Calif. deaths parallel double-initial murders here Rochester, New York
There may be little similarity between the homicides other than the oddity that all seven victims have first and last names beginning with the same initials.
But that fact is enough to make authorities investigate whether a Nevada man arrested Monday on suspicions in four killings could be the same person responsible for the notorious “double initial” slayings of three Rochester girls in the early 1970s.
There is also the fact that 77-year-old Joseph Naso, now charged with four California slayings, lived in the Rochester area in the 1960s and traveled back here in the early 1970s, according to New York State Police Senior Investigator Allan Dombroski.
Naso, a Reno, Nev., resident, was arrested Monday in Nevada and charged with four northern California murders between 1977 and 1993. Since January, New York State Police and other local law enforcement officials have worked with authorities in California to determine whether there is a link between the slayings there and the killings here from the 1970s, Dombroski said.
State Police admit that there are reasons to question whether Naso was involved in the local killings. Most importantly, a DNA sample suspected to be from the killer of one of the local victims did not match Naso. And they have unearthed no proof tying him to the Rochester killings.
Still, police here say they are not yet ready to eliminate Naso as a suspect, and they hope any area people who know or knew Naso may be able to help.
“He can’t be ruled out solely on the DNA,” Dombroski said.
An FBI agent in the west was familiar with the slayings here and alerted California police about the double-initial connection, according to Dombroski.
Police arrested Naso on Monday after he was released from jail on an unrelated case, according to the Associated Press. At a news conference Tuesday in California, prosecutors announced that they intended to seek the death penalty for Naso.
One of the four California victims was named Carmen Colon, the same name as a 10-year-old girl who was abducted in Rochester in 1971, sexually assaulted, and strangled.
The slayings in 1971 and 1973 of three young girls in Rochester still stand as one of the most baffling unsolved crimes in the region, a case fictionalized in a movie and the focus of a nonfiction book, Alphabet Killer, released last year.
The three local victims — Carmen Colon, 10, Wanda Walkowicz, 11, and Michelle Maenza, 11 — all were abducted during the day, strangled and dumped outside the city of Rochester. Carmen Colon was found in Riga, Wanda Walkowicz in Webster, and Michelle Maenza in Macedon in Wayne County.
Each girl attended a Catholic school and police suspected the youngsters willingly got into a car with their abductor.
Naso, whose father left home and mother died when he was young, apparently moved to the West in the late 1960s, Dombroski said.
“The investigation revealed that he most likely left in ’69 but he had family here and would travel back and forth,” Dombroski said.
Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian said he planned to seek the death penalty against Naso, who’s scheduled for arraignment today on four counts of murder with special circumstances. He is being held without bail.
The first victim was Roxene Roggasch, 18, whose body was found in Fairfax in Marin County in 1977, Berberian said.
The second victim was Carmen Colon, whose body was found near Port Costa in Contra Costa County a year later, Berberian said.
Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracy Tafoya, 31, were separately found dead in Yuba County in 1993 and 1994 respectively, the prosecutor said. Their ages were obtained through death records.
Former FBI crime profiler Gregg McCrary, who worked with local police on the investigation of serial killer Arthur Shawcross, said police were wise to exhaust an investigation before ruling out Naso in connection to the local killings.
“In a case like this you have to keep your options open and keep your hypotheses open because we don’t know the answers,” McCrary said.
Includes reporting by the Associated Press.
This artist conception of the suspect of the Rochester-area killings (from witness descriptions) was grafted onto a photo of a policeman dressed like the suspect on day of murder. This was created in December, 1973.
This is an undated booking photo released by the Washoe County Sheriff’s office showing Joseph Naso. Authorities in California and Nevada plan to release more information about Naso, the 77-year-old man accused in four homicides spanning two decades. Naso, of Reno, Nev., was booked late Monday, April 11, 2011, on suspicion of the killings in 1977, 1978, 1993 and 1994. / (AP Photo/Washoe County Sheriff’s office)
Investigative reporter Gary Craig and photographer Max Schulte take a look back at the murders of three girls that shocked the Rochester community in the early 1970s.
Her body was found in a gully along a road in Riga, near the Chili border. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted.
She was found slain in an isolated area at a rest stop in Webster.
Her body was found two days later in a rural stretch of Wayne County in the town of Macedon.
Do the officers think this is a key part of the investigation?
Those now on the case meet with retired former colleagues who investigated the crimes in the 1970s.
For some, solving this case has become a mission.
For investigators, the leads do not stop.
Among the evidence they hope can resolve the mystery is genetic evidence from at least one of the killings.