After denying serial killer Joseph Naso’s motions for a new trial and listening to Naso’s continuing insistence he is innocent, Marin County Superior Court Judge Andrew Sweet wasted no time today sentencing Naso to death for the murders of three Northern California women and to a life prison sentence for the murder of a fourth. Naso’s fate was apparent when Sweet denied Naso’s motion to modify the jury’s Sept. 17 recommendation of the death penalty to life in prison without parole. Naso said the murders were committed by someone else, evidence against him was planted, and the case against him was politically motivated. The 79-year-old former commercial photographer, who was living in Reno when he was arrested in 2011, said the prosecution’s evidence about two other murders that he is suspected of committing and his diary containing entries about rape and sexual assault incidents since the 1950s — that Naso called “dates” — were inflammatory.
“There’s no connection. What I did 50 years ago doesn’t have anything to do with this case,” Naso said. Sweet, however, said the death penalty is appropriate and supported by the evidence introduced during the penalty phase of Naso’s trial. The death penalty sentences, which run consecutively, apply to the murders of Carmen Colon, 22, an East Bay resident whose body was found in Contra Costa County in 1978; Pamela Parsons, 38, whose body was found in Yuba County in 1993; and Tracy Tafoya, 31, whose remains also were found in Yuba County in 1994. For the murder of Roxene Roggasch, 18, of Oakland whose body was found in Marin County in 1977, Sweet sentenced Naso to life without parole. There was no death penalty in California at the time of her murder. The prosecution argued all the women were sexually assaulted, strangled and dumped along rural roads.
Sweet said the murders were “vicious, brutal and committed with a high degree of cruelty.” He said the motive for the killings was “sexual in nature, planned and deliberate.” He said Parson’s murder likely was committed out of “spiteful revenge.” There was testimony during the trial that Parsons had stolen one of Naso’s cameras during a photography session. Sweet said the women suffered “an abhorrent degree of suffering and indignity.” He told Naso he is “a pathological predator and cold-blooded killer,” an example of why parents worry about their children walking to school or playing in a park and why people are reluctant to help a stranger. Sweet said Naso had shown no remorse whatsoever. During the sentencing, Rachel Smith, one of Carmen Colon’s daughters, addressed the court. “I don’t want this man to die. I want him to sit there alone and have everything taken away.
He brought shame to his family and deserves to feel that pain,” she said. Roggasch’s son Shane Ashby told the court Naso robbed him of his childhood and his mother. “I want you to live to be 110 years old,” he told Naso. “I’m glad it’s finally over with today so the families can move on and heal,” Ashby said after the sentencing hearing. He said he wants Naso to live to 110 so he suffers inside and knows how the families suffered. “It’s been a long time,” Ashby said. Naso, who represented himself during the trial with the help of advisory counsel by attorney Pedro Oliveros, told the court he feels sorry for the victims and their families. “I have remorse for anyone who dies in a violent manner and for their families, but I’m not guilty of these crimes,” he said. Naso will return to court Dec. 13 for a hearing on the amount of money he will pay the county’s public defender’s office for providing advisory counsel.
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