Joseph Naso, taking on the air of a befuddled and sometimes cantankerous grandfather, stood before Northern California jurors on Friday and told them law enforcement officials and prosecutors made a grievous error: He is not the long-time serial killer of young women they say he is.
Naso, 79, is representing himself and has pleaded not guilty in Marin County Superior Court to four counts of murder that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted. The alleged victims of the retired commercial photographer all had alliterative initials in their names, and he is a suspect in as many as six more unsolved deaths.
In his closing arguments, Naso implored jurors to ignore the mountain of evidence prosecutors presented during the two-month trial to prove he was a predatory killer who picked up young prostitutes and killed them -- two in the 1970s and two in the 1990s. He called the incriminating DNA found on some of the bodies inconclusive and said the obituaries of two of the victims investigators found in his safe deposit box meant nothing.
He agreed that his ex-wife's DNA was on pantyhose found around the neck of Roxene Roggasch and that his own genetic material was found on pantyhose the 18-year-old victim was wearing when her body was found in the northern San Francisco suburb of Fairfax.
"With regard to my DNA, all that proves is that I may have had sex with the victim,'' Naso said. And the pantyhose around the victim's neck with his ex-wife's DNA?
"That only tells them that someone wrapped them around her neck -- but not who,'' he said.
Naso, dressed in a jacket and tie and often speaking with hands in pocket or behind his back, meandered from point to point and was admonished several times by Judge Andrew Sweet to cease discussing evidence and incidents not mentioned during the trial.
Sweet threatened to bar Naso from continuing with his closing argument and to assign a public defender to finish the job if he persisted in discussing evidence not presented, including allegations that he turned down an offer of sex from at least one of the murder victims.
Naso grumbled his assent and continued his attack on the prosecution's case by arguing that no witnesses could testify they saw him with any of the victims on the last day of their lives.
Naso is charged with killing four prostitutes with the same first and last initials: 18-year-old 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.
Whether the double initials in each victim's name was a coincidence or a plan, investigators have not said.
Naso was arrested after Nevada probation officials went to his Reno home in 2010 to investigate allegations he was violating terms of his probation after a gun conviction.
Probation officials testified at trial they found a piece of paper they called a "List of 10'' that contained references that investigators said referred to the four victims and six other women. In addition, they found a so-called "rape journal,'' numerous photographs of unconscious women in unnatural positions, a mannequin and women's lingerie.
During prosecution closing arguments this week, Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote read from a diary Naso allegedly kept with entries dating back to the 1950s and gave descriptions of rape and sexual assault, local media reported.
Naso called seven witnesses of his own, but did not take the stand himself. He has been admonished several times by the judge for his behavior and unlawyer-like demeanor at times during the trial.
Naso characterized the photographs found at is home as his art and said all of his "models'' were willing participants.
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.
Authorities around the country have also looked at Naso as a suspect in cold cases.