Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of the Double Initial Murders

An Odd History


Joseph Naso
Joseph Naso

If it weren't for his sticky fingers, perhaps no one would know Joseph Naso's name.

In 1995, Naso, a freelance photographer, strolled into an Oakland, Calif., department store and attempted to shoplift 30 pairs of women's underwear. Later, it would become clear, he had already had an odd history of petty crimes. It seemed absurd that a man in his sixties—Naso was then nearly a senior citizen—would be arrested for shoplifting, a crime normally associated with juvenile delinquents. Indeed, just a year earlier, he'd been nabbed for a similar crime, in Yuba City, Calif. His sticky-fingered habit continued long after that incident: In 2003, he was arrested again for shoplifting at the local Food Co in Sacramento before he moved from California to Nevada.

In 2009, he was at it yet again, caught stealing at a Raley's grocery store in South Lake Tahoe. He was put on probation.

He had an assigned parole office, Wes Jackson, and if it weren't for an unannounced home visit, perhaps Joseph Naso's alleged other life, one far more sordid and scary than shoplifting panties, may never have been discovered.

Police soon believed the Naso was not just an eccentric older man living in Reno, Nev., nor even one described variously as a bellicose drunk or a strange man with a temper. It is now believed that he was a serial killer, killing four women and, authorities suspect, maybe even more.

Joseph Naso never stayed in one place for long. Born in Rochester, N.Y., in 1934, Naso served in the Air Force in the 1950s. He met his first wife, Judith, and got married and had a son, Charles. His son developed schizophrenia, and Naso would spend his later years caring for him.

After 18 years of marriage, Naso and Judith divorced, but he frequently visited her afterwards in the east Bay Area where she lived, checking in on her from time-to-time.

After the divorce, Naso moved around the west coast, living in the Bay Area and San Francisco, as well as Nevada. When he lived in California, he took classes at community colleges in Oakland in the mid-1970s, and in the 1980s, he lived in San Francisco, in the Mission District. He was jailed on another petty theft in 1994, in Sutter County near Yuba City. He lived in Sacramento from 1999 to 2003. By 2003, he had moved to Yuba City. He moved to Reno in 2004.

Naso's whereabouts would later prove to be important. It was discovered that he was in the general vicinity of his alleged victims.


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