Man charged in slayings of four women in Northern California; victims share alliteration of names
A Nevada man was charged Wednesday in Marin County with the slayings of four women from 1977 to 1994 in Northern California.
The victims: Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons, Roxene Roggasch and Tracy Tafoya had little in common except the alliteration of their names. That has cold-case investigators concerned that 77-year-old Joseph Naso may be responsible for other killings during his travels across the country as a professional photographer.
Evidence found last year by Nevada investigators at Naso's home in Reno and forensics tied him to the California slayings, authorities said.
"We think there are others out there we haven't discovered yet," said Chris Perry, acting director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety.
Naso's alleged slaying streak mirrors one in upstate New York, where three young girls lost their lives in the "Double Initial Murders" of a unknown killer four decades ago. One of those New York victims was also named Carmen Colon. "We expected the calls the moment the arrest became public," said Allan M. Dombroski, a senior investigator with the New York State Police.
Naso visited the Rochester area in 1960s and early 1970s and traveled back and forth to the West, Dombroski said. Investigators in New York have worked with a California-Nevada task force since January to determine whether Naso is connected to the crimes. The New York victims, whose bodies were dumped in Rochester, were raped and strangled.
But there are also reasons to doubt a connection. The victims in New York were children, while those in California were women. Also, a DNA sample in the New York slayings did not match Naso, Dombroski said. Still, investigators have not ruled out Naso as the Rochester killer.
Even without the New York connection, investigators who spent years painstakingly gathering information on the cold cases said they fear Naso, a New York state native, may be responsible for more slayings.
"When you are talking about a person who has killed more than once, this doesn't stop," Perry said.
Naso was arrested in South Lake Tahoe late Monday. He has been serving time in the El Dorado County Jail for a probation violation involving guns and ammunition. He was on probation in connection with a grocery store theft in 2009. It was a random search of his Reno home that alerted investigators in April 2010, authorities said.
A parole-and-probation officer saw .380-caliber ammunition in an ashtray and noticed an advertisement for a gun, authorities said. The agent then confirmed Naso tried to buy a gun and arrested him.
"During the arrest, the investigators found items by Mr. Naso that implicated him in multiple murders," said Marin County Dist. Atty. Edward S. Berberian Jr., who is to prosecute the four California killings.
Berberian said evidence from the home along with forensic analysis tied Naso to the killing of 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch, whose body was found in the Marin County city of Fairfax in 1977. Contra Costa County investigators then tied Naso to Carmen Colon's body, found about a year later near Port Costa, he said.
Yuba County authorities linked him to the killings of Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracy Tafoya, 31, in 1993 and 1994, respectively, officials said. At the time, Naso lived in the Yuba City area; he later moved to Nevada, officials said.
Naso is being held without bail. Investigators said they are continuing to reconstruct his whereabouts over the decades.
He was born in January 1934 in New York state and has also lived in Northern California and Nevada, according a time line distributed by investigators. He served in the Air Force from 1953 to 1957. His criminal history stretches back to the 1950s. Naso has been married once, in 1962, and was divorced 18 years later.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Undated booking photo showing Joseph Naso. Credit: Washoe County Sheriff's Office / Associated Press