Prosecutors to seek death penalty against accused Alphabet

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 29, 2012 4:49 PM
Prosecutors to seek death penalty against accused Alphabet

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN RAFAEL, California (Reuters) - Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against "Alphabet Murders" suspect Joseph Naso, a judge revealed on Wednesday, but the accused serial killer, who pleaded not guilty, insisted on continuing to act as his own attorney.

Naso, 78, a former photographer, is charged with first-degree murder in the slayings of four northern California prostitutes, two in the 1970s and two more in the 1990s.

The killings were dubbed the "Alphabet Murders" because each victim had first and last names beginning with the same letters.

Naso was also named last year as a suspect in the killings of three girls in Rochester, New York, during the 1970s, and homicide detectives around the nation are said to be reviewing their cold-case files for possible links to Naso.

Representing himself during an appearance in Marin County Superior Court, Naso entered not-guilty pleas to the charges and also mentioned a 1961 case in which he was accused of raping a woman in Berkeley, California.

He said he could not find the police report on the case, though the prosecutor said she gave him a copy.

During the 35-minute proceeding, Judge Andrew Sweet said prosecutors had notified him by letter that they intended to seek the death penalty against Naso. He is due in court again March 28 for another hearing.

Nevada probation officers arrested Naso in 2010 after finding ammunition, photographs of naked women and journals detailing violent sex acts in his Reno home during a routine visit. The officers went to Naso's house because he was on probation for shoplifting from a South Lake Tahoe store where he worked.

Naso has been held without bail in the Marin County Jail since April. Two of the women he is charged with killing were strangled. The bodies of the other two were too badly decomposed to determine the cause of their deaths.

The strongest evidence against Naso relates to the murder of Roxene Roggasch. Her body, dressed only in a pair of pantyhose worn inside out, was found near Lagunitas, in rural Marin County, in 1977. Semen taken from the pantyhose matched Naso's DNA, court documents say.

Roggasch, who was 18, worked as a prostitute out of Oakland. She was found with a pair of nylon stockings wrapped around her neck, another pair wrapped around her mouth and a third stuffed into her mouth, the documents say.

The naked, decomposed body of Carmen Colon, 22, was discovered in rural Contra Costa County in 1978. The nude body of Pamela Parsons, 38, was found in a rural area of Yuba County, near where Naso lived, in 1993. Investigators found photographs of Parsons and newspaper articles about her death in one of Naso's safe-deposit boxes, officials said.

The nude body of Tracy Tafoya, 31, was found beside a highway next to a cemetery in 1994. Investigators said they found a journal in Naso's home with an entry dated August 6, 1994, the day Tafoya went missing, that says, "Met Tracy -- put it to her."

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)