Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian, at podium, gives a statement during a press conference on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 in San Rafael, Calif., regarding the arrest of Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev. Naso, 77, is accused of murdering four women whose bodies were found across Northern California over two decades. (AP Photo/Independent Journal, Alan Dep)
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — A Nevada man's arrest in four cold-case deaths in California has authorities scrambling to determine whether he's connected to killings in other states, including the notorious “Double Initial Murders” of three girls in upstate New York in the early 1970s.
Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev., (pictured) was being held Tuesday on suspicion of murder in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across Northern California from 1977 to 1994.
Like the “Double Initial” case, all four women had matching initials for their first and last names. Another eerie similarity: One of the California victims and one of the New York victims shared the same name — Carmen Colon.
Authorities also said Naso, 77, once lived in the Rochester area and traveled between there and the West in the early 1970s.
New York state police are looking into whether there's a connection between Naso and the “Double Initial” case, in which three girls were raped and strangled and their bodies dumped in the Rochester, N.Y., area, Trooper Mark O'Donnell said Tuesday.
But they have so far found no evidence linking him to the case, and a DNA sample taken from one of the New York victims did not match Naso, O'Donnell said. There also are differences in the facts of the cases, including the victims' ages; the California victims were women, while the New York victims were a 10-year-old and two 11-year-olds.
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, 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.
Investigators say Naso was a professional photographer who often traveled the country for work and may have killed in other states.
“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 Roxene 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 Carmen Colon, whose body was found near Port Costa in Contra Costa County a year later, Berberian said.
Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya were separately found dead in Yuba County in 1993 and 1994 respectively, the prosecutor said.
Tafoya was 31 when she was killed, according to death records. Parsons was a 38-year-old waitress whose body was found on a Marysville road, according to news archives.
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.
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.