SAN RAFAEL (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday called suspected serial murderer Joseph Naso a "sexual deviant" who drugged his victims before he photographed them, strangled them to death and dumped their naked bodies in rural Northern California areas.
In a short, concise closing argument following more than a week of testimony, Marin County prosecutor Dori Ahana painted a picture of Naso as someone who lured prostitutes with alcohol and drugs before drugging them unconscious and imprisoning them by bind and gag.
"There was dehumanization by the defendant of women," Ahana said at Naso's preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors presented dozens of photographs, including two of his alleged victims, showing images of women who appear unconscious or dead, some splayed in what one investigator called "unnatural positions."
Ahana said Naso's keeping of newspaper articles of the slayings along with pictures in a safety deposit box showed the Reno, Nev., man kept mementos of his conquests.
He has pleaded not guilty to killing the four women — Roxene Roggasch, Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya — in the 1970s and 1990s. All of the victims showed some evidence of having been strangled, and prosecutors discovered DNA matching the profile of Naso on the stockings of one victim, Roggasch.
Sitting alone at the defense table, his handwritten notes splayed on the table in front of him, the 78-year-old photographer who is representing himself responded by saying used his "power of rapport" with women to make them comfortable enough to pose nude or in lingerie, and denied killing any of the victims he is charged with slaying.
Staring at Ahana and prosecutor Rosemary Slote, Naso boasted.
"I could probably get half the women in this room to disrobe voluntarily," Naso said, explaining that he did not have to coerce women to do his bidding for photographs.
The judge scolded Naso to stop looking at the prosecutor and made the defendant deliver the rest of his remarks to the judge.
Naso is scheduled to finish his closing arguments Monday, after which the judge will determine if prosecutors presented enough evidence to make Naso stand trial.
Naso denied that he used drugs to knock out women, saying in his closing argument, "I don't know a drug from a potato."
"I have the technique, the talent. I don't have to look for models, they look for me," Naso said.
Ahana noted the copious journals and calendars Naso kept that noted meetings with Tafoya and Parsons around the times of their deaths in Yuba County, a rural northern California area.
Naso said his lists and calendars were merely notes about models, and he argued that most of the models seen in his pictures "are alive and well."
All except one: Parsons.
Naso said he came upon Parsons on the road when he lived in Yuba City in the 1990s.
"I admit she was hitchhiking. She wanted to come to my home for sex, but I wasn't interested in sex," Naso said. "But I said 'she has nice legs,' she can model for me."
But Naso denied that he abused women in any way, even the alleged victims.
"Of course you can't talk to these four women who are deceased to ask if I laid a hand on them," he said.
But prosecutors talked to a woman who had dated and posed for Naso, and an inspector Friday presented evidence that Naso choked the former girlfriend, scaring her and her child.
Veteran Marin County inspector Michael McBride said an interview with the son of the former girlfriend, who is not being identified because she is a possible sexual assault victim, revealed he heard "choking sounds" coming from his mother's room one night during a Naso visit.
The son told McBride his mother was sleeping on the couch when he awoke in the morning, and he asked her why.
"She said Mr. Naso got drunk and wanted sex and wanted her unconscious, so he started choking her, so she went out on the couch," McBride testified.
Prosecutors have also presented evidence that Naso liked to drug or choke women, and investigators found photos in his home of at least two of his victims appearing dead or unconscious.
Joseph Naso objected to McBride's testimony about the choking, saying the son's memories were hearsay and the sounds the son heard could have been anything.
"Could it have been coughing?" Joseph Naso asked McBride.
"He did not describe it as coughing," McBride said.