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An Idaho man, who allegedly believed ingesting human flesh would “cure his brain,” has been accused of the gruesome slaying of an elderly man whose body parts were apparently microwaved and eaten, officials said.
James David Russell, 39, was charged with first-degree murder and cannibalism in the death of David Flaget earlier this year, prosecutors said.
On Sept. 10, Flaget’s mutilated body was found inside his vehicle on Russell family’s property in Clark Fork, Idaho. He was naked from the waist down, except for a pair of black socks, and his body was covered with trash bags, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Both of his wrists were bound with duct tape.
“His body showed postmortem removal of the penis, scrotum, both testicles, and flesh of the outer right thigh,” charging documents stated.
The 70-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck, according to the Spokane Medical Examiner’s Office. “Post-mortem mutilation” was evident across his body, law enforcement said.
The next day, a search warrant was executed at Russell’s second-story apartment, which allegedly turned up more “tissue, consistent with the flesh” in and around the apartment — including in a bloody microwave.
“Portions of the removed tissue were recovered inside and outside of James Russell’s apartment,” the probable cause statement added. “Evidence inside the apartment indicates portions of the flesh removed from David Flaget were placed in a glass bowl and microwaved.”
A medical examiner also determined that Russell may have microwaved some of Flaget’s flesh that was found at the scene. Forensic testing ultimately confirmed it was Flaget’s DNA found in the bowl in Russell’s apartment, but numerous body parts — including Flaget’s penis, one testicle, part of his scrotum and some flesh from his right thigh — were never ultimately recovered by investigators.
Authorities later learned Russell left a troubling voicemail on his uncle Mark Russell’s phone on the day that Flaget's body was found.
“Sorry… I might be a little sensitive — some sort of food I ate,” Russell allegedly stated in a voicemail, according to charging documents.
In May, Russell’s siblings — who had taken him to a hospital for psychiatric attention — had also told San Diego police that the 39-year-old “wanted to cut chunks of his skin off with a knife” in order to “cure his brain.”
"It is my intention to prosecute Mr. Russell to the full extent of the law and to bring some level of justice for David Flaget's family," Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall told Oxygen.com in a statement.
Russell is currently being held without bond pending a competency evaluation, officials said.
“Here in Idaho there isn't an insanity defense," Marshall added. "However, a defendant must be deemed competent to stand trial. The two standards are different and involve different times in the process. Insanity focuses on the time of the crime, whereas competency focuses on the present. Once Mr. Russell is restored to competency a preliminary hearing will be scheduled and an evidentiary hearing will take place.".
His next scheduled court date is set for Dec. 28. No further information was released by officials regarding the open case. Sean Walsh, Russell's attorney, wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
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