Book Reviews

List of 10: The True Story of Serial Killer Joseph Naso

“By a stroke of chance and aggressive police work, the wheels of justice stumbled upon a lead. It was nothing more than a lined sheet of paper that read, “List of 10,” but shortly after its discovery, a task force was created and a serial killer was nabbed. “

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If not for the need to record and document his levels of depravity against women, serial killer Joseph Naso is a man who may never have been caught. A serial rapist before he progressed to murder, Joseph Naso had been stalking and attacking women for up to five decades before he was finally stopped. Between 1977 and 1994 Naso murdered six young women around the San Francisco Bay and northern California area however, he is suspected of a further four murders and possibly many more.

By 76-years-old Joseph Naso had amassed scores of photographs he had taken of women in various states of undress and consciousness, a detailed diary of stalking and rape and a handwritten list serving as a reminder of his murders, all kept in a filthy apartment to bolster his ego and reinforce his own sense of power and they are items that became his downfall. Once police found Joseph Naso’s ‘List of 10’, it was only a matter of time before he would find himself behind bars.

True crime author and San Francisco Bay police officer C.L. Swinney has immersed himself in the case of Joseph Naso for the last two years. He has communicated directly with Joseph Naso, interviewed the police officers and investigators involved in his case and the friends and family members of Naso’s victims. ‘List of 10: The True Story of Serial Killer Joseph Naso’ is the result of this work and it provides a well-researched and gripping account of the damage one man has done to numerous lives.

A Focus On The Victims

This book tells the story of the known victims of Joseph Naso.  Swinney has used narrative to walk through each murder and provide an insight into these terrible events from the point of view of each victim.

While no one can know what any of these young girls thought and felt in the minutes before their murders, Swinney has humanized them by providing this narrative and enabled readers to relate to them as individuals rather than simply names.

Many of these girls were prostitutes, women Naso saw as easy prey.   Swinney has used his knowledge of Naso’s attitudes, his personality and known behaviours to provide a worked example of what happened with each young woman in each of the murders, the potential thoughts of Joseph Naso and the verbal interactions between Naso and his victims, all of which build to provide a startling account of the experiences these women faced in the hours and minutes before their deaths.

Related: Cold Serial: The Jack the Strangler Murders

While the exact thoughts and feelings may not be known as facts, it is known that each of these young girls would have realised at some point after going home with Joesph Naso that their lives were in grave danger. Fear, terror, regret and anger are all emotions which no doubt passed through them in their final minutes. To tell the story of the victims requires a level of thought over what they went through and how that period in the company of this abhorrent man played out before their deaths.  In order to empathize with them, this is a part of the story that needs to be told and C.L. Swinney has done an excellent job in telling it.

Roxene Roggasch and Carmen Colon (top row), Tracy Tafoya and Pamela Parsons (bottom row)

Joseph Naso is a repulsive individual who displays all the traits of a true narcissist.  His high opinion of himself, his belief he was above everyone else and the lengths he went to in order to obtain control and power over the women he killed are testament to this man’s personality.  He is a man with a view of women that is derogatory, he believed that not only do all women want to engage in sexual relations with him but they should do and any hint of rejection or behaviour which does not support this view invoked a murderous rage to teach them a lesson and prove his control.

“A spot in hell has been saved for Joseph Naso.  After reading this story, you’ll wish he could somehow be sent there immediately.” – C.L. Swinney

Joseph Naso did get caught for some early offences including sexual assault but he suffered no repercussions from them allowing him to continue his behaviour unchecked.  Each time he got away with a petty theft or another attack on a woman, he became more confident and as his confidence grew his desires increased requiring more violence and more depravity to fulfil them. His use of photography gave him a ruse to lure women, particularly prostitutes, back to his home where he could indulge in his fantasies by dressing them up in lingerie and taking photographs he could keep for his collection.  Once his psyche had progressed these photography sessions simply became the calm before the storm as before they ended Joseph Naso had strangled another victim and had moved onto the planning of where he was going to dump her body.

C.L. Swinney has revealed the true individual behind these crimes. His presentation of the facts in this case supported by the narratives surrounding the murder of each of Naso’s victims provides an insightful look at the real damage that this man has done, not only to his victims but to their families and everyone who loved them. Joseph Naso may not be a name you are familiar with, but by the time you have finished this book it is a name you will never forget.   His case, the women he so callously strangled the life from and their stories leave a lasting and powerful mark.

The Arrogant Denials of a Serial Killer

In the latter half of the book the focus shifts to Joseph Naso being taken into custody and the slow wheels of justice beginning to turn for him to pay for the brutal crimes he committed against these women.  Because of the earlier careful attention paid to the experiences of each of these women, the arrogance and the denials of Joseph Naso hit home harder.  The level of disgust felt about Naso increases which each new denial, narcissistic comment or outburst of anger.

Joseph Naso during his trial for capital murder in June 2016.
Joseph Naso during his trial for capital murder in June 2016.

While there is some repetition within this writing, List of 10 is a very readable book that is difficult to put down once started.  Joesph Naso kept a diary of his depraved acts on young women.  He liked to record what he had done and had been doing all his adult life with a now bulging record of awful contents that horrified the jury members who had to listen to it during his trial.  When Naso is arrested on a probation violation when firearm bullets are found in his apartment, a more thorough search led to the discovery of the photographs, the ‘rape diary’ and the ‘list of 10’. A list which contained 10 items, all specifying ‘a girl’ and a geographical location but giving no further details. A list detectives strongly felt was a record of murder.

Related: Clutches of Madness: The Real Faces of Serial Killers

Once this list was discovered the task of police investigators was to identify the women on it and discover who they were and what happened to them. Six women were identified and Naso went on trial for the murder of four of them; 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch found in January 1977, 22-year-old Carmen Colon found in August 1978, 38-year-old Pamela Parsons found in September 1993 and 31-year-old Tracy Tafoya found in August 1994.  Curiously all four women’s names began with the same initials leading many to suspect Naso of the three similar ‘Alphabet Murders‘ in Rochester, New York between 1971 and 1973 however, no evidence linking Joseph Naso to these murders has been found.

56-year-old Sharieea Patton and 31-year-old Sara Dylan are also believed to have been killed by Joseph Naso although he was not officially charged with their murders. The remaining four from his list remain a mystery, one that it is expected Joseph Naso will take to his grave but this is not through want of trying from the police investigators in this case and this author himself, who has looked at over 100 cold cases from that period in an effort to discover who they are.

Naso had the arrogance to represent himself in his capital murder trial.  He believed he was better than any attorney and could get himself out of the case that was built against him.  Instead what he did was convince the jury on the first day that he hated women, had an incredibly flippant attitude towards rape and had a quick temper.  The more he tried to defend himself, laugh at witnesses and display abusive outbursts at the prosecution attorneys and the judge, the further he sank in the opinion of everyone around him highlighting more than anything else, that he was guilty of these crimes.

“I’m not the monster who killed these women. I don’t do that. I dated, I danced. I don’t kill people” – Naso’s opening statement at his trial

This book goes full circle; it starts with the first victim, moves through each murder, Naso’s arrest and ridiculous antics at his trial through to his conviction for multiple murder.  Swinney then stops to examine Joseph Naso in more detail, look at his background, his childhood history and what factors may have been involved in the creation of this vile man and his progression into serial murder.

It is an intense and gripping read which keeps the attention on the innocent victims of Joseph Naso and the tragedy of their lives being cut short and ending in such violence. This is a powerful book that does not sensationalize Joseph Naso, rather it reveals in harrowing detail the depraved individual that he is.  Sentencing Joseph Naso to death row in August 2016, Judge Sweet told him “You being in the world Mr Naso, has made this world a worse place.” and in List of 10, C.L. Swinney has illustrated exactly what he meant.

List of 10: The True Story of Serial Killer Joseph Naso‘ by C.L. Swinney is published by RJ Parker Publishing and is available at Amazon.

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