Sunday, March 04, 2001

Case of Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah

Case of Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah
(AKA: David Paul Brown)

February 15, 1957 - April 13, 2008

Worcester, MA
Shrewsbury, MA

Convicted sex offender, who tortured children.  He was accused of a series of attacks on young boys, and he has been charged with murdering and cannibalizing 10-year-old Zachary X. Ramsay, whom authorities believe was abducted in 1996 as he walked to an elementary school in Great Falls, Mont. 

"Bar-Jonah changed his name from David Brown to Nathaniel Levi Bar-Jonah when he converted to Judaism.

Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah, born David Paul Brown, was a convicted felon and alleged cannibal who was serving a 130-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole in Montana after being convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault, and sexual assault of various children. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents:

  1. Path of a Predator Consistent problems were seen regarding Nathaniel Bar-Jonah during his treatment and after his release (03/04/2001)


  1. A Psychological Evaluation of the Serial Killer (Documentary) (06/22/2013)


Path of a Predator Consistent problems were seen regarding Nathaniel Bar-Jonah during his treatment and after his release 
By George B. Griffin 
Worcester Telegram & Gazette - March 4, 2001

The Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons, where David Paul Brown became Nathaniel Benjamin Levi Bar-Jonah, was never a place where inmates cared much about the feelings of the staff. 

The men incarcerated for psychological and psychiatric treatment at the Bridgewater facility were violent felons who had been committed because they had acted out their most bizarre and twisted sexual fantasies. 

They had raped, sodomized, tortured and murdered women, boys and girls. Some of the inmates made no secret of the fact that they would like to do the same to the female counselors and security officers 
who were being paid to help them or guard them. 

One inmate kept a "rape list," adding the names of counselors and officers to it as he met them inside. Because her name appeared in his writings, a female correction officer who lived alone obtained a 
license to carry firearms for self-defense after the man was released. 

Not long after, when that same inmate was caught lurking about the grounds and stalking women, a female psychotherapist complained to treatment center officers about lapses in security. 

The center was a place where rudeness and sexual offensiveness often were not far below the surface. 

So on the hot and humid Thursday of June 27, 1991, when Mr. Bar- 
Jonah walked out of the place he had called home for more than 11 years, his manner of saying goodbye was perhaps less than shocking to those who were present. 

He walked past a female Department of Correction sergeant and her male subordinate officers, unbuckled his belt, unzipped his fly,  dropped his trousers and mooned them. 

His mother, Tyra Brown, had driven to the center that day to pick up Mr. Bar-Jonah. 

An inmate who witnessed the incident recalled in a subsequent letter to a therapist that Mrs. Brown slapped her son, who seemed unconcerned by the rebuff. 

Within months of his release, Mr. Bar-Jonah would plead guilty to assaulting a boy in Oxford as his mother visited a post office, then move to Montana to serve two years of probation. 

Now, he stands accused of a series of attacks on young boys, and he has been charged with murdering and cannibalizing 10-year-old Zachary X. Ramsay, whom authorities believe was abducted in 1996 as he walked to an elementary school in Great Falls, Mont. 

The circumstances of Mr. Bar-Jonah's departure from Massachusetts, where he had posed as a police officer to commit crimes in Shrewsbury and other communities, have drawn considerable scrutiny in recent months. Prosecutors and others have raised questions as to whether Mr. Bar-Jonah slipped through the cracks of the Massachusetts judicial system only to become a predator in the West. 

An investigation by the Sunday Telegram provides little cause for comfort. 

Indeed, a range of interviews and the examination of thousands of pages of documents point to consistent problems with Mr. Bar-Jonah's actions during his treatment, as well as after it ended. 

By the time he was released, Mr. Bar-Jonah had been exposed to an extensive course of therapy at Bridgewater, to which he had been transferred from the state prison in Concord on Oct. 11, 1979, after Superior Court Judge John H. Meagher found him to be a "sexually dangerous person." 

That commitment came after Mr. Bar-Jonah had been convicted of kidnapping and attempted murder in connection with the 1977 abduction of two teen-age boys from the parking lot of the White City Cinemas  in Shrewsbury -- a crime that was part of a history of aberrant 
behavior that dated back to his early childhood. 

At the time of his conviction and commitment, Mr. Bar-Jonah, who grew up in Webster and Dudley, was still using his given name, David Paul Brown. 

The commitment to the treatment center was for a term of one day to life, and was based on the findings and recommendations of several mental health workers. But one recommendation in particular, that of A. Nicholas Groth, then a psychologist at the Harrington Memorial Hospital mental health clinic in Southbridge, carried special weight. 

In a letter dated Dec. 12, 1977, to Mr. Bar-Jonah's defense lawyer, Michael V. Caplette, Mr. Groth recommended that what Mr. Bar- Jonah really needed was not criminal incarceration, but psychiatric treatment. 

"Based on my experience in forensic mental health and having worked for over 10 years at the Center for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexually Dangerous Persons in Bridgewater, Mass., I would recommend this facility as the placement of choice for your client," Mr. Groth wrote. "The environment is a humane one and there is a decent program of psychiatric rehabilitation available there. Further the commitment is indefinite and, therefore, the risk of a person being returned to the community while still dangerous is reduced." 

Mr. Groth was forthright in saying that he had worked at the treatment center for many years. But he failed to mention in that letter, or to the court, so far as can be determined from existing records, that he had left the center in 1975 after a highly public rebuke by Dr. Harry L. Kozol. 

Dr. Kozol was the founder of the center and served as its first director. The programs initially used to treat sex offenders in Bridgewater had been developed by him in the 1950s, at the behest of the Legislature. 

Mr. Groth first worked at the center in 1966. But it was not until Dec. 31, 1975, that he received his first license to be a clinical psychologist in Massachusetts. 


The row between Dr. Kozol and Mr. Groth became public during testimony at the trial of publishing heiress Patricia Hearst, who had been kidnapped by, and then had become a member of, a terrorist gang calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. 

The gang was responsible for bank robberies, assaults and other criminal acts, including the extortion of at least $3 million from Ms. Hearst's father, William Randolph Hearst. 

Ms. Hearst had been arrested on Sept. 18, 1975, and the ensuing legal proceedings garnered worldwide attention. 

Dr. Kozol was called to testify as an expert witness at the trial of Ms. Hearst, who had claimed as a defense that she had been brainwashed into helping the SLA members commit their crimes. Mr. Groth was called to rebut Dr. Kozol's testimony. 

But the exchanges ventured into personal territory, as Mr. Groth, under questioning by F. Lee Bailey and other lawyers, conceded that Dr. Kozol had suspended him from the treatment center for cause. 

At issue, according to trial transcripts, was Mr. Groth's admission that he had taken an inmate out of the center to appear on an NBC-TV program called "Men Who Rape." 

The unauthorized trips by the inmate included a trip to a television studio in Massachusetts and a second trip to Arlington, Va., near Washington, D.C., where the inmate was allowed to remain overnight. 

Mr. Groth, while on the witness stand, admitted that he had taken the inmate out of Bridgewater against orders of the Executive Committee of the center's staff. 

Mr. Groth left the center in November 1975, but he would remain involved, albeit tangentially, in its work. Mr. Groth later founded Forensic Mental Health Associates, a consulting group that contracts to provide seminars and instructional materials on sexual abuse and forensic mental health to private and government agencies in Massachusetts and elsewhere. 

When Mr. Bar-Jonah arrived at the treatment center for sexually dangerous persons, it still was part of the old Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, an antiquated and sinister place that was starkly chronicled in Frederick Wiseman's landmark 1967 documentary film, "Titicut Follies." 

In 1986, a new building was opened on the hospital grounds and the population of more than 250 sexual predators, including Mr. Bar- Jonah, was relocated. 

One inmate who knew Mr. Bar-Jonah in both the old and new settings described how he kept to himself about his crimes. 

In a letter dated Dec. 20, 2000, and containing numerous grammatical mistakes, the inmate said that during therapy groups, Mr. Bar-Jonah would never admit to sexually assaulting a child. 

"All Nathaniel Bar-Jonah would own in group was that he would pull up alongside of a boy, flash his police badge, and told the child to get in his car," the inmate wrote. "And the child not knowing that he wasn't a real police officer would comply. Bar-Jonah said all he did once he got the boys was take them to a secluded area and pull their pants down. 

"He never once admitted to ever sexually assaulting any children in our group. Nor would he admit to molesting them, or wanting to sexually assault, or molest children, or anyone else. When he was asked of these things he remain silent with a smile on his face, or he would smile or grin, and chuckle, but never answer anything." 

Paula E. Erickson, a former psychotherapist at the treatment center who knew Mr. Bar-Jonah from 1986 until he was released in 1991, said in an interview that Mr. Bar-Jonah had been "repeatedly caught with pornography" that had been smuggled inside in laundry or food deliveries. 

A supervisory psychologist, Dr. Al Jurgela, who oversaw therapy on the unit and who has since died, concluded that Mr. Bar-Jonah was "untreatable," and had assigned him to a section of the center reserved for inmates who refused to participate in rehabilitation, Mrs. Erickson said. 

Mr. Bar-Jonah was housed alternately in the "D" and "C" units of the center. These units were the "back wards" that contained inmates who refused to participate in therapy and who were considered untreatable, Mrs. Erickson said. 

Two other treatment venues, the "A" and "B" units, housed offenders who were engaged in treatment and therapy programs and who had indicated a willingness to seek counseling and psychological help. 

"I was a team leader and I was intimately involved in figuring out the people who were to be put on my A and B units," Mrs. Erickson said. "The A and B units each had a treatment focus for people actively engaged, and the C and D units were back wards where we placed the fixated, regressed pedophiles considered to be the least- treatable of all sex offenders. ... That is where Bar-Jonah was." 

The men in the C and D units "simply collected down there and didn't engage in treatment," she said. "They weren't interested," she added, and Mr. Bar-Jonah "hung mainly with the church group." 

The inmates in that group refused to participate in therapy, saying they believed "Jesus was the treatment," Mrs. Erickson recalled. 

"Bar-Jonah is a fixated, regressed pedophile," she said. "There is no question about that." 

She said he displayed a range of outward behaviors. 

"He crept around like a little rat," Mrs. Erickson said. But he also had a capacity to joke and be affable, a capacity, Mrs. Erickson said, that could be disarming to naive children. 

"He could smile and laugh," she said. "He could be a Santa Claus or a clown." 

The inmate who knew Mr. Bar-Jonah, however, documented what he believed was a dark side that Mr. Bar-Jonah tried not to show. 

"Bar-Jonah changed his name from David Brown to Nathaniel Bar- Jonah when he converted to Judaism," the inmate wrote. "Group members were questioning why he converted to being Jewish and were questioning if he were attempting to escape what he did to these children, and questioned if the Jewish identity was a means to get a new ID nobody would know of, so if he ever got out he could continue on molesting and raping other children and be unknown to the community and law enforcement agencies." 

The inmate said that when the subject came up during group therapy, the psychologist who was running the group intervened. 

The psychologist "told us that there was nothing wrong with Nate wanting to be one of the `chosen people,' and he thought that was great," the inmate remembered. "Meanwhile, Bar-Jonah would sit there silent, and grin, or chuckle about it. I don't know if the federal or state police in Montana knew these things of Bar-Jonah or not, but I thought I'd share them with you. I thought it would be important to  know, where the FBI is checking in other states for more victims." 

A Psychological Evaluation of the Serial Killer (Documentary) 
Discovery - June 22, 2013

The case of Levi Bar-Jonah starts at about 28 minutes into the documentary below.


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