Cannibalism Charges Stun Montana Town

BySusan Gallagher

G R E A T  F A L L S, Montana, Dec. 21, 2000 -- It was no secret here that policesuspected Nathaniel Bar-Jonah in young Zachary Ramsay’sdisappearance four years ago. But the grisly details ofinvestigators’ suspicions that emerged this week left the communitysickened.

According to prosecutors, the former mental patient with ahistory of assaulting children kidnapped the 10-year-old, rapedhim, then butchered the boy and fed his remains to unsuspectingneighbors.

Bar-Jonah, in letters this month to a Montana newspaper, deniedany involvement in Zachary’s 1996 disappearance. He did not enterpleas to murder and kidnapping charges during a hearing Wednesdayand was ordered held on $500,000 bond.

Bar-Jonah’s court-appointed lawyer, Larry LaFountain, said hewould not comment on the case.

Cascade County Attorney Brant Light said Bar-Jonah left behindencrypted notes deciphered by FBI agents. In them, prosecutors say,Bar-Jonah talked about “little boy stew,” “little boy pot pies”and lunch “served on the patio with roasted child.”

Neighbors and acquaintances told police Bar-Jonah served themmeals that contained peculiar-tasting meat that he bragged ofkilling and butchering himself, investigators said.

A Community in Fear

Residents of this wind-swept city of 56,000, a hub of Montana’sprime wheat-growing region and home to Malmstrom Air Force Base,were shaken by the allegations.

“A friend said this stuff doesn’t happen in Great Falls,” saidLaura Detrick, who lives across the street from the dilapidatedapartment building where Zachary lived. “Well, I guess maybe itdoes. Nobody is exempt.”

Detrick still refuses to let her children walk the shortdistance to elementary school alone. Even with a suspect behindbars, “I haven’t loosened the reins at all.”

Bar-Jonah’s history of violence against children dates backdecades.

A History of Arrests

The Great Falls Tribune reported Wednesday that he received ayear of probation in 1975 after pleading guilty to choking an8-year-old boy in Webster, Mass. Authorities said Bar-Jonah, posingas a police officer, picked the boy up on his way to school.

Two years later, again dressed as a police officer, Bar-Jonahpicked up two boys, ages 13 and 14, and tried to choke the olderboy near Charlton, Mass. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping andattempted murder, serving less than two years in prison beforebeing transferred to a mental hospital.

He spent nearly 11 years there before being released in 1991.

Days later, the Tribune reported, Bar-Jonah was arrested againfor assaulting a 7-year-old boy in Oxford, Mass. He was given twoyears of probation and moved to Great Falls.

He has been jailed here for the past year after being stoppednear an elementary school. Police said he was carrying a badge, atoy gun and a stun gun.

He also faces charges of sexually assaulting boys and danglingone from a ceiling with a rope. Bone fragments found in his homeare those of a child but DNA tests proved they were not Zachary’s.Their identity is still a mystery.

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