Idaho man charged with cannibalism

James David Russell, 39, was charged last week with first-degree murder and felony cannibalism after a some of a dead man's remains were found in his microwave, reports Eric Grossarth with East Idaho News. The rest of the partially-dismembered body had already been found in a truck, leading to the find indoors.

The following day, investigators served a search warrant at Russell's home. Inside, detectives found tissue consistent with Flaget's missing flesh. Investigators also found blood and tissue in a bowl inside the microwave. Some of the tissue indicated heat had been applied, possibly in the microwave for one to two minutes, according to court documents. Investigators could not locate one of Flaget's testicles, his penis and a portion of the thigh that was removed from his body. Investigators wrote in their probable cause affidavit that they believe Russell ate the missing body parts.

The murder could evidently have been prevented:

Witnesses report that on the day of Flaget's killing, Russell acted agitated and recently had been having mental health issues. Court documents indicated while at a California hospital receiving psychiatric help in May, Russell reportedly told his family he wanted to "cut chunks of his skin off with a knife" to "cure his brain," according to court documents.

Idaho appears to be the only state that explicitly outlaws cannibalism (read the statue here), though many have less specific laws (e.g. desecration) that apply to it. The peculiar outcome of this prohibition is that the law also explicitly legalizes cannibalism under certain circumstances.

Idaho Statutes specify that there is a viable defense for cannibalism: if the action was taken under extreme life-threatening conditions as the only apparent means of survival.

"That's your Donner Party defense," Loebs said, where a person could say, "I was trapped out in the woods, and my hunting companion died of natural causes and froze to death and I was gonna die too, so I ate him."

14 years is the maximum penalty under statue, but I couldn't find another prosecution, let alone conviction, to figure out what Russell would likely serve if convicted. His murder charge (and likely defenses—a judge already found him unfit for trial) offers clearer outcomes.