Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

From Brown to Bar-Jonah

Nathaniel Bar-Jonah
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

The Great Falls investigators learned that sometime around 1988 or 1989 that Brown began using the name Bar-Jonah. In fact, he began calling himself Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah, but later shortened the name to Nathaniel Bar-Jonah in most instances of its use. He apparently told friends and relatives that he had adopted the Jewish name because he wanted to know what it felt like to be persecuted and discriminated against. It was also at about that time that he began petitioning for his release from Bridgewater. His requests were initially turned down because his psychiatric evaluations noted his "violent fantasy life, as well as his risk to the community."

Approximately two years later Bar-Jonah, along with two psychologists that had evaluated him, won a hearing before Suffolk Superior Court Judge Walter E. Steele. After the two psychologists testified that Bar-Jonah was no longer a threat to society, Steele ordered him released on February 12, 1991. Administrative and other issues prevented Bar-Jonah's release until July of that year. He would later offer public praise to the two psychologists that helped win his release.

"I've seen God take a hopeless situation like when all avenues were closed. It seemed...I'd never, ever be released," Bar-Jonah later wrote in a letter that he sent to a newspaper. "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 two, yes two, Christian psychiatrists who believed in me. That was a miracle in it self [sic] to find two Christians in that profession in Massachusetts. The state had a lot of evidence on their side, yet the judge sided with me."

However, he was unable to stay out of trouble for long. Barely a month later, Bar-Jonah climbed into a car parked at a post office in Oxford and sat on the seven-year-old boy that was waiting in the front seat for his mother to return. Although the boy screamed for help, his cries were barely audible because of the big man sitting on top of him. When the boy's mother returned to the car, Bar-Jonah ran away. He made it to his home and changed his clothes in an apparent attempt at altering his appearance, but it was futile. Too many people had seen him running home. Based on his description and statements from witnesses, he was arrested later that day. He told the police that he had climbed into the car to get out of the rain, and that he was planning to ask to be driven home when the driver returned to the vehicle.

Two weeks later, in a decision that would later outrage the citizens of Great Falls, Montana, the Worcester County District Attorney allowed Bar-Jonah to plead guilty to assault and battery as part of a deal in which he would be sentenced to two-years' probation on the condition that he agreed to relocate to Great Falls, Montana, where he would live with his mother. Within two years of his arrival in Montana, on December 18, 1993, Bar-Jonah was charged for allegedly molesting the eight-year-old boy in the case initially handled by Detective Bill Bellusci.