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Murder Suspect Arraigned; Links to National Serial Killings Possible

Joseph Naso was arraigned in Marin County Court today as agencies look into unsolved murders around the country.

Joseph Naso, 77, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Marin Superior Court on four counts of murder dating back to 1977.

Naso, a resident of Reno, Nev., arrived in court in shackles around his wrists and ankles while wearing an orange-and-white jail outfit and black-rimmed glasses. He did not enter a plea and was represented by Marin Chief Deputy Public Defender David Brown.

Much of the hearing was spent determining whether Naso would seek private representation instead. District Attorney Ed Berberian said it was his office’s position that Naso didn’t qualify for public defender services, because Naso had nearly $1 million in assets. Berberian wouldn’t expand on what those assets were at this time.

Naso was arrested Monday by Marin County Sheriff’s officers at the El Dorado County jail as he was being released on a probation violation in South Lake Tahoe. 

. According media reports at that time, Roggasch, an 18-year-old Oakland resident, had been suffocated and was found with nothing but white fabric that tied her feet together.

Berberian said he would determine whether or not to pursue the death penalty after speaking with Naso’s representation, but that the sentence would be appropriate for these crimes. Three of the charges come with the special circumstance of multiple murders, meaning capital punishment could be sought.

The county has been working with other law enforcement agencies out of Yuba and Contra Costa Counties on the charges of the murders of Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya.

In addition, Nevada law enforcement officials said yesterday that a special task force is investigating whether Naso is a nationwide serial killer.

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said a task force comprised of his office and the Nevada Department of Public Safety's Division of Parole and Probation will help investigate any links between Naso and other homicide cases and missing persons cases in the country. The task force will establish a tip line for unsolved murders.

"Much great work has been done, but much remains," Haley said. "This is an ongoing investigation, and we will leave no stone unturned."

Police in Rochester, New York, have confirmed that they are looking for links between Naso and the “Double Initial” killings in the 1970s of three Catholic schoolgirls, each with matching first and last names – one of whom was also named Carmen Colon.

Naso was originally from New York and traveled the country as a photographer.

Berberian also said he was unable to comment on what specifically led the county to arrest Naso after a year-long, multi-jurisdictional investigation because of the ongoing nature of that investigation. At the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, he couldn’t say whether additional charges would be added at a later date.

“We believe the evidence is sufficient at this point,” said Berberian.

The case started to unfold following an April 13, 2010 unannounced visit a probation officer made to Naso’s home in Reno – he was on probation for theft at a grocery store in 2009 – and found evidence that “implicated (Naso) in multiple murders of young women,” said Berberian yesterday.

Naso spent the entirety of the 40-minute arraignment today hunched in his seat, looking old and frail in his jumpsuit. He spoke only to Brown.

Judge Paul Haakensen agreed to give Naso two weeks until his next hearing on April 27 at 9 a.m. and an additional 30 minutes a day to make calls during business hours to find representation.

Naso is currently on a no-bail hold at the Marin County jail and is being held in lock-down, except for 30 minutes a day that he is let out of his cell.

The first half of the arraignment, before Naso entered the courtroom, was spent in response to press requests, as TV crews from around the Bay Area descended on the Marin County Courthouse and crowded the halls outside the courtroom. Despite arguments from both Berberian and Brown that no cameras be allowed in the courtroom, Judge Haakensen agreed to allow limited cameras without audio at just the arraignment. 

As the case unfolds, Marin is expected to be at the center of the maelstrom. The last time Marin tried a death-penalty case, said Berberian, was in the mid-1980s.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Scott April 14, 2011 at 07:18 PM
They should at least be kicking the tires on this guy being Zodiac.
Ben April 18, 2011 at 12:28 PM
It's a possibility for Zodiac. The timelines match up. M.O. Is the only question. The zodiac killings differed from their execution (so to speak) and their victims. I still wouldn't rule out the possibility, though.

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