Canoeists attacked with machete at camp site
Franklin County deputies believe a man who injured a canoeist with a machete and held a woman at knifepoint Monday at a camp site on the Mulberry River has left the area.
Christopher Bellinger of Oklahoma suffered cuts to his ear and several to his arm, one of which severed an artery and required medical treatment.
Sheriff investigator Sgt. Jeff Wood said Bellinger was airlifted to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville where he was treated and released.
The attacker was described as being in his 50s or 60s, bearded and driving a gray newer model Ford pickup with Florida tags, Sheriff Anthony Boen said Wednesday.
Wood found the bearded man’s name, which he wouldn’t release Wednesday, and a phone number while searching through the man’s belongings early Tuesday, but attempts to reach him weren’t successful.
The phone’s last location was tracked to Jackson, Tenn., Wood said.
Boen said Bellinger and the woman were canoeing on the Mulberry River about 5 p.m. Monday when they stopped at a spot on the river near Redding Campground called Huggins Loop to talk to a bearded man camping there.
Wood said Bellinger told him Tuesday they learned the man was a Navy veteran. As the couple was about to leave, Bellinger told him he shook the man’s hand and thanked him for his service.
When he turned his back to leave, Wood said, the man grabbed Bellinger’s companion, Tori Harris also of Oklahoma, and threatened her with the machete. Bellinger tried to intervene and was hit several times with the machete, according to Wood.
Boen and Wood said they didn’t know why the bearded man reacted the way he did.
The man left the scene before authorities arrived, Boen said, leaving his tent, mattress and other belongings behind.
Wood said he spoke with the man’s sister, who said he made his living on a poker tour and camped out between tournaments. His next stop was to be in North Carolina next month.