Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

Little Boy Stew

Bar-Jonah jailhouse recipe
Bar-Jonah jailhouse recipe

Among some of the other items seized from Bar-Jonah's residence during the execution of the search warrants were encrypted letters, presumably composed by Bar-Jonah, describing such sick and twisted culinary dishes as "little boy stew," and "little boy pot pie," and the phrases, "lunch is served on the patio with roasted child" and "Barbecue bee sum young guy." The coded messages referenced what police believed were cannibalistic recipes, and talked about dishes that he had cooked and served to neighbors.

The police also revealed that they had seized a large section of plywood from Bar-Jonah's residence during one of their searches. The plywood had a large smear across it, wide and indelible, and there was evidence that it had been scrubbed repeatedly with bleach. It was also determined that the plywood had been struck numerous times with a sharp object of some kind. Many people wondered whether the plywood had been used as a cutting board. They had also seized a meat grinder that had hair inside it. During a search at one of his previous residences in Great Falls, police dug up portions of the garage and sifted through nearly two tons of dirt in which they found 21 fragments of human bones. Although it was eventually determined that the bones were those of a child, a boy believed to be between the ages of eight and 13, DNA analysis showed that the bones were not those of Zachary Ramsay.

Another Bar-Jonah jailhouse recipe
Another Bar-Jonah jailhouse recipe

When the detectives decided that they wanted to examine the sewer pipes beneath the house in which Bar-Jonah had previously resided, they were told by the owner that the pipes had all been replaced after Bar-Jonah moved out because they were always getting clogged.

At one point during their investigation, police uncovered witnesses who claimed that Bar-Jonah had held cookouts for his mother, neighbors and friends after Zachary Ramsay's disappearance but prior to him becoming a suspect in the case. He served up spaghetti with meat sauce, casseroles, meat pies, and charbroiled "deer burgers" to his guests. Police alleged that the source of the meat he had used in his dishes had been Zachary Ramsay. Bar-Jonah's diners later told the police that they thought the meat he had served them tasted strange. His guests told the police that when they had asked Bar-Jonah why the meat tasted strange, he reportedly told them that he had gone hunting and had shot a deer.

Garage near Bar-Jonah residence
Garage near Bar-Jonah residence

An analysis of his shopping habits through study of his financial records indicated that he had not purchased anything significant at a grocery store for nearly a month after Zach disappeared. Did that mean something? No one knew for certain. He could have had plenty of meat and food on hand and hadn't needed to go to the store, or he could have gone shopping in that timeframe and simply paid cash for his purchases.

At varying times during the timeframe of Zach's disappearance, Bar-Jonah had held a part-time job in the kitchen at Malmstrom Air Force Base and another at a Hardee's fast-food restaurant in downtown Great Falls. Speculation ran high that he could have used his position at these two jobs to further get rid of evidence by feeding it to unsuspecting servicemen and women on the military base and to hungry customers at the fast-food restaurant, but there was never sufficient evidence to prove it.

Great Falls Hardee's where Bar-Jonah worked
Great Falls Hardee's where Bar-Jonah worked

If the implications that Bar-Jonah's "menu" items were made with the meat of a young boy as one of the primary ingredients were not enough, the detectives obtained statements from people who were close to Bar-Jonah indicating that he had talked considerably about Zachary Ramsay's disappearance. He had allegedly made statements that Zach's body would never be found because it had been "chopped up" and strewn about at a variety of locations. The investigators also found witnesses who would be willing to testify that they had seen a bag filled with soiled clothing of the size that would fit a young boy inside Bar-Jonah's apartment, as well as a pair of gloves that appeared to be stained with blood.

For reasons known only to Bar-Jonah, the burly suspect in Zachary Ramsay's disappearance saw fit at one point during this period, amid all of the city's buzz about the alleged cannibalism being attributed to him, to allegedly taunt Zach's mother by telling her that he had "hunted, killed, butchered and wrapped the meat" of her son.

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