Nathaniel Bar-Jonah showed signs of abnormal behavior at a very young age. He assaulted many children over the years and is suspected of murder as well. Friends say that Nathaniel served them strange tasting meat at parties and it's believed that he may have served human meat.
The Montana Child Murderer aka Cannibal child killer. This is one of the worst stories about someone who repeatedly slipped through the cracks of the justice system.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah was born David Paul Brown in Worcester (WISTER), Massachusetts on February 15th, 1957 and he was the youngest of four children. At a very young age, he showed signs of abnormal behavior.
In 1964, Nathaniel received a Ouija board for his seventh birthday. He promised a five-year-old neighbor that she could come over and try out the Ouija board. The kids went to the basement and he tried to strangle the girl. Luckily, Nathaniel's mother heard the screams, ran down the stairs and forced him to stop, but she never pursued help for her child after this incident.
In 1970, Nathaniel told a six year old boy that they could go sledding. He brought the child to a secluded area and sexually assaulted him. A few years later, he attempted to lure two boys to a cemetery to kill them. He had cut out letters and words from a magazine, composed a note, and offered the boys $20 and a surprise. One of the boys had a bad feeling and was able to convince the other boy to leave with him. The mother of the two boys decided she didn't want to press charges. She wanted Nathaniel to receive psychiatric help instead of going through the criminal justice system.
In 1975, when Nathaniel was 17, he walked up to an 8-year-old boy named Richard O'Conner, who was on his way to school and told him he was a police officer. He was able to get the boy in his car, sexually assaulted him, and attempted to strangle him. A neighbor happened happened to look out their window and see the abduction and called the police. Nathaniel was arrested, but he only received a year of probation.
Next, he abducted a nine year old girl, Mary Patrone. Nathaniel drove to Hartford, Connecticut just days after he graduated high school. He impersonated an officer and abducted the young girl. She was assaulted and put up quite a struggle. Nathaniel threw the girl in his car and a witness took down his license plate, he was arrested, and the probation officer wasn't notified and he was never charged. In May of 1976, he was released from probation and received a letter thanking him for his cooperation.
In September, 1977, he abducted two boys from a movie theater after claiming to be a police officer or an undercover FBI agent. He told the boys they were under arrest, handcuffed them, brought them to a secluded area, and sexually assaulted them. Nathaniel strangled one of the boys by sitting on him and at this time, he weighed about 375 pounds, and he put the other victim in the trunk of his car. The boy that he strangled ended up surviving the attack and was able to go get help. The police found Nathaniel with the other victim in his trunk. He was charged with attempted murder and was sentenced to 18-20 years in prison.
When Nathaniel was serving his time, he did start seeing a psychiatrist. He began describing fantasies about murdering, dissecting, and eating children. The therapist said his violent fantasies were Nathaniel's main source of sexual stimulation. The psychiatrist recommended that he be moved to a mental hospital. It was during this time that he changed his name to Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah. He told his friends and family that he did this because he wanted to know what it was like to be discriminated against as a Jew. I don't like the way that sounds, but that's his words, not mine.
In 1991, a judge looked over the psychiatric evaluations and concluded that he was not a dangerous threat and he was released on probation. It was determined that the state hadn't met the burden of proof to determine that he was dangerous. Nathaniel moved to Montana to live with his mother, but he still needed to continue getting psychiatric help. He wrote a letter to a newspaper and said, “I've seen God take a hopeless situation like when all avenues were closed. It seemed I'd never, ever be released. Yet God told me I would and I believed him even though the evidence of my release was not there. Then totally out of left field I got 2, yes 2, Christian psychiatrists who believed in me. That was a miracle in it self to find 2 Christians in that profession in Massachusetts. The sate had a lot of evidence on their side, yet the judge sided with me.”
Days after being released, Nathaniel saw a 7 year old boy sitting in a parked car. He forced his way into the car and tried to smother the child by sitting on him. The boy's mother showed up in the nick of time and he fled the scene. He was quickly arrested and claimed he was trying to get out of the rain and accidentally got in the wrong car. He later admitted that he was trying to kill the young boy and he was sentenced to probation in Montana. After the arrest, the Massachusetts court failed to follow up with the Montana probation officers. In fact, Nathaniel wasn't even required to register as a sex offender in Montana even though he was on probation. Megan's law was still being debated nationally and President Bill Clinton hadn't signed yet. It was just months away from going into effect. At this time, sex offenders weren't required to register with the police, they were not part of an evaluation system, and their overall risk of re-offending wasn't being assessed.
In 1993, a few days before Christmas, Nathaniel was in hot water again. An 8-year-old boy was being babysat by him and he molested him. There wasn't much evidence and Nathaniel denied everything. He did tell the detective that if he did do what he was accused of, he would have killed the boy. The case was eventually dropped three years later when Nathaniel's attorney filed a motion arguing that his client's right to a speedy trial was violated.
In 1996, 10 year old Zachary Ramsay disappeared on his way to school. He left his apartment around 7:34 AM on February 6th. He walked his normal route through an alley near 4th street. He had a blue denim jacket with green sleeves, a blue football jersey with his last on the back in gold letters, stonewashed jeans, and black high top sneakers. A family that lived in an apartment in the alley did see Zach passing through that morning. They also saw an off-white, four door car almost run the boy over. Another witness saw Zach standing in the alley as if he was waiting for someone. Awitness who lived at the end of the alley saw Zach looking distressed and there was a heavy set man following a few feet behind him, this was around 7:45 AM. Nathaniel had been spotted in the alley as early as 7:15AM. He was wearing a navy blue police like jacket. There were several sightings of Zach in the alley, but he disappeared somewhere between where the alley cuts into 6th street and comes out at 7th street. When Zach didn't show up for school, his parents were contacted and they filed a missing person report, but the case went cold quickly. Zach was legally declared dead by a judge in 2011.
Investigations years later show that at this time, Nathaniel did have access to his mother's off-white, four door 1978 Toyota Corolla. His mother and brother were out of town for a funeral on the day Zach went missing and Nathaniel missed work on this day and the next few days after as well. His former roommate says he found clothes in the apartment that matched the description of the clothing Zach wore on the day he disappeared and the roommate also says they found bloody gloves.
Early in the investigation, there was a pretty strong lead in Zachary's case. A truck driver, who was a convicted sex offender, was talking about him to customs agents at the Montana-Canadian border. The customs agent contacted authorities right away and the driver was detained. The FBI searched the semi, and took samples of the carpet fiber and other materials from inside the vehicle. The truck driver ended up confessing to kidnapping Zachary, but this turned out to be a lie. The evidence taken from the semi was tested and didn't have any link to Zach's disappearance. Also, it was discovered that the truck had broken down and was being repaired about 150 miles from Great Falls on the morning that Zach disappeared.
On the morning of December 13th, 1999, a police officer was driving to work and he saw Nathaniel walking a few blocks from an elementary school. He was arrested for impersonating an officer.
Two days later, police went to Nathaniel's apartment and seized multiple items including: a blue police coat, a silver toy revolver, a silver badge, a Stunmaster stun gun, a ball cap with the logo “security enforcement”, two disposable cameras, two albums with cutouts of children, one coat with a badge in the pocket, and numerous photos and negatives.
Police found thousands of photos of children and some newspaper clippings of Zach's disappearance. There was also a set of coded writings along with a list of 54 names that included victims from Nathaniel's previous convictions in Massachusetts, Zachary Ramsay was listed, and two children who lived in the apartment directly above him. Police say that 27 of the names on the list were children that Nathaniel grew up with in the town of Webster. There's evidence that he traveled to Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Washington. Police also have evidence that he crossed the border into Canada several times as well. This of course, makes it very difficult, but the FBI has been working with authorities to review missing children reports. They also found a machine that was used for auto-erotic asphyxiation and they found a human bone under the garage that belongs to an unidentified child.
The FBI did look at the coded writings and they were able to crack it. The writings detailed the torture and murder of several boys......there was something else too....a recipe for cooking flesh. A meat grinder was found at the house and it did contain human hair. Nathaniel had several recipes written down, including: Little boy stew, Little boy pot pie, and Barbecue bee sum young guy. Police also found a note that said “lunch is served on the patio with roasted child.”
Detectives decided they should examine the sewer pipes beneath the house, but the current owner said the pipes were replaced after Nathaniel moved out because they were always getting clogged. Witnesses say he often had cookouts for his mother, neighbors, and friends. After Zachary's disappearance, Nathaniel had people over to the house and he served spaghetti with meat sauce, casseroles, meat pies, and charbroiled deer burgers. The people that attended the party did tell police that the meat tasted pretty strange. Some guests asked Nathaniel what the meat was and he said he had just gone hunting and shot a deer. Police looked through Nathaniel's records and determined he hadn't purchased anything significant at a grocery store for nearly a month after Zach had disappeared. Perhaps, he had plenty of meat on hand and didn't need to go to the store? Or it could mean something awful.
During the timeframe of Zach's disappearance, Nathaniel had been working part-time in the kitchen at Malmstrom Air Force Base and also at Hardee's in downtown Great Falls. There hasn't been evidence to prove this, but many people believe that Nathaniel used these jobs to get rid of evidence by feeding human meat to customers. Detectives did obtain statements from people that were close to him and they said he talked about the Zachary Ramsay case pretty obsessively. He allegedly made statements that Zach's body wouldn't be found because it had been chopped up and strewn about at a variety of locations. While the city was going crazy about the cannibalism rumors they were hearing, Nathaniel allegedly told Zach's mother that he hunted, killed, butchered, and wrapped the meat of her son.
Detectives began working through the list of names that they found at Nathaniel's. Two of the names belonged to young boys that lived in the apartment right above his. The boys both had stories of being sexually abused by Nathaniel and photos of them had also been discovered. Detectives also learned that Nathaniel was involved with Christian fellowship youth groups at a few local churches and that's how he had access to some of his victims. Zach actually attended one of the churches and police believed that's how he may have met him.
On July 5th, 2000, Nathaniel was charged with three counts of sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of assault with a weapon. The trial had many curve balls and lawyers accused the police of coercing statements from the children involved. One of the oldest boys who was a teenager at the time of the trial, acknowledged under questioning that he had gone to visit Nathaniel while he was in jail. He also admitted to writing him a letter where he basically thanked him for being a good friend. A portion of the letter was read and it says, “you treated me really nice. You have never harmed me in any way. I really miss you, big guy. You were like the dad I never had.”
An FBI expert testified that the boys were all telling the truth about the allegations of sexual abuse. Testimony was provided that Nathaniel placed a rope around the neck of one of the boys and hung him from the pulley in the ceiling of his kitchen and details of erotic asphyxia were provided. Other boys said they had sleep overs at Nathaniel's place and he would touch them sexually. He spent months talking to children, grooming them, and gaining their trust and friendship. Then, he would abuse them.
At the trial, numerous victims came forward, but Zach's mom refused to believe that her son was dead. Apparently, she saw a videotape of a child that she believed was her son. The video was supposedly taken at a military base in Italy. Police were able to prove that the boy on the tape wasn't Zachary, but his mom wanted to believe he was alive. She visited a phsycic who confirmed her beliefs. The police did present a note from Nathaniel that said “Zach Ramsay: Dead”, but the murder charges were dropped. Zach's mother said she would testify in court that she didn't believe Nathaniel had anything to do with Zach's disappearance if she had to. She said, “I do not want Bar-Jonah to be convicted of a crime that I do not believe he did.” He was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault and sexual assault of three boys. Nathaniel received 130 years, without the possibility of parole. He died on April 13th, 2008 at age 51 and was never convicted of a murder.