James David Russell, an Idaho man previously charged with murder, is now suspected of cannibalism.

On Wednesday, Bonner County officials filed an amended complaint against the 39-year-old, who was previously indicted for the killing of David Flaget, 70, in September. Authorities said they found evidence at the crime scene suggesting Russell had partially cooked and eaten Flaget’s remains.

According to court filings, Russell told investigators he thought he could “cure his brain” and “heal himself by cutting off portions of flesh.”

Russell was taken into police custody two months ago for the murder charge and placed in the Idaho Security Medical Program for a mental evaluation after a judge deemed him unfit to stand trial. The results of that evaluation are sealed by court order, though the accused cannibal is due back for a review hearing at the end of December.

James David Russell, a 39-year-old Idaho murder suspect, is accused of being a cannibal.
James David Russell, a 39-year-old Idaho murder suspect, is accused of being a cannibal. Police say he killed and partially ate David Flaget, 70, in September. Photo credit: Bonner County Sheriff’s Office

Police: James David Russell is a Cannibal

The amended criminal complaint submitted by Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall last week claims that police found evidence of Russell’s alleged cannibalism months ago at the time of his arrest. 

Marshall said investigators discovered parts of David Flaget’s body with “thermal artifacts,” implying that the tissue had been heated up after the 70-year-old’s death. Authorities also seized a bloody knife and glass bowl as well as a blood-soaked microwave and duffel bag from Russell’s home, according to the filings. 

The human tissues recovered from Russell’s house were sent to the Spokane Medical Examiner’s Office, where officials confirmed they belonged to Flaget, according to reports. Not all of Flaget’s remains have been located, including a portion of the 70-year-old’s thigh and genitals, police said

In one probable cause affidavit, investigators said they believe Russell ate the missing body parts. The same document claims that the accused killer previously told his family he wanted to “cut chunks of his skin off with a knife,” and that he could “heal himself by cutting off portions of flesh” to “cure his brain.” 

On Thursday, Bonner County Detective Phillip Stella said the allegations against Russell were among the most gruesome in state history. 

“When dealing with death and carnage it’s a shock to our conscience,” he told reporters. “As far as I know, this is the first cannibalism charge in Idaho.” 

Police believe 70-year-old David Flaget, above, was killed and partially eaten by accused cannibal James David Russell.
Police believe 70-year-old David Flaget, above, was killed and partially eaten by accused cannibal James David Russell. Photo credit: Facebook

Accused Cannibal Also Suspected of Murder

In court documents obtained by local media outlets, police said they found the body of 70-year-old David Flaget upside-down in the passenger seat of his own truck on Sept. 10. James David Russell was there but fled the scene and barricaded himself in his residence above a garage on a private property nearby, investigators wrote. 

Russell was arrested following a short stand-off with police but was reportedly unable to understand officers when they read his Miranda rights. The 39-year-old repeated the same statement more than twice, authorities said: “It’s private property and we don’t like non-family on it.”

Russell was arrested in September and deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. He was evaluated by medical experts in October and the report was sealed under court order. The accused cannibal is due back in Bonner County court for a review hearing on Dec. 28.

 

Accused cannibal James David Russell is due back in Bonner County court on Dec. 28.
Accused cannibal James David Russell is due back in Bonner County court on Dec. 28. He was deemed unfit to stand trial and sent for a mental health evaluation by a judge in September. Photo credit: Google Maps

No motive for the alleged killing was immediately apparent, but Detective Stella said Russell and Flaget had made contact before the latter’s death.

“Flaget had several conflict-like run-ins with Russell and told the family about them,” he told reporters. “The family had enough warning signs that Mr. Russell was a danger to himself or others.”

“There’s a lot of facets we will certainly never know,” Stella continued

“It wasn’t the bloodiest crime scene, but it’s more of the 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.”