Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

A Detective Enters the Case

The Great Falls Police Department
The Great Falls Police Department

Detective Bill Bellusci, at that time in his late-30s and an 18-year veteran of the Great Falls Police Department, was assigned as the lead investigator in Zachary Ramsay's disappearance. The assignment brought back vivid memories for Bellusci who, eight years earlier, and worked the case of the disappearance and murder of nine-year-old Dolana Clark. Dolana, who left home on her bicycle, was not seen or heard from again until her body was found two years later in the Little Belt Mountains, southeast of Great Falls in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Bellusci, who had investigated a number of cases involving sex offenders over the years, hoped that Zachary's case would turn out differently, but his gut feelings told him otherwise from the investigation's outset.

The local FBI office was notified of Zachary's disappearance, and Special Agent James Wilson, stationed at the Great Falls FBI office since 1992, was assigned to provide assistance to the local police. Since 1996, the FBI was brought in anytime it was suspected that a child had been abducted, even if the crime wasn't obviously an interstate issue. Bellusci, a bespectacled man with dark hair, a receding hairline and a full mustache, had an idea about who might have snatched Zach off the street almost immediately, and he and Special Agent Wilson began pursuing it.

Something had been indeed very wrong in Great Falls before February 6, 1996, a horror that began with the arrival barely five years earlier of a man who called himself Nathaniel Bar-Jonah. From the first day that Zachary Ramsay went missing, Bellusci was convinced that he knew who was responsible for the child's disappearance. Although the state police, the agency responsible for registering and keeping tabs on sex offenders, had provided Bellusci with a list of ten known sex offenders living in Zach's neighborhood, Bellusci's gut feeling told him that the person who had nabbed Zachary was not on that list. Instead, Bellusci added an 11th name to the list, that of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah. Bar Jonah, 38-years-old at the time of Zachary's disappearance, had a disturbingly long history of kidnapping and choking young boys, and the possibility of young Zach falling victim to Bar-Jonah brought back chilling memories for Bellusci. Of course, Bellusci also had to consider Zach's mother as a suspect — relatives are always suspects in such cases until they can be ruled out.

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