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What's in a name? It may link California and N.Y. murders

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:51 a.m. HST, Apr 13, 2011


SAN RAFAEL, Calif. >> Roxene Roggasch. Carmen Colon. Pamela Parsons. Tracy Tafoya.

Authorities have finally arrested the man they believe murdered those four women from 1977 to 1994. But the alliteration in the victims' names has investigators wondering if Joseph Naso is responsible for other killings whose similarities seem too strange to be coincidence.

New York state police are checking whether there's more that connects the 77-year-old Reno man to one of the region's most baffling unsolved crimes — the deaths of one 10-year-old and two 11-year-old girls who were abducted, raped and strangled in the Rochester area in the early 1970s.

Like the four women whose bodies were found across Northern California, the three girls who were victims in upstate New York's "Double Initial Murders" also had matching initials for their first and last names.

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

Naso was arrested this week on suspicion of murder in the four California cases, but investigators' work has just begun.

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 Murders" so far stop there, said New York state police Trooper Mark O'Donnell. 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.

And 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 the 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 California killings, said Nevada authorities, who soon 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 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 plans 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 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, though no one was ever arrested in the case.

The second victim was Colon, whose body was found near Port Costa a year later, Berberian said. Parsons and Tafoya were 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, in the past, along with a residence in Minneapolis. 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.

___

Sonner reported from Reno, Nev. Associated Press writer Ben Dobbin in Rochester, N.Y., and researchers Judith Ausuebel and Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.







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