A former photographer was convicted Tuesday of murdering four young California women decades ago after a two-month trial in which prosecutors called him a remorseless serial killer who preyed on young prostitutes.
Jurors deliberated for about eight hours over two days in Marin County Superior Court before finding Joseph Naso, 79, guilty of slaying the four women with alliterative names: Roxene Roggasch in 1977, Carmen Colon in 1978, Pamela Parsons in 1993 and Tracy Tafoya in 1994.
The so-called Double Initial Murderer, so named because his victims’ first and last names all began with the same letter, did not visibly react when his damning verdict was read.
All the victims were found dumped in rural Northern California locations. Roggasch’s body was found in Marin County and was the reason Naso’s trial was held in the historical Marin Civic Center designed by noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Colon was found in Contra Costa County and the other two victims in Yuba County.
Naso was arrested in 2010 after probation officers visiting his Reno, Nev., home in connection with an unrelated gun conviction discovered numerous photographs of nude women posed in unnatural positions who appeared dead or unconscious with mannequin parts and lingerie strewn about nearby.
According to KNTV, he told the cops it was his art
Graphic entries from Naso’s journal that detailed how the killer stalked and raped his victims were read in court during the closing arguments.
Naso wrote descriptions of rapes and sexual assaults in the journal as far back as the 1950’s, Marin County prosecutor Rosemary Slote said as she read from the journal’s pages.
Naso drugged and photographed his unconscious victims then strangled them and disposed of their naked bodies.
In entry after entry, Naso wrote how he would stalk and approach a woman, offer her a ride home and then ‘put it to her’, often in his car.
One read: ‘Girl in north Buffalo woods. She was real pretty. Had to knock her out first.’
Investigators said they also found a ‘List of 10’ that Naso had scrawled with descriptions of 10 women, including references prosecutors believe described the four victims he was charged with killing.
Investigators believe Naso could be responsible for as many as six more murders and authorities are exploring Naso’s connections to several unsolved murders.
The six additional women on the list have not been identified, but authorities continue to investigate any possible connections to Naso.
Acting as His Own Attorney
Naso acted as his own attorney and told jurors during his closing arguments that he often hired prostitutes to photograph in exotic poses and enjoyed off-beat art.
But as he smiled, always wearing a suit and tie, he insisted he was no killer.
Nonetheless, the balding Naso, who often seemed befuddled and repeated himself during his rambling closing arguments, struggled to explain away some of the most persuasive evidence against him.
Naso’s DNA was found on the pantyhose Roggasch was wearing when her body was found. His ex-wife’s DNA was found on pantyhose wrapped around Roggasch’s neck.
Naso told the jury that the evidence only showed he had had sex with Roggasch. He said there was no proof that he killed her and that prosecutors had no way of knowing who put the pantyhose around her neck.
Legal analysts said that Naso made a mistake representing himself, even if he boasted at one point that ‘I think I’m doing quite well’ during his closing arguments, which consumed all day Friday and half of Monday.
‘He’s bright,’ said attorney Brian Kanel, who watched some of the trial. ‘But not that bright.’
Another legal observer agreed
Steven Clark, a former prosecutor now in private practice, said a good defense attorney would have hired a DNA expert to at least try to throw some doubt on how the evidence was gathered, stored and processed to undermine the prosecution’s strongest argument.
‘The prosecution did have a challenging case because it happened so long ago,’ Clark said. ‘Why Mr. Naso chose to focus on the things he focused on is beyond me. I’m not sure what his plan was.’
Even if Naso is sentenced to death, it is unlikely he will be executed. There are 725 inmates already on California’s Death Row and executions have been on hold since 2006, when a federal judge ordered an overhaul of California’s execution protocol. It will take at least another year for prison officials to properly adopt the state’s new single-drug execution method and have it cleared by the judge.
During his trial, he showed the jury dozens of photographs he took of weddings, landscapes and family members along with what he called ‘glamour’ or ‘cheesecake’ photographs of nude women. He said he never forced any of them to do anything.
Prosecutors, however, claimed he kept a list of his victims and mementos of his crimes.
Closing arguments were delayed briefly as the court investigated a truck bearing the words ‘Joseph Naso killed my sister’ that was parked in the jury lot.
A district attorney’s inspector and Naso’s private detective looked into the matter and concluded no contact was made with jurors.
JOURNAL ENTRIES REVEAL GRUESOME INSIGHT INTO THE MIND OF SERIAL KILLER JOSEPH NASO
Graphic diary entries that detail how Naso stalked and raped his victims were read out in court during the closing arguments of his trial.
Naso, 79, wrote descriptions of rapes and sexual assaults in the journal as far back as the 1950’s, Marin County prosecutor Rosemary Slote said as she read from the journal’s pages.
The lawyer said they contain accounts of Naso approaching women and offering them a ride home.
After a girl got into his car, Naso writes that he would ‘put it on her.’
Prosecutors found a ‘list of 10’ girls they say was a roster of the serial killer’s victims.
The victims coincided with locations, including Cleveland, Kansas City, Buffalo, Rochester, Wichita, Berkeley, and even London.
‘Outside the front door I overpowered her and ravaged her,’ read one entry set in London, the Marin Independent Journal reported. ‘I couldn’t help myself.’
Another read: ‘Girl in north Buffalo woods. She was real pretty. Had to knock her out first.’