James “Jimmy” David Russell, 40, is accused of killing 70-year-old David Milton Flaget and then microwaving the body parts, wrapping them in plastic, and leaving Flaget’s body in a truck.
On Monday, 1st District Magistrate Judge Tera Harden said during a preliminary hearing that there was insufficient evidence to support the cannibalism charge against Russell. She did note, however, that the first-degree murder charge would move forward and suggesting there was enough evidence to charge Russell with mayhem, the Associated Press reported.
“Mayhem” is defined under Idaho law as maliciously depriving another person of their body, or who disables, disfigures, or renders that body useless. It also specifically includes putting out someone’s eye and slitting their nose, ear, or lip.
Law & Crime reported that Russell is believed to have been the first true use of Idaho’s anti-cannibalism statute since it was adopted in 1990. If the charge had remained, Russell faced up to an additional 14 years in prison, though the murder charge alone carries the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty, the outlet noted.
On September 13, 2021, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office published a press release on Facebook saying that three days earlier, sheriff’s deputies “responded to a call of a suspicious death” in Clark Fork, Idaho. At the scene, deputies found Flaget’s body wrapped in plastic inside a vehicle and had to break a window to gain entry. Inside the truck, allegedly, were bloody clothes. The AP reported that Flaget apparently died due to blunt force trauma to his head, noting that investigators found blood dripping from his truck when they arrived.
Investigators quickly located Russell, who was living on Flaget’s property at the time. An investigation “established probable cause” that Russell had killed Flaget and he was arrested and charged with the crime.
Subsequent reporting from Law & Crime indicated that Russell was charged “thanks in part to observations and statements by his own aunt and uncle.”
The original police affidavit noted “post mortum [sic] mayhem . . . along the right thigh, anus and genitalia,” according to Law & Crime. Inside Russell’s home on the property, “investigators found suspected human flesh, latex gloves, bloody newspapers, bloody duct tape pieces, cutting implements with suspected blood, [and] several areas of blood,” the affidavit said.
Another affidavit explained that investigators seized “a bowl and microwave containing apparent blood and tissue” from insider Russell’s apartment. Those items were tested and found to contain Flaget’s DNA.
The cannibalism charge stemmed from Russell allegedly telling authorities that he thought he could “cure his brain” if he ate Flaget’s remains,” Law & Crime reported. He also reportedly got into an argument with his uncle, Mark, on the day of Flaget’s murder and later apologized in a voicemail, telling his uncle “Sorry . . . I might be a little sensitive — some sort of food I ate.”
The evidence to support the cannibalism charge, however, didn’t persuade Judge Harden.