The ex-wife of Joseph Naso, who is accused of killing four women — including an Oakland woman who was allegedly strangled with the ex-wife’s pantyhose — testified this morning that Naso had asked her to claim she had lost her pantyhose. Judith Naso, 73, testified that her ex-husband had mailed her a letter dated Sept. 8, 2011, in which he asked her to say she might have left her pantyhose at work, in a restaurant or some other place. “I don’t recall leaving it anyplace,” Judith Naso told Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote, referring to the leggings. She said she kept her pantyhose in a mesh bag at home.
Naso, 78, of Reno, is charged with killing four prostitutes between 1977 and 1994. The first victim, Roxene Roggasch, 18, was found dead near Fairfax on Jan. 11, 1977. Dr. Ervin Jindrich, who conducted Roggasch’s autopsy, testified this morning that the cause of death was strangulation by the pantyhose found around her neck and asphyxiation. Judith Naso’s DNA was found on the pantyhouse, and a semen sample taken from another pair of pantyhose Roggasch was wearing was “likely” that of Joseph Naso, a Contra Costa County criminalist testified Wednesday.
The testimony is part of a preliminary hearing that will allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to try Naso for the murders. Judith Naso also testified today that she would not have noticed if a pair of her pantyhose was missing from the mesh bag.
The Nasos divorced in January 1980 after 17 years of marriage. During his cross-examination, Naso asked his ex-wife four times if she remembers either finding some of her pantyhose gone or coming home after a night out and realizing she wasn’t wearing them. “No, I don’t remember that,” Judith Naso replied each time. Naso also asked her if she could recall him ever threatening, slapping, punching, choking or pushing her. She replied “no” each time. He asked her if she ever heard him talk about harming anyone. “No,” she said. “Well, you did tell me shortly after we married that you were charged with rape.” Naso replied, “That was back in the ’50s.” The testimony also explored whether Naso ever drugged or incapacitated his ex-wife. Prosecutors said they believe that Naso would drug his alleged victims before he killed them.
Judith Naso said that in 2010, before his arrest, Naso told her he had given her something to knock her out once. “I don’t recall what he gave me,” she said. “He would give me what he said were vitamin pills before we went out so I wouldn’t have a headache.” She said there were two times in the summer of 1976 when she suspects she was drugged and possibly sexually assaulted. One incident occurred at a San Francisco hotel where she and Naso went after an outing to a nightclub, she said. When she woke up in bed at the hotel, two strange men were also were on the bed, but “scurried away” when she came to, she testified. Her husband was also present at the time, Naso said. “It was almost dreamlike, but it did happen,” she said.
On the other occasion, she said, she woke up in bed at their home to find a man on top of her — a hitchhiking Vietnam veteran that her husband had picked up and brought home. A number of biographical details about the couple’s marriage came out during Judith Naso’s testimony, which lasted less than an hour. The couple had two sons — one born in 1963 and the second born in 1965 — and lived in cities including San Francisco and Piedmont. She said she worked as a legal secretary in San Francisco and would take the bus to work. Her husband had worked at Sears, Montgomery Ward and a camera shop in Berkeley but mostly worked as a self-employed photographer and had a darkroom at home, she said.
She described her husband as a flea market enthusiast who belonged to a club that collected antique bottles. Joseph Naso initially objected to the testimony about the marriage, saying such details were personal and private, but Judge Andrew Sweet overruled the objection. Judith Naso said she and Joseph Naso remained on friendly terms after they divorced.
At times while Naso was cross-examining her today, the back-and-forth resembled a couple bickering. She seemed impatient with him — even annoyed at times — but remained calm on the witness stand. Naso reminded her of several times he had helped her during their marriage, including once when her bank card was compromised and other occasions when she was in the hospital.
When Judith Naso was asked if she had ever come home to find a strange woman in the house, she said yes, describing how she encountered a tall woman with long hair in her living room. “You mean the woman I had an affair with?” Joseph Naso asked. She said yes. Judith Naso said she had also found a campground receipt with another woman’s name on it on the mantle in her home once. After her testimony ended, she left the courtroom quickly. “I’m just glad it’s over,” she said outside of court. Asked if she thought her ex-husband was capable of committing the murders, she said, “I don’t know if he’s capable of these crimes he’s accused of.”
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