Calif., N.Y. Cold Cases Contain Eerie Similarities

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — A Nevada man’s arrest in a string of cold-case deaths in California has authorities investigating whether he’s connected to other unsolved killings across the country, including the “Double Initial Murders” of three girls in upstate New York in the early 1970s.

Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev., was being held on suspicion of murder Tuesday in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across Northern California from 1977 to 1994

Like the victims in the “Double Initial” case, all four California women had matching initials for their first and last names: Carmen Colon, Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya.

In another startling similarity, one of the New York victims also was named Carmen Colon.

Those revelations prompted New York state police to investigate whether more than just coincidence connects Naso, 77, to the “Double Initial Murders,” in which one 10-year-old and two 11-year-old girls were abducted, raped and strangled in the Rochester area, in one of the region’s most baffling unsolved crimes.

Meanwhile, a separate task force is looking into whether any other cold cases in the U.S. can be linked to Naso, a professional photographer who often traveled the country for work and may have killed in other states, Nevada law enforcement officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

Authorities learned Naso once lived in the Rochester, N.Y., area and traveled between there and the West in the early 1970s.

But the links to the “Double Initial” case so far stop there, said Trooper Mark O’Donnell of the New York state police. Authorities have found no other evidence tying him to the case, and a DNA sample taken from one of the New York victims did not match Naso.

Also, while some details of the two cases are similar, others are not — like the fact that the California victims were adults and the New York victims children.

Still, New York authorities say they’re not ready to eliminate Naso as a suspect, and they hope area residents who might know him will be able to help with their investigation, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Naso was arrested in South Lake Tahoe late Monday after being released from El Dorado County Jail, where he was serving time on an unrelated probation violation. Authorities said he was on probation for a 2009 grocery store theft in California when a random search of his Reno, Nev., home in April 2010 turned up guns and ammunition.

The search also uncovered evidence that helped link him to the Northern California killings, said Nevada authorities, who soon after launched a task force to look into cold cases possibly connected to Naso.

“We think there are others out there we haven’t discovered yet,” Chris Perry, acting director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, told reporters Tuesday. “Typically when you are talking about a person who has killed more than once, this doesn’t stop.”

Naso was being held without bail Tuesday in Marin County. Through guards, he declined a request from The Associated Press for a jailhouse interview.

Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian obtained permission from other jurisdictions to try all four of the Northern California cases. He said he planned to seek the death penalty against Naso, who’s scheduled for arraignment Wednesday on four counts of murder with special circumstances.

The first victim was Roggasch, whose body was found in Fairfax in Marin County in 1977, Berberian said. According to news archives, investigators interviewed a prostitute at the time who claimed her pimp kidnapped, tortured and killed the 18-year-old Roggasch, though no one was ever arrested in the case.

The second victim was Colon, whose body was found near Port Costa in Contra Costa County a year later, Berberian said. Parsons and Tafoya were separately found dead in Yuba County in 1993 and 1994 respectively, the prosecutor said.

Nevada and California authorities declined to release any details about the victims or their cases out of concern that it would compromise the ongoing investigation.

However, death records show Tafoya was 31 when she was killed. Parsons was a 38-year-old waitress whose body was found on a Marysville road, according to news archives.

Naso’s criminal history dates back to 1955 and his convictions are mostly related to petty thefts, authorities said.

Public records show Naso, a New York native, has listed California addresses in Sacramento, Piedmont, Oakland, San Francisco and Yuba City, as well as a Minneapolis address in the past. Investigators believe he moved to Reno in the mid-1990s, Perry said.

“The person has traveled around the country, has been engaged with law enforcement across the country, so we suspect — and have to suspect — that any cases that may emerge in the future have a rather long potential list of states that may been impacted,” said Washoe County, Nev., Sheriff Mike Haley, who helped launch the task force.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


One Comment

  1. Play13 says:

    Just put him to death and don’t waste the tax payers money or time.

  2. Inga Applequist says:

    I agree

  3. Just a Thought says:

    He is in his 70’s… Give the man a life sentence and be done with this. Here is the problem with giving the man a death sentence… He then is given an automatic appeal that is paid for by the government. And the truth is he will die of on death row, long before the actual sentence is carried out, but the one thing that it will do by sentencing him to death is to continue to spend more tax payers money. If you sentence him to a life sentence, unles he can afford an appeal or he can afford an attorney, or an attorney agree’s to represent him pro bono… He Wont Get One… And he will then die with a life sentence.

  4. Matthew Parvin says:

    >Just A Thought, Just A Queston, I have read were some folks, myself included are wondering if this guy is the Zodiac Killer, if indeed he turns out to be the Zodiac, then how do you feel about the death penalty?

  5. just a thought2 says:

    I’d feel the same. The man is 77 years old. If he gets the death penalty, it will not be administered before he dies of natural causes.

    Do you really want to spend (wasted) money on his automatic appeals, provided by the laws contingent to the death penalty?

    It’s not about revenge. He will end up in jail either way. Justice will be served.

    But, at his age, more than likely, he will die long before his appeals are up. And a whole lot of wasted taxpayer $$ will have gone to lawyers, special housing, payroll for guards, etc.

    If he turns out to be Zodiac? None of this will change.

    He’s got, at best, 10 years left to live . . . vis-a-vis life expectancy. Most death row appeals (most, not all) go far beyond 10 years.

    And, again, cost a whole lot more money.

  6. Matthew Parvin says:

    that’s not the point, the point is, if he is a murderer, he has to die for his crimes that’s the point….

  7. just a thought2 says:

    With all due respect, you;ve missed the point completely. He’s 77 years old. He will die, as we all will. But he’s a lot closer to it. By the time his trials and appeals are done he will long be gone. Yet, we will all have paid far more for his incarceration than was necessary.

    It’s great to say “let’s fry him” and ” he has to die for his crimes” . . . but, please, try to understand and learn a little about how the death penalty works. Whether your for it or against it, it’s extremely important you know how it all works.

    “Just fry him” or having him “die for his crimes” does not equate to death upon conviction.

    btw, there is a higher power who will administer that final justice.

  8. Jenkins says:

    I don’t think they’re just similar. I think this guy actually did all those crimes. There are way too many coincidences to just call them similarities. The evidence collected by the private investigators n.y. points to him but I just feel bad they caught him now when he’s a 77-year old guy with only 1 fart till he dies. He won’t even live long enough to pay for his crimes. He basically got away with the crimes …

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