James ‘Jimmy’ David Russell appears in a mugshot taken by the Bonner County, Idaho Sheriff’s Office.
A 40-year-old man in Idaho will spend the rest of his life in prison for viciously murdering and eating the 70-year-old caretaker of his grandfather’s farm. Authorities stated that First District Judge Barbara Buchanan on Monday sentenced James David Russell to life in prison without the possibility of release for the murder of David M. Flaget in 2021.
Initial charges against Russell included first-degree murder and cannibalism. Judge Buchanan dismissed the latter allegation owing to a lack of evidence last summer; the case was believed to be the first actual application of Idaho’s anti-cannibalism statute since it went into effect in 1990. In November, Russell reached an agreement with prosecutors, who agreed to drop the first-degree murder accusation in exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree murder.
According to a report by the Coeur d’Alene Press, given the gruesome nature of the murder, Judge Buchanan stated that her decision to impose a life sentence arose from her focus on “protecting society,” one of the state’s four sentencing objectives.
Buchanan reportedly stated, “This court cannot conceive of any other means of protecting society besides confining Mr. Russell.”
According to the Press, the court also indicated that she regarded Russell’s mental illness, but that it paradoxically diminished and heightened the gravity of the crime.
“As Mr. Marshall stated, mental illness is a mitigating factor in this instance, but it is also an exacerbating factor,” Buchanan allegedly added, noting that Russell had stopped taking his medicine for roughly a year. “Because the court has no assurance… that society will be safe if Mr. Russell is not incarcerated, Mr. Russell cannot be safe.”
According to the Press, when given the opportunity to address the court, Russell regretted for his acts and wished that technology existed that might bring Flaget back to life.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Bonner County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a “suspicious death” on Lower Mosquito Road in Clark Fork, Idaho in September 2021. First responders discovered Flaget dead in his own vehicle, but investigators instantly suspected Russell of being the murderer.
Following an examination, it was determined that Flaget’s death was a homicide caused by blunt force injuries to the head and neck. Multiple sections of Flaget’s body exhibited signs of postmortem mutilation, indicating that flesh had been removed, as noted by the medical examiner.
Russell, according to an affidavit filed in court, was the “only inhabitant” of an adjacent loft where detectives discovered “human flesh, latex gloves, bloody newspapers, bloody duct tape pieces, cutting implements with suspected blood, [and] many bloody spots.”
An additional affidavit provided even more vivid and gruesome details:
During the investigation of James Russell’s residence, a dish and microwave were discovered to contain what seemed to be blood and tissue. These artefacts, along with the retrieved tissue from the same crime scene, were transferred to the Idaho State Laboratory for analysis. According to the state laboratory, David Flaget’s DNA was present in both the bowl and the exterior of the microwave.
[ . . . ]
On the morning of 10 September 2021, James Russell and his uncle Mark Russell had a disagreement. Later that day, James Russell left a voicemail on Mark Russell’s phone apologizing for his conduct and adding, “Sorry… I may be a little sensitive due to some food I had.”
Authorities alleged that Russell believed he could “cure his brain” by eating Flaget’s remains.
Six of Flaget’s family members read victim impact statements in court, all of which asked the judge to impose a sentence of life in prison, the Press reported.