PHOTO: WSLS
Now playing
00:35
Man arrested in deadly Appalachian Trail attack
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:04
NYT: Second former aide accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment
PHOTO: CNN Weather
Now playing
02:23
Over 25 million people under threat for severe storms and flash flooding
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
PHOTO: House TV
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Now playing
02:52
House passes Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:54
'Biggest trial of my life': Landlord says eviction moratorium has drained her savings
Jeremy Lin
PHOTO: Getty Images
Jeremy Lin
Now playing
03:40
Ex-NBA star Jeremy Lin says he's been called 'coronavirus' on the court
covid-19 relief package house biden sot malveaux nr vpx _00000000.png
PHOTO: CNN
covid-19 relief package house biden sot malveaux nr vpx _00000000.png
Now playing
02:28
CNN's Joe Johns explains Biden's short speech as relief bill heads to Senate
Misinformation Trump Capitol March rn orig_00004630.png
Misinformation Trump Capitol March rn orig_00004630.png
Now playing
04:08
These Trump supporters are convinced he will be president again on March 4
PHOTO: Isaac Abrack
Now playing
03:00
Hear from schoolgirl who escaped abduction in Nigeria
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 2018.
PHOTO: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 2018.
Now playing
02:10
US intel report: Saudi Crown Prince responsible for approving Khashoggi operation
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen beyond a security fence on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week
PHOTO: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen beyond a security fence on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and in all 50 states. According to reports, as many as 25,000 National Guard soldiers will be guarding the city as preparations are made for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:33
This is what's in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
09:36
I lost everything: Texas mom's devastating story from winter storm
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC is seen from the air January 24, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / Daniel SLIM        (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Daniel Slim/Getty Images
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC is seen from the air January 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel SLIM (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
05:24
US carries out airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups
(CNN) —  

Ronald Sanchez’s hike along the Appalachian Trail was among the outdoor activities that helped lift him from the “darkness” of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that followed deployments in the US Army, his sister said Tuesday.

Sanchez, a 43-year-old Oklahoma resident, was identified as the victim of a fatal stabbing on a stretch of the popular hiking trail on Saturday, according to the FBI’s Richmond Division and the US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.

“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,” his sister, Brenda Sanchez Loera, told CNN in a phone interview.

A female hiker played dead so she could fend off the knife-wielding man accused of killing Sanchez and threatening others on a stretch of the trail in Wythe County, according to law enforcement.

The woman trekked six miles through a stretch of the trail in southwestern Virginia to report the attack early Saturday, according to court documents.

James Jordan, 30, was arrested and charged in US District Court in Abingdon with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder.

Being outdoors a form of therapy for him

Sanchez’s sister and his former wife, Elizabeth Kordek, said the Army veteran ended years of military service, including stints in Iraq, suffering from depression and PTSD.

Sanchez also sustained back and knee injuries that made the outdoor activities he used as recreation therapy back home much harder, they said.

“He was in a cycling group, he was showing horses, and on a dragon (boat racing) team and these were all out of his comfort zone because he was a really shy guy,” said Kordek, adding that a Veteran Affairs’ doctor planned to write an article about Sanchez’s hike along the Appalachian Trail.

“To survive those deployments in Iraq and to die like this is just devastating,” she said.

Brenda Sanchez, who lives in California, said her brother was especially proud about the Appalachian Trail hike.

The fatal encounter began Friday night, when Jordan allegedly approached four hikers on a section of the trail in Smyth County, according to court documents.

“He was acting disturbed and unstable, and was playing the guitar and singing,” said an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint, referring to Jordan. The hikers were not named in the document.

Later in the evening, after the four hikers set up camp in Wythe County, Jordan allegedly approached them again.

“Jordan spoke to the hikers through their tents and threatened to pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death,” the affidavit said.

One hiker played dead and survived

Terrified, the four hikers scrambled to pack and leave camp. Jordan pulled out a knife and chased after two of the hikers – a man and a woman – as they fled, authorities said.

Jordan returned to the campsite, according to the affidavit, and started arguing with one of the two remaining hikers, referred to as Victim #1.

The other person – referred to as Victim #2 in the affidavit – watched as Jordan stabbed Victim #1 in the upper part of the body and Victim #1 fell to the ground, authorities said.

Victim #2 ran off and Jordan followed, catching up with her as she tired. She turned to face Jordan and raised her arms in surrender when Jordan began stabbing her.

She fell to the ground and played dead, “at which point Jordan left to find his dog,” the affidavit said.

Two hikers met the woman on the trail and helped her trek six miles to Smyth County, where she called 911.

Victim #1 was pronounced dead at campsite, the affidavit said. A knife was near the body.

Authorities located Jordan and took him into custody. He had blood stains on his clothes, the affidavit said.

’He had a really good heart’

“We’re really wondering how those last moments were,” Kordek, also of California, said of Sanchez’s encounter with the attacker. “He’s strong and he’s a fighter… He was a good person. He had a really good heart.”

Brenda Sanchez said she has no doubt her brother would have fought the attacker. She said she lived life “through my brother.” The two were raised in Garden Grove, California

“He was loving, kindhearted,” she said. “He was always there for me, even though we were miles apart… He was a proud man. He loved people.”

Sanchez was mentioned in an October story in The Oklahoman newspaper about veterans who participate in a cycling team as part of their recreation therapy. The story said he served 16 years in the Army, including three tours in Iraq, before being discharged in 2011 with PTSD and major depression. He used to lock himself in a room to avoid people and only ventured out at night to buy food.

“These programs at the VA just kind of opened it up for me,” Sanchez told the newspaper. “Before the VA, my health was just going downhill.”