Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

Another Detective Enters the Case

Because of the growing concern over the photos of Bar-Jonah and the young boys, Great Falls Police Sergeant John Cameron was assigned to assist in the investigation. Cameron, who had extensive experience and specialized training in cases involving sexual abuse, particularly in the area of interviewing victims, carefully examined all of the evidence that had been seized from Bar-Jonah's apartment and prior residence. Of particular and immediate interest was the list of children's names written in Bar-Jonah's own handwriting. Cameron and FBI agent James Wilson worked together analyzing the list, and were eventually able to determine that two of the names on it were of male children who lived in the apartment directly above Bar-Jonah's. Cameron made contact with those children, and he recognized that the boys' photographs had been taken with disposable cameras that had been obtained during the searches of Bar-Jonah's apartment. There were photos of the two boys inside his apartment, on his couch, and on his bed, and were from a roll of film that also depicted Bar-Jonah lying on his bed, nude, displaying his penis in various stages of erection. Naturally, Cameron and everyone else associated with the case were immediately concerned that the boys had been victimized by Bar-Jonah.

Cameron didn't waste any time. With Wilson present, he immediately contacted the boys who lived upstairs and interviewed them. One of the boys, who was 14-years-old at the time, confirmed that Bar-Jonah had indeed sexually abused him. He also provided information indicating that Bar-Jonah had also sexually abused his cousin, a fact that Cameron and Wilson confirmed a short time later upon interviewing the cousin.

During the course of his investigation Cameron learned that Bar-Jonah, a white man who had assumed the persona of a Jew, had been involved with Christian fellowship youth groups at a couple of local churches. He had purportedly met some of his alleged victims at these churches, according to published reports and court documents. Because he and Zach had attended one of the same churches, police believed that he had met the child at one of the fellowship groups.

On July 5, 2000, as a result of Cameron and Wilson's work on the case, Bar-Jonah was charged with three counts of sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of assault with a weapon. He was held at the Cascade County Jail in Great Falls. Bar-Jonah pleaded innocent to all of the charges.

Cascade County Jail in Great Falls
Cascade County Jail in Great Falls

Meanwhile, Cameron and his colleagues decided that it would be prudent to search for possible victims of Bar-Jonah's in Canada, noting that Great Falls is not a great distance from the border of the U.S. and Canada.

"We can put him crossing the border several times and we are working that angle," Cameron said. "Alberta and Saskatchewan are the two places I think we were able to place him in, sometime in the mid-90s." However, despite their efforts to find a solid Canadian connection to Bar-Jonah, the detectives came up empty-handed.

"This case has really shaken people to their core," said Great Falls Police Chief Robert G. Jones. "It is going to take a long time for things to return to normal."

Jones' assessment seemed reasonable given the fact that much of Bar-Jonah's life was devoted to a sordid fascination with torture, dissection, and the consumption of human flesh. What made it all the worse was that children were always involved.