An army veteran who was stabbed to death on the Appalachian Trail was hiking to overcome his post-traumatic stress.
43-year-old Ronald Sanchez from Oklahoma had decided to hike for ‘therapeutic effects,’ said former combat medic Sharon Smith.
“Instead, he lost his life in a senseless violent attack,” Smith told PEOPLE.
After his deployments in Iraq, Sanchez suffered isolation and bouts of depression, his sister said to CNN. Outdoor activities like hiking helped him overcome his condition.
Brenda Sanchez Loera told CNN: “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.”
But darkness fell on a new different level when Sanchez stumbled upon a man who had reportedly been threatening hikers.
30-year-old James Louis Jordan allegedly approached Sanchez and other hikers on the trail. He was acting unstable and disturbed, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Micah Childers.
The war veteran and his three fellow hikers recognized Jordan from social media websites where other hikers warned that the man threatened other backpackers in Tennessee.
Sanchez and his friends continued and made camp for the night in Virginia. Jordan approached them again and told them he would “pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death.”
Jordan chased them with a knife and argued with Sanchez and another female hiker. He reportedly stabbed Sanchez and the woman.
The wounded woman managed to walk six miles to call emergency services. Sanchez activated an emergency alert on his mobile device before succumbing to his injuries.
Officers found his body the next day. Jordan was also arrested and has been charged with murder and assault with intent to murder.
“As a veteran, I am especially saddened that he survived his deployments only to have his life cut short during a journey that was supposed to be cleansing and healing,” Smith, 52, said.
“My only hope is that, during his time on trail, he was able to find what he needed and that he was at peace in his heart and mind.”
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