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Judge drops cannibalism charge in northern Idaho murder case

Judge drops cannibalism charge in northern Idaho murder case

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — A judge has dropped a cannibalism charge against a northern Idaho man after finding that there wasn't enough evidence to move forward to a trial, but said the man will still face a first-degree murder charge.

James David Russell, 40, was arrested Sept. 10, 2021, and charged with killing David Milton Flaget, 70, on the Russell family property in Bonner County, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported. Prosecutors later added the cannibalism charge, writing in court documents that Russell believed he could “cure his brain” by eating some of the victim.

During a preliminary hearing on Monday, 1st District Magistrate Judge Tera Harden said she didn't find sufficient evidence to send Russell to district court on the cannibalism charge. However, Harden said the first-degree murder charge would move forward, and that there was evidence to support a charge of mayhem. Idaho law defines mayhem as depriving someone of part of their body or rendering part of the body useless.

Autopsy results showed Flaget died from blunt force trauma to his head. Bonner County Sheriff's Office Detective Phillip Stella told the court that there was blood dripping out of the vehicle where Flaget's body was found, and that his body had been mutilated with parts of his thigh and genital region removed.

One of Russell's defense attorneys, Randy Michael Grossman, asked the detective if he was aware that Russell was under the care of a psychiatrist, prescribed medication and that he heard imaginary voices. Stella said he was unaware of Russell's medical history.

Russell's other defense attorney, Sean Walsh, did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment on Wednesday.

Russell is scheduled to be arraigned in district court on June 21.