Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Fanciful Than Fiction

RHYS on True Crime Tuesday. We mystery writers are sometimes accused of writing things that are hard to believe when we try to create clever, complicated murders. We are told that in real life crimes are simple and brutal and lack the cleverness that has made every mystery novel since Sherlock Holmes such fun to read and figure out.

Then low and behold comes a crime on the news that rivals anything we can dream up--a serial killer who targets women with the same first and last initials. Now to me that belongs in the realm of fiction. What man would take the trouble to search out females with the same initials? What a lot of work to find a woman of suitable age, easy to kill and with the same first and last initials.
But apparently it's true. Here is the report on the case:

A Nevada man's arrest in a string of cold-case deaths in California has authorities investigating whether he's connected to other unsolved killings across the country, including the "Double Initial Murders" of three girls in upstate New York in the early 1970s.

Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev., was being held on suspicion of murder Tuesday in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across Northern California from 1977 to 1994

Like the victims in the "Double Initial" case, all four California women had matching initials for their first and last names: Carmen Colon, Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya.

In another startling similarity, one of the New York victims also was named Carmen Colon.

Those revelations prompted New York state police to investigate whether more than just coincidence connects Naso, 77, to the "Double Initial Murders," in which one 10-year-old and two 11-year-old girls were abducted, raped and strangled in the Rochester area, in one of the region's most baffling unsolved crimes.

Meanwhile, a separate task force is looking into whether any other cold cases in the U.S. can be linked to Naso, a professional photographer who often traveled the country for work and may have killed in other states, Nevada law enforcement officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

Naso was arrested in South Lake Tahoe late Monday after being released from El Dorado County Jail, where he was serving time on an unrelated probation violation. Authorities said he was on probation for a 2009 grocery store theft in California when a random search of his Reno, Nev., home in April 2010 turned up guns and ammunition.

The search also uncovered evidence that helped link him to the Northern California killings, said Nevada authorities, who soon after launched a task force to look into cold cases possibly connected to Naso.

"We think there are others out there we haven't discovered yet," Chris Perry, acting director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, told reporters Tuesday. "Typically when you are talking about a person who has killed more than once, this doesn't stop."

You'll note that this man was only discovered by accident, after an arrest for a parole violation. Our detectives would have found him more swiftly. And don't accuse us again of creating fanciful crimes!


  1. That's the scariest thing, Rhys.

    You know Julie Kramer's wonderful book Stalking Susan is along those lines--a guy who kills women named Susan. (There's more to it than that, of cours.)

    But you're so right--if we'd have created an initial killer--no editor would let that by. Although I must say--I've seen some pretty unlikely bad guys in the past few years. Coincidences that make the "evil long-lost twin from Australia" seem normal.

    Is it raining where you are? It's SO soggy here.

  2. This is why I read mysteries, after all, because the random, unexplainable acts are explained and punished ... and the world makes sense. The real world is entirely too frightening sometimes.

    It's raining here in Southern California. In May! And Saturday night in Northern CA, just a couple hours after I left the site of a family (outdoor) wedding, it SNOWED there. In May. Wowser.

  3. Um...as someone who HAS the same initials (at least my married name) 3 times, I'm glad I didn't meet the man. MMM might have been too hard to pass up. But I agree with Hank. And we WERE soggy here...and chilly...this weekend. Now we're sunny and climbing the temperature ladder again. Spring may FINALLY be here...and I for one have witnessed two arrests in the past few days (on my way to work no less).

  4. Rhys, I've been a mystery fan since the days of reading Nancy Drew & Trixie Belden, but it never ceases to amaze me how truly CRAZY some people are in real life!

    The sun is beginning to shine here but the heater is still going on and off, as it's only 48 degrees!
    Hope we all have a true spring soon!

  5. It's raining here, folks. California. May. Soggy.
    I was supposed to set up the new sprinkler system before I left for Europe! Best laid plans.

    And when I first saw news coverage of that man I got chills. It really hit me that deranged and evil people could be anywhere, could follow me from the supermarket, move into my street.

  6. Oh my gosh, I remember hearing too much about those murders when I was growing up (in the 70s in upstate New York!). What a flashback. *chills*

  7. This just goes to my distrust of men who call themselves professional photographers. That was a big come-on when I was in college. Guys trying to convince you they could make you a model - ick.

    Maryann, I'm very glad you stayed away from these alphabetically-obsessed types.

    And Rhys, those real life criminals just have a huge advantage over our fictional ones when it comes to getting away with murder.

  8. I'm with Tammy on this. I think the fact that mysteries or crime/suspense novels do to some extent "restore order" is part of their enduring appeal.

    I've never been very interested in writing about people who are totally bonkers like this Double Initial guy. I can't get from here to there--meaning I can't remotely imagine what makes someone like that tick. Nor do I want to.

  9. I just watched Basic Instinct last night and despite the preposterous storyline it was very compelling - and not just for the sexy bits. I forgave the ridiculous coincidences because the story just kept propelling forward. Maybe we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves..maybe readers are happy to overlook a few "longlost twins" if they serve the story.

    (OK my word verification was weibl. Wasn't there a toy commercial that said weibls wobble but they don't fall down?" Have i totally lost it?"

  10. Rosemary, those were Weebles. The Only had a Weeble firetruck. Thanks for the laugh.

    Rhys, I agree with others. Fictionalized crime ties things up neatly. In real life, it doesn't always happen. Almost every detective I know has at least one unsolved case that haunts.

    However, I wonder if more and more of these old cold cases won't get solved as those files are digitized and databases can be compared? It's a wonder to me that anyone ever managed to connect serial killers at all.

    Ha! My spam word looked like bogie at first glance. Yeah. I could do with a little Bogie and Bacall about now...

  11. So creepy and so random. It's what we can't control that's so terrifying.

  12. Rhys' story is bad enough, but Hank just scared me out of my chair! I agree and think what people read in the news often leaves out what we shine a light on - the complex, twisted, and deeply personal thought processes that lead to murder and other violent crimes. all we read is "The estranged husband killed the wife and children" but we write the WHYs, as irrational as they are.

  13. It is terrifying. And too often, the murderers are never caught. And if they are, well...
    I went to college in upper New York State, way in the country (a friend of mine jogged past cows on a regular basis). A quiet place that nothing should have happened. Well, my senior year in college, a first year student in my college was killed by her boyfriend, in front of the police. Some months later, two high school girls in a neighboring town were adducted from their home by a deranged killer. Their bodies were found in several different counties. Nothing happens in quiet country towns, huh? My college and the neighboring town(s) were thrown into shock and grief. One of the main questions that came up and had no answer was “WHY!?”