SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — Serial murder suspect Joseph Naso delivered an hours-long personal history Monday replete with childhood photos, as he launched his defense, denied the decades-old slayings of four women and claimed he is not the "monster" prosecutors have made him out to be.
The 79-year-old defendant's opening statement came after prosecutors spent the morning showing the jury graphic images of the four women's bodies discovered in Northern California, leading some on the panel to wipe tears from their eyes.
Naso, wearing a dark suit and spectacles, rose after Marin County prosecutor Rosemary Slote had called him a "serial rapist and murderer" and said he was anxious to tell his side.
"I've been waiting two years and two months for this day, to tell my side of the story," Naso told the panel.
"I'm not the monster they say killed these women," he said. "I don't kill people and there's no evidence of that in my writings and photography."
Naso, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances for the slayings of four women — all prostitutes with matching initials: 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch in 1977; 22-year-old Carmen Colon in 1978; 38-year-old Pamela Parsons in 1993; and 31-year-old Tracy Tafoya in 1994.
Whether the "double initials" in each victim's name was a coincidence or a plan, investigators have not said. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Prosecutors say Naso drugged and photographed his unconscious victims, then strangled them and dumped their naked bodies in rural areas.
Slote read from sections of a diary found at Naso's home that detailed rapes of women.
In a 1961 entry, the journal describes a man picking a girl up and raping her in a car in the Berkeley Hills. Other entries made vague references to victims in this case.
Naso was arrested at the time on suspicion of assault, but he said he was never charged. Prosecutors say the woman named in that entry will testify about the incident.
Authorities around the country have also looked at Naso as a suspect in cold cases.
Marin County prosecutors have built a significant case against Naso.
Investigators discovered DNA matching Naso's profile on at least one victim, Roggasch, and a partial DNA match from material collected from under the fingernails of Colon.
Naso said he plans to challenge that, saying the DNA is inconclusive.
Also discovered were photographs — including images of at least one of the victims in the case — of women who appeared dead or unconscious and what prosecutors called a "rape journal" during a search of Naso's Reno, Nev., house.
Naso characterized the photographs as his art and said all of his "models" were willing participants.
He showed the jury on Monday dozens of photographs he took of weddings, landscapes and family pictures along with what he called "glamour" or "cheesecake" photographs of nude women. He said he never forced any of them to do anything.