An elderly man suspected in multiple killings is set to go to trial on four counts of murder. Joseph Naso, 79, who is representing himself in the California courtroom, screened potential jurors Monday. According to local news station KTVU, Naso asked questions that indicated he was trying to select jurors who had not been exposed to much media coverage about his case.
Indeed, anyone who’s heard much about the crimes of which Naso is accused would have a very unpleasant mental picture of the former freelance photographer. According to prosecutors, Naso photographed nude and semi-nude women, often in poses that made them appear dead. The women he’s accused of killing all share a unique trait: Roxene Roggasch, 18; Carmen Colon, 22; Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracey Tafoya, 31, all have matching first and last initials.
This pattern links Naso to a long-unsolved set of murders in New York state. In the 1970s, three young girls, all with matching initials, were killed. This spate of killings became known as the “alphabet murders” or “double initial murders.” Wanda Walkowicz and Michelle Maenza, both 11, were killed in 1973. Ten-year-old Carmen Colon–who has the same exact name as one of Naso’s alleged victims–was murdered in 1971. Naso spent significant time in the area where the killings took place, and allegedly alluded to a murder in the “Buffalo woods” in his diary. Another suspect in the alphabet murders is Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi.
Naso was charged with the four California murders after being arrested for shoplifting women’s lingerie. Naso’s fetish for undergarments allegedly extended beyond petty theft: according to authorities, Roxene Roggasch was found strangled and gagged with three pairs of pantyhose.
KTVU reports that Naso told prospective jurors during Monday’s proceedings, “I’m not like everyone else. I’ve heard remarks that I’m weird, creepy, and scary.” Naso does have advisory counsel, whose role is limited to helping Naso with understanding the law and forming questions.
While it’s unusual for a high-profile defendant to represent himself in court, it does happen. Serial killer Rodney Alcala famously–and unsucessfully–defended himself at his third murder trial. Ted Bundy acted as co-counsel on his own defense team, doing more harm than good for his case when he visibly enjoyed hearing witnesses describe finding the bodies of his victims.
Naso’s trial is slated to begin June 17th.