A murder suspect in Idaho accused of cannibalism said he ate flesh to "cure his brain." Now, he's spending the rest of his life behind bars.
James David Russell, 39, was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2021 murder of David Flaget, a 70-year-old caretaker who worked on property owned by Russell's family, KREM reported.
Pieces of Flaget’s body were found during a search of Russell’s residence the day after the murder, including a “thermal artifact,” which showed that heat had been applied to only portions of the remains, according to Shoshone News-Press.
Some of Flaget’s remains were not located, Shoshone News-Press reported.
A bloodied microwave and glass bowl were among the items seized in the search. Investigators also found bloodied knife and duffel bag.
According to the supplemental probable cause affidavit obtained by Shoshone News-Press, Russell believed that he could “heal himself by cutting off portions of flesh” in order to “cure his brain.”
“When dealing with death and carnage it’s a shock to our conscience,” Bonner County Detective Phillip Stella said, according to Shoshone News-Press. “As far as I know this is the first cannibalism charge in Idaho.”
On Sept. 10, 2021, sheriff’s deputies were notified of a possible murder on Lower Mosquito Creek Road, Shoshone News-Press reported.
When they arrived, they found Flaget upside down in the passenger’s seat of his truck, unresponsive.
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Russell ran away from law enforcement, barricading himself in the loft space of the garage building he resided in on the property.
After a brief stand-off, Russell was compliant with law enforcement’s commands and allowed himself to be apprehended.
According to court documents obtained by Shoshone News-Press, Russell was unable to understand his Miranda rights after they were repeatedly read to him.
Russell made only one statement to law enforcement which he repeated more than twice: “It’s private property and we don’t like non-family on it."
“Flaget had several conflict-like run-ins with Russell and told the family about them,” Detective Stella said, claiming, “The family had enough warning signs that Mr. Russell was a danger to himself or others.”
There is evidence that a clean-up kit was used to dispose of remains or other evidence after the murder, Shoshone News-Press reported.
“There’s a lot of facets we will certainly never know,” Stella said at the time. “It wasn’t the bloodiest crime scene, but it’s more of a psychological ‘what the heck is going on here?’ and ‘why am I picking up pieces?’ It’s a walk down the dark path that we don’t see very often.”
At Russell's recent sentencing, KREM reported, the judge noted the defendant had gone off his medications at the time of the murder and battled schizophrenia as well as delusion and psychoses.
"In this case, as [Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall] said, mental illness is in a way a mitigating factor, but it is also an aggravating factor," the judge said at sentecing. "Because the court has no certainty, can conceive that society can be safe unless Mr. Russell is confined, no way that Mr. Russell can be safe."
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