For decades, Naso photographed, raped, and murdered women, leaving no clues until 2010, when a probation officer searched his home and discovered a list of 10 unnamed "girls" whose locations in Northern California matched the crime scenes of several unsolved homicides. Swinney (Monster, 2016, etc.) uses court documents and police reports, letters from the murderer, and interviews with law enforcement and survivors to retrace Naso's steps, creating a chilling profile of a serial killer and the unfortunate women who crossed his path. The author pegs Naso, a photographer with a wife and children, as a narcissistic misogynist whose sexual urges became increasingly difficult to satisfy until "the massive urge to kill, stemming from an inner perspective to take complete control over a woman, finally overcame him." Swinney, a police detective, offers sharp insights about the cops who failed to tie Naso to his crimes. When Pamela Parsons was reported missing, asserts Swinney, "the fact the police didn't look for Pamela is not an indicator of negligence on their behalf...unless a person reported missing is considered endangered or at-risk, police will not search for them." Since many of Naso's victims were prostitutes whose deaths provoked little public outrage, Swinney's compassionate portrayal of their struggles, relationships, and displays of courage tugs at the heartstrings: "As her mind tried to process the John's home, she again looked at the photographs on the coffee table. Her heart jumped when she recognized one of the girls in the photos." A collection of photos and a myth-busting chapter on the connection between Naso and the Alphabet Killer in Rochester, New York, round out this thorough, humanizing dissection of the case.
With great diligence, the author illuminates the murderer's darkest thoughts without romanticizing them--and gives the victims the written equivalent of a proper burial.--Kirkus Review
From the Author
I visited the spots where victims were dumped. I spoke to family members of the victims. I read and re-read every police report, every statement memorialized in court, and I interviewed many of the law enforcement officials involved in this case. I also interviewed Ryan Petersen with the Marin County Sheriff's Office. Petersen,and the "Naso Task Force," broke this case wide open in 2010.
I also corresponded with Joe quite a bit for this case. He continues to be shifty and refuses to answer any questions with direct answers. Some of what he shared with me is shared throughout this book. I also spoke to friends, associates, and old co-workers of the victims. These sources,and my own experience as a writer and seasoned law enforcement investigator, were used to provide you the most accurate portrayal of the victims in this case. This case could not have been any further away from the standard, "Just another serial killer who killed prostitutes" type of case.
Narcissism fueled an impossible to fill sexual urge that created a hunter of women. The monster preyed on females for over three decades and would have gotten away with it were it not for a break for police. The killer lured desperate and curious women to his home -while he himself married and later divorced- and exposed them to violent sex, bizarre photography, and for some, an untimely death. When he finished with the girls, he dumped them in remote locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California. These dump locations were not completely off the beaten path by design. The murderer anticipated his victims being located and he would twiddle his thumbs eagerly waiting when they would be discovered. The supreme satisfaction he gained from the chaos he created pushed him to commit more murders.
Good old fashioned police work, a hunch, and some luck, led to the apprehension of one of California's and the United States' worst serial killers. Were it not for law enforcement's dedication and attention to even minute details, Joseph Naso would have gotten away with countless murders.
**A special thanks to Linda and Ken Thompson for pouring over my work tirelessly and providing me input.**