Twisted, violent sex offender Nathaniel Bar-Jonah liked young boys…
He was a known sex offender. He went to the same church as the child who’d disappeared. He matched the description of a man seen in the area that day in February 1996, when 10-year-old Zachary Ramsay vanished…
But that wasn’t enough to make an arrest. If they were to catch Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, police in Great Falls, Montana, would need something more concrete on their prime suspect.
Originally named David Brown, by 1996 Bar-Jonah had been out of prison for five years. He’d served 14 of an 18-to-20-year sentence for the kidnap and attempted murder of two young boys in 1977.
Dressed as a policeman, Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had lured the boys into his car. He’d driven them to a tent in a quiet wood, ordered them to undress – and tried to strangle them.
One of the boys escaped and the alarm was raised. Authorities acted quickly, Bar-Jonah was found and arrested, and the second boy saved.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had always been trouble. In 1964, aged 7, his mum caught him trying to strangle a 5-year-old neighbour.
At 15, he’d assaulted two small boys in a cemetery. The mum of the two victims hadn’t pressed charges, insisting instead Bar-Jonah got psychiatric help.
Now, though, it was 1996. Bar-Jonah had been released after psychiatric evaluation and settled in the small town of Great Falls, Montana.
Then, on 6 February, Zachary disappeared after setting off for school as normal. He never arrived and, straightaway, police suspected Nathaniel Bar-Jonah.
But the only evidence they had was circumstantial – his previous convictions, witness descriptions, the fact he may have seen Zachary at church…
It wasn’t enough.
Two years passed, then a policeman on his way to work spotted Bar-Jonah hanging around the gates of a primary school, dressed like an officer.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah was arrested, and charged with impersonating a police officer. Two cans of pepper spray, a toy gun and a fake police badge were found on him.
Police were granted a search warrant for Bar-Jonah’s flat.
And what they found was horrific – 3,500 indecent pictures of children and indecent pictures of Bar-Jonah, some of them with three local boys he’d intimidated, groomed. Luckily for those lads, he’d let them go.
Others weren’t so fortunate, because there was a notebook filled with many scrawled names – some belonged to Bar-Jonah’s known victims, some were children he’d grown up with.
One stood out from all the rest: Zachary Ramsay. Beside it in capital letters, the word DIED…
And there was something else. A collection of recipes created by Nathaniel Bar-Jonah…and all with a terrible ingredient.
Little boy stew. Little boy pot pie. Roasted child…
A meat grinder in the kitchen had human hair in it. And, in the garage, there were 21 fragments of human bones, which appeared to have been boiled, so no DNA could be taken.
Interviewing Nathaniel Bar-Jonah’s friends and neighbours, police learned that he’d hold regular barbecues and dinners.
Some of the guests had thought the meat Nathaniel Bar-Jonah served tasted a bit odd. He’d told them it was deer.
Now the police began to think the unthinkable. That Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had killed Zachary…and fed him to his neighbours.
Bank records showed Bar-Jonah hadn’t spent much on groceries for the month after Zachary vanished. Had he been eating human remains?
Police had all they needed to prosecute him for Zachary’s kidnap and murder.
But Zachary’s mum refused to believe her child was dead, vowed to testify as much in court.
‘She wanted to keep the faith her son was alive,’ a police spokesperson told journalists. ‘And she’ll keep the faith until we produce a body or DNA.’
Instead, Nathaniel Bar-Jonah stood trial for the aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and sexual assault of the three boys he’d photographed at his flat.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnap charges, 100 years for the sexual assault, and 20 years for the aggravated assault – 130 years in total.
No-one knows for sure how many children were molested, assaulted and even murdered by Nathaniel Bar-Jonah. Or just how many may have been cannibalised.
In 2011, little Zachary Ramsay was finally declared legally dead.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah died in 2008, aged 51. Obese and in poor health, he suffered a heart attack in his cell.
Before he died, he spoke to psychiatrists about his obsession with the taste of human flesh.
It’s an obsession few of us could ever understand – and one which made the man a monster.