Jordan before Saturday’s attack said they feared for their safety.
Mr. Bolek said he encountered him “five or 10 times” over several weeks, including a late-April run-in at a southern Tennessee shelter packed with campers shortly after Tennessee authorities had released him.
“It was just weird, erratic behavior,” he said. “He had a dog bowl and accused us of stealing it from him. He started yelling at us, and I told him, ‘Hey, we know who you are. We’re not looking for any trouble. We don’t have your bowl. Just go back to your campsite and be on your way.’
“I felt the threat of violence wasn’t far away,” he said. “I spent half the night at the campfire awake, making sure he didn’t come back.”
Days later, Mr. Jordan was evicted from a hostel in Roan Mountain, Tenn., after insisting that “he was the keeper of the trail” and controlled entry to it, said Madeline Gossee, a 24-year-old Canadian hiker with the trail name “Pit Stop.” He was behaving erratically, she said, but “didn’t seem that dangerous.”
But authorities said that last weekend, less than two weeks later, a male hiker sent a distress signal on his mobile phone after being stabbed. His female companion played dead after being stabbed, then walked for six miles, assisted by other hikers, before getting medical treatment. Two other hikers called 911 early Saturday after being roused from their tents and fleeing a man who threatened to burn them to death.
On Monday, Mr. Jordan was charged in federal court with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia said. Mr. Jordan did not enter a plea, said Brian McGinn, a spokesman for the office.
At the Grayson Highlands General Store & Inn near the site of the attack, the owner, Dennis Conroy, 69, said he had just taken in some hikers who wanted to stop at least briefly to reconsider their plans. “They are concerned and getting off the trail,” he said. “Others are just marching on. Most are not concerned, but you never know.”