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Man facing cannibalism charge to continue medical security program

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | December 28, 2021 2:05 PM

SANDPOINT — A Bonner County man facing charges of cannibalism and first-degree murder will be spending more time in the Idaho's security medical program as part of an effort to restore his competency.

The decision followed a review hearing for James David Russell, 39, in front of First District Magistrate Judge Tara Harden today.

"It appears that extending the commitment an additional 180 is appropriate," said Harden, "It does not appear that he is competent at this time."

Harden said during the hearing that Russell was still unfit to stand trail on the charges.

"I previously found that Mr. Russell is dangerously mentally ill and was committed to the Department of Corrections. I am reiterating that order from my previous order."

"Additionally, I am specifically finding that the defendant lacks capacity to make informed decisions about treatment at this time," Harden said.

Harden explained that she is basing her order on information provided by a psychologist working with Russell in the Idaho Department of Corrections Secure Medical Unit.

Russell is the primary suspect in the Sept. 10 murder of David Flaget, 70, the groundsman for the property upon which Russell and his family reside.

Flaget was slain near the Old Field House in Clark Fork. A family member of Russell reported him to officials after discovering Flaget unresponsive in his own truck on the property.

Authorities filed an amended criminal complaint on Dec. 15, charging Russell with cannibalism in relation to the Flaget's death, saying pieces of the man's body were found upon searching Russell’s residence the day after the murder.

Russell initially fled from Bonner County sheriff’s deputies and initiated a brief standoff before allowing himself to be apprehended in the building he resided in on the property.

Russell has been known to damage communication lines on the property believing that they were damaging his mental health, according to court documents.

Another review hearing is scheduled for March 14. Russell will continue to be held at the medical program facility in Boise.

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