Culled from hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Bar Jonah as well as dozens of others who either knew or were involved with him, Dr. Espy retells the suspected serial killer’s entire life—from the time before he was conceived to after his death—and those who were harmed by him in unparalleled detail and scope. Here is an exclusive excerpt from Eat the Evidence (Book One of the Bar Jonah Trilogy) by John E. Espy, Ph.D.:
There was something about the suppleness of a youthful neck that Bar Jonah never lost his taste for, even with the bigger boys, whose thick neck veins would pop out when they began to realize what was happening to them. And those suddenly startled eyes. It was, he said, the closest thing he had ever known to the sensual. Even more than eating. Those first moments of wrapping his egg-shaped fingers around the throat of a child. The feeling of a neck beginning to give way in his hands. His fingers so strong, the neck so breakable. Then, he would lose control. The brutal jarring and his guttural grunting as he violently threw their heads back and forth seemed to be what his victims remembered most. There were some that would also remember his smell.
Bar Jonah liked to break his victims. To create a fissure in their being that would last a lifetime so that when the thin-membrane scar of the crevasse was ruptured, the hydra would re-emerge and consume them once again from the inside out. At least with one victim however, he not only broke him, he also ate him.
He graduated to ropes and tape as he continued to refine his ways. It was less work, he would say. The older he got, the lazier he became, preferring that his victims came to him. Bar Jonah believed that he was a partisan of God, one who was set forth on a campaign to punish those children who enticed good men to commit evil. He was precocious in his savagery, beginning early in his youth to condition his hands to the feel of a child’s neck.
It would eventually become known as a place of peace. Until then, many battles between warring Indian factions were waged along the banks of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. It is rumored that there are many skulls buried in the lakebed. There are some who think that Bar Jonah may have tossed a few skulls into the great lake too.
Even at a young age, Bar Jonah could rhythmically recite the entire name of “Lake Char-gogg/a-gogg/man-chaugg/a-gogg/chau-bun/agun/ga-maugg” without taking a breath or missing a syllable. Most of the locals just call it Lake Webster. The lake was but a short walk from where Bar Jonah spent his early years. Webster, Massachusetts was not unlike most New England towns in the 1950s: tidy neighborhoods, morning coffee klatches where housewives got together and gossiped about the neighbor who couldn’t make it that day, backyard cook-outs, and silent butlers filled with the burnt-out ends of smoky days. The husbands worked mainly in factories or construction and did projects in their garages on the weekends. Old growth trees shaded the streets and friendly competition among neighbors was an expected way of life. Resentment-laden questions wrapped in a cheerful mistrust abounded for the neighbors who had the money to afford a new car every year.
The Phillip and Tyra Brown family lived in a gabled, white frame house in Bonnett Acres, around a slight bend in the road. There was a driveway on the right side and a tall, white slat fence around the back yard that bordered the steep hill behind the house. If you went high enough over the hill, you could fall off the other side right down into Lake Webster. In the back of the house was the garage. Phillip’s tools took up a lot of room, so there really wasn’t any place to put the car. He had a well-pounded workbench in the back and quarter-inch plywood nailed to the 2×4 girders with ten-penny nails. Phillip’s hammers, screwdrivers, channel-lock pliers, dikes, and wrenches fit just right into the wire loops that he had fashioned from bent coat-hangers. When he got some more money, he always said he was going to hang some gypsum lath too.
Beside the driveway were tall hedges that gave the Browns some sense of privacy. On the other side, lawns intersected so the question always came up about whose yard belonged to whom. The DuPonts lived right next door to the Browns. Phillip constantly complained about how trashy their yard was and how their seven boys ran wild throughout the neighborhood. It wasn’t long after old man DuPont put in a swimming pool that Phillip insisted on having one too. But the DuPonts never kept their pool up. Phillip was constantly leaning over the hedge and yelling at old man DuPont to clean up the damn thick green water that was stinkin’ up his back yard.
If you went out the Browns’ front door and walked across the street, you would walk right smack dab into Connecticut. The state line ran straight down the middle of the road. All the kids thought it was pretty funny and would play a game jumping from one state to the other.
Turning right out the Browns’ door and walking about a hundred yards up a little hill would take you to the woods. Scoot your feet down a little embankment and you could take a dip in that part of the lake. Sitting along the bank, imagining they were part of the polished Chris Craft promenade, was what every man on the street dreamed about. It was a declaration to all that you had made it. Phillip Brown had no boat.
The blessed event
At age forty-one, Tyra Brown started bleeding and expelled a zygotish looking thing, thinking she must have miscarried. A few weeks later, Tyra went to her doctor and said she was still feeling like she did when she was pregnant with her other two kids, even though she thought she had lost the baby.
In those days, pregnancy was determined by doing what became known as the rabbit test. When a woman is pregnant, she excretes a hormone in the urine called human chlorionic gonadotropin. A urine sample was taken and injected into the nape of the neck of a New Zealand white rabbit. A few days later, the rabbit’s neck was broken, its abdomen cut open and its fallopian tubes examined. If the fallopian tubes were puffy and swollen, the woman was pregnant. Even though all the rabbits died as part of the test, it became a cliché to say “the rabbit died,” meaning, you’re pregnant. In Tyra’s case, the rabbit died. She was still pregnant.
At the end of Tyra’s first trimester, another driver slammed into the back of her car while she was sitting at a red light. She had to be in a neck brace the last six months of her pregnancy. Tyra said she didn’t know if there was any damage to the fetus but her doctor assured her everything was okay. The doctor told Tyra he could hear a strong heartbeat when he put the cold bell of the double-tube stethoscope to her swelling belly. Around the end of the fifth month, Tyra was concerned because the baby wasn’t moving much. Her other kids had moved around a lot more. Every baby was different, her doctor said.
In the early morning hours of February 15, 1957, at Fairlawn Hospital in Wooster, Massachusetts, 8.5 pound David Paul Brown, who on March 22, 1984 changed his name to Nathaneal Benjamin Levi Bar Jonah, was born. Dr. Baker told Tyra the baby was twisted around a bit as he was coming down the birth canal. But once they got him turned around the right way, he came out “as smooth as a whistle.” There were no problems at birth, other than it took him a bit to start breathing. A few swats to his bottom and he pinked right up.