A man from Oldtown in Bonner County has had cannibalism charges added to his accusations of first-degree murder.
The Bonner County Prosecutor amended the criminal complaint on Wednesday, December 15, charging James David Russell, 39, of cannibalism in relation to the September 10 murder of David Flaget.
Police searched Russell’s home the day after the murder and found portions of Flaget’s body, including a “thermal artifact” which is an observational finding showing that heat has been applied to only a portion of the remains, rather than the entire body.
Dr. Veena Singh of the Spokane Medical Examiner’s Office completed an autopsy on September 13, finding that the tissue found in Russell’s residence belonged to Flaget. Some of Flaget’s remains have not been found.
Police seized a bloodied microwave oven and glass bowl and a bloodied knife and duffel bag. Bonner County Detective Phillip Stella said on Thursday
“When dealing with death and carnage it’s a shock to our conscience. As far as I know this is the first cannibalism charge in Idaho.”
Sheriff’s deputies had been called to a possible murder on Lower Mosquito Creek Road on September 10. They found Flaget upside down in the passenger’s seat of his truck, unresponsive. Russell eluded the officers, barricading himself in the loft space of the garage on the property.
After a brief stand-off, Russell was apprehended. According to court documents, Russell was unable to understand his Miranda rights after they were repeatedly read to him. Russell made only one statement to law enforcement in 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. “The family had enough warning signs that Mr. Russell was a danger to himself or others.”
According to the supplemental probable cause affidavit, Russell believed that he could “heal himself by cutting off portions of flesh” in order to “cure his brain.”
The Detective added:
“There’s a lot of facets we will certainly never know. 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.”
Court proceedings were paused in late October after First District Magistrate Judge Tara Harden found Russell unfit to stand trial for first-degree murder and ordered him to the Idaho Security Medical Program. The results of the mental health evaluation on October 5 remain sealed by court order.
Oldtown is on the state border of Washington, and is a suburb of Newport, Washington, but is but is officially a city in Bonner County, Idaho, with a population of 184 at the 2010 census.
Idaho is the only state of the United States which has laws against cannibalism, having introduced legislation in 1990 aimed at stopping Satanic rituals.
CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
CHAPTER 50 MAYHEM
18-5003. CANNIBALISM DEFINED — PUNISHMENT.
(1) Any person who wilfully ingests the flesh or blood of a human being is guilty of cannibalism.
(2) It shall be an affirmative defense to a violation of the provisions of this section that the action was taken under extreme life-threatening conditions as the only apparent means of survival.
(3) Cannibalism is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding fourteen (14) years.
This is not to say that you should all start eating each other. The Legal Information Institute points out that
…most, if not all, states have enacted laws that indirectly make it impossible to legally obtain and consume the body matter. Murder, for instance, is a likely criminal charge, regardless of any consent. Further, even if someone consents to being eaten and kills himself, the cannibal may still be liable for criminal or civil actions based on laws governing the abuse or desecration of a corpse, which vary from state to state.
What you may do under the law of most states of the world is pay someone to kill pretty much any other animal for your dinner. As philosophy Professor William B. Irvine of Wright State University (Ohio) says:
“in America and in much of the world a human corpse is more of a sacred thing than is a living cow: to defile a corpse – which of course is incapable of suffering – is a far greater crime than is causing a cow significant discomfort and suffering simply so that one can enjoy a Big Mac.”
We end 2021 with yet one more proof that Aristotle’s claim that humans are rational animals was vastly over-optimistic.