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Jury in California recommends death for serial killer, 79

By Arthur Weinreb     Sep 18, 2013 in Crime
San Rafael - The jury recommended Joseph Naso, known as the "Alphabet Killer" because the four women he was convicted of murdering had identical first and last initials, be put to death for his crimes.
The jury in San Rafael deliberated less than five hours before handing down their recommended punishment yesterday. Under California law, the six men and six women had to be unanimous in their decision. If they had not been able to reach an agreement, the recommendation would have been life without parole.
The murders committed by the 79-year-old photographer took place in 1977, 1978, 1993 and 1994. Naso was dubbed the "Alphabet Killer" because of the names of his victims; Roxene Ruggasch, 18, Carmen Colon, 22, Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracy Tafoya, 31.
Only three of the murders carried the death penalty. Ruggasch was murdered in 1977 when the death penalty was suspended.
Although the murders took place between 1977 and 1994, Naso did not become a suspect until 2010. Living in Reno, Nevada, Naso was convicted of stealing from a grocery store and placed on probation. On April 13, 2010, a probation officer paid an unannounced visit to his home and discovered evidence that implicated him in the deaths of the four Northern California women, all believed to be prostitutes.
The evidence found in his home included photographs of nude women who appeared to be unconscious or dead and a "list of 10" women with descriptions of what took place. Four of the 10 women mentioned are believed to be the four murder victims.
Naso was convicted of the four counts of murder on Aug. 20, 2013. The jury accepted the prosecution's case that Naso had drugged and killed the four women and dumped their naked bodies in various locations in rural Northern California .
Naso represented himself during the trial. In closing arguments, he said he often hired prostitutes to pose for him and denied he ever killed anyone. The jury deliberated for less than six hours before finding him guilty of all four counts.
During the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution called evidence to show Naso was guilty of two additional killings. The murders of these women were not included in the trial because prosecutors were not then ready to proceed.
Evidence was also called to show Naso had raped and sexually assaulted several other women over the years.
After the jury's recommendation was made, Naso's legal advisor read a statement from his client saying Naso wishes to help other inmates in prison. "I'm on the threshold of a new life, and I will make the best of it."
Marin County Superior Court Judge Andrew Sweet was prepared to set a date for sentencing but Naso requested more time so he could think. He is due back in court on Friday to set a date.
Sweet has the option of following the jury's recommendation or imposing a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If the photographer is sentenced to death he will be transferred to death row at San Quentin.
According to the California Department of Corrections, the state currently has 739 prisoners on death row. No execution has been carried out since 2006 and it is far from certain the 79-year-old will be put to death if the judge imposes the death sentence.
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