Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

Massachusetts Background

Nathaniel Bar-Jonah mug shot from Massachusetts
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah mug shot from Massachusetts

In compiling background information, the detectives in Great Falls learned that Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had been born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 15, 1957, as David P. Brown, the youngest of four siblings. While attending first grade in Webster, Massachusetts, between the age of five and six, Brown had what is believed to have been his first run-in with authority when he allegedly choked a female classmate without warning.

In 1973, at age 15, Brown cut letters and words out of magazines and composed a note that he used to attempt to entice two young boys from Webster to a cemetery, offering them $20 and a surprise. In that case, the mother of the two boys declined to press charges against Brown. She felt it would be best if he received psychiatric help, and felt that he wouldn't receive it through the criminal justice system.

Bar-Jonah, as David Brown, apparently had his first direct encounter with law enforcement when, at age 18 and also in Webster, he dressed up as a police officer and nabbed an eight-year-old who was on his way to school. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery and was sentenced to a year on probation.

Two years later, on September 23, 1977, at age 20, Brown again disguised himself as a police officer and enticed two young boys into his car near a movie theater in Shrewsbury. Once he had them in his clutches, he handcuffed them and drove them to a tent he had pitched in a wooded area. After ordering the boys to take off their clothes, he began strangling them. One of the boys, however, was able to escape and called the police. Armed with a description of Brown and his car, the police arrested him following a short chase along one of the state's less-traveled highways. When they opened the trunk, they found the other boy, still handcuffed. Thankfully, he was alive.

Three months later, Brown pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping charges stemming from the September 23 incident. Although he was sentenced to 18-20 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Walpole, a maximum security prison, he was later transferred to a medium security prison at Concord. On June 5, 1979, he was sent for observation to a state-operated treatment center for sexually dangerous offenders in Bridgewater, in part because of sexual fantasies that he had shared with a prison psychologist. At the conclusion of the observation period, he was sentenced to an indefinite term at Bridgewater.

According to one of the therapists at Bridgewater, "Brown's sexual fantasies, bizarre in nature, outline methods of torture extend... to dissection and cannibalism" and "express a curiosity about the taste of human flesh." Brown also reportedly told one of the doctors at Bridgewater that his interest in torture had been present for a long time and that the violent fantasies that he entertained were his main source of sexual stimulation.