After deliberating for less than eight hours, a Marin County Superior Court jury on Tuesday found Joseph Naso guilty of killing two young prostitutes in the 1970s and two others in the 1990s.
Naso acted as his own attorney in the two-month trial, in which prosecutors presented DNA and other compelling evidence against him. Marin County Deputy Public Defender Pedro Oliveros assisted Naso and confirmed the Reno, Nev., resident was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder.
The four victims all had alliterative initials in their names. The same jury will reconvene Sept. 4 for the penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Naso was arrested in Reno in 2010 after probation officers searched his home in an unrelated case and found numerous photographs of nude women who appeared unconscious, obituaries of some of the victims, a list of unnamed women who appeared to be murder victims, and other evidence.
Naso’s DNA was found on one victim, 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch, and DNA from his ex-wife was discovered on pantyhose found wrapped around Roggasch.
Prosecutors read numerous entries in a diary they say Naso kept that contained scrawled accounts of approaching women and offering them a ride home.
“Outside the front door I overpowered her and ravaged her,” said one entry set in London. “I couldn’t help myself.”
Other passages described incidents in Ohio, New York, Kansas and California.
During his closing argument that began Friday morning, Naso came across as a confused and cantankerous grandfather who claimed he was being prosecuted for offbeat sexual desires that he never acted upon, rather than for the actual murders of four young women.
“In his preposterous way, where he fumbled and bumbled for two days as a confused grandfatherly type, may have humanized him for the jury,” said Barry Kanal, an attorney not connected to the case who watched the proceedings Monday.
“On the other hand,” Kanal said, “the prosecution did a great job of arguing that the DNA evidence was incontrovertible, and she hit all the high points for the jurors.”
Even if Naso is sentenced to death, it is unlikely he would be executed. There are already 725 inmates on Death Row awaiting executions, which a federal judge put on hold in 2006 until the state revamps its capital punishment system.
Naso is charged with killing four prostitutes whose names have double initials: Roggasch in 1977; 22-year-old Carmen Colon in 1978; 38-year-old Pamela Parsons in 1993; and 31-year-old Tracy Tafoya in 1994.
Investigators have not said whether the double initials in each victim’s name was a coincidence or a plan.