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SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — A former photographer accused of killing four Northern California women with matching initials in the 1970s and 1990s defended disturbing pictures of women that were found in his Nevada home, saying they were created for magazines that featured such work.
The comments by Joseph Naso, 78, came during a preliminary hearing Tuesday in his murder trial. Naso has pleaded not guilty to the murders and is representing himself in what will likely be a death penalty case.
Probation officer Roger Jacobs, who found the photos in a search of Naso’s home, was the first witness called at the hearing. He said the pictures showed nude women posed in “unnatural positions” who appeared dead or unconscious.
“I saw numerous photographs of women in various unnatural positions,” said Jacobs, who supervised Naso’s probation for the Nevada Department of Public Safety. “Some appeared to be asleep, some appeared to be unconscious and some non-responsive.”
Naso was on probation in 2009 following a conviction for felony larceny in California. Jacobs found the photos while searching Naso’s home after he violated his probation when officers found ammunition on Naso’s property in Reno, Nev.
Jacobs said the photographs were near a list Naso had scrawled with descriptions of 10 women, including four references prosecutors believe describe victims Naso is charged with killing: Roxene Roggasch, Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya. The first letters of the victims’ first and last names gave rise to suspect’s “Double Initial” nickname.
The photos and the list led to Naso’s arrest for the murders of the four prostitutes in April and his extradition to California from Nevada.
Six other women referred to on the list have not yet been identified, but prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing.
The bespectacled Naso, who sat alone at the defense table in his red-and-white-striped jail clothes, struggled throughout his cross examination, often launching into long statements instead of asking questions.
But Naso said the photographs only served as evidence that he derived pleasure from looking at posed or “fabricated” photographs of women who were acting dead or asleep. He likened the photographs to a horror movie, saying the disturbing images were created for magazines that featured such work.
“Do you agree that in magazines you see similar images as in movies … of people posing to appear deceased?” Naso asked Jacobs.
Jacobs said he did, but noted that the women in Naso’s pictures appeared in “unnatural, uncomfortable or unsustainable” positions.
Prosecutors have also said Naso kept news clippings of the slayings in a safety deposit box.
No. 3 on Naso’s list was “Girl from Loganitas,” who prosecutors believe is Roggasch, whose body was found near Lagunitas, a small town near the coast in Marin County. Court documents show Naso might have used his then-wife’s panty hose to strangle Roggasch, a prostitute whose 1977 murder went unsolved for decades. Authorities say the DNA of Naso’s ex-wife was found on the hose.
Colon’s decomposed body was found near Port Costa 1978 by a California Highway Patrol officer in Contra Costa County. Authorities have said DNA evidence collected from her fingernails could tie Naso to her slaying.
No. 2 on the list was “Girl near Port Costa,” Jacobs said.
Parsons’ strangled body was found in Yuba City in 1993, where Naso was living at the time with his mentally ill son. Court documents state that Naso had photographed Parsons.
Tafoya was killed in Yuba City when Naso lived there. Her body was found on the side of Highway 70 near Marysville Cemetery in 1994.
No. 10 on the list was “Girl from MRV Cemetery,” Jacobs said.
Investigators were looking into other unidentified references on Naso’s macabre list. No. 4 was “Girl from Mount Tam,” a popular hiking and cycling mountain in Marin County. Other women on the list included mentions of Healdsburg, a town in Northern California; Berkeley; and what appeared to be an address in San Francisco.
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