Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism and the Strange Case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah

A Car in the Alley

Neighbors questioned by the officers who had gone door-to-door throughout the neighborhood along Zach's route to school were eager to help. One of the neighbors interviewed told the police that he had seen a man parked in the alley directly behind a house in the 400 block of Fifth Avenue North sometime between 7 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. The neighbor said that the man had been driving a small, off-white, four-door car.

Alley near Zach's house
Alley near Zach's house

Later, several members of a family who resided nearby told the police that they had seen Zach at about 7:30 a.m. when he walked down the alley behind Fifth Avenue North. One member of that family told the police that Zachary was nearly struck by an off-white, four-door vehicle as he came out of the alley and attempted to cross Fifth Street North (in Great Falls, streets run north and south and avenues run east and west). Another witness told the police that she had seen Zach walking down the same alley at about 7:30 a.m., leaving little doubt as to the route that the boy had taken to school that morning.

Yet another witness told the investigating officers that he had seen Zach at approximately 7:45 a.m. as he crossed Sixth Street North, and that a man had been following him. He said that the boy was crying, and that the man appeared to be upset. The witness provided a sketchy description of the man and, to the cops looking for the missing child, it now appeared that the vicinity of where the witness had seen the man following the boy was where Zach's trail ended. The problem with that scenario, however, was the timeframe — it does not take 15 minutes to walk from the alley behind Fifth Avenue North, where he was reported as having been seen at 7:30 a.m., to the location at Sixth Street North where he was seen at 7:45 a.m. Of course it was possible that the witnesses had been mistaken about the times that they had seen Zach, or it was possible that he had stopped to talk with the man in the car and that, possibly, had resulted in Zach crying. Zachary's friends were waiting for him to arrive that morning before school started, but none of them had a clue to Zach's whereabouts when the bell rang at 8:15 a.m.

A Great Falls lithography shop printed up hundreds of posters with Zach's photo and a description of what he was wearing when he left for school that morning. The local newspaper, The Great Falls Tribune, ran photos of the missing boy and articles about his disappearance the next day, marking only the beginning of what would become extensive coverage by that newspaper and other media sources. Later, service men and women from nearby Malmstrom Air Force Base volunteered on a number of occasions to search for Zach, to no avail.

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