Alphabet murders

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This article is about the serial killings. For the 1965 film, see The Alphabet Murders. For the poem, see John Tranter.
The Alphabet Killer
Other names The Double Initial Killer
Victims 3
Span of killings
November 16, 1971–November 26, 1973
Country United States
State(s) Rochester, New York

The "Alphabet murders" (also known as the "double initial murders") took place in the early 1970s in the Rochester, New York, area; three young girls were raped and strangled. The case got its name from the fact that each of the girls' first and last names started with the same letter and that each body was found in a town that had a name starting with the same letter as each girl's name (Carmen Colon in Churchville, Wanda Walkowicz in Webster and Michelle Maenza in Macedon).

Investigators have theorized that a series of murders with similar circumstances in California in the late 1970s is connected to the earlier New York murders.

New York alphabet murders[edit]

While hundreds of people were questioned, the killer was never caught. One man, considered to be a "person of interest" in the case (he committed suicide six weeks after the last of the murders), was cleared in 2007 by DNA testing.[1] In the case of Carmen Colon, her uncle was also considered a suspect until his suicide in 1991.[2]

Another suspect was Kenneth Bianchi, who at the time was an ice cream vendor in Rochester, vending from sites close to the first two murder scenes. He was a Rochester native who later moved to Los Angeles, and with his cousin Angelo Buono, Jr. committed the Hillside Strangler murders between 1977 and 1978.[3] Bianchi was never charged with the alphabet murders, and he has repeatedly tried to have investigators officially clear him from suspicion; however, there is circumstantial evidence that his car was seen at two of the murder scenes. He remains under suspicion. However, on Investigation Discovery's television series "Dark Minds" (episode name "Double Initial Murder" which first aired 22 February 2012 and was hosted by M. William Phelps) it was reported that Bianchi's DNA profile was tested in 1985 and it did not match the biological evidence left at the crime scene of Wanda Walkowicz.

Rochester victims[edit]

  • Carmen Colon, 10, disappeared November 16, 1971. She was found two days later, 12 miles from where she was last seen. Although found in the town of Riga,[4] the village of Churchville is the town's center of population, and the town of Chili is nearby.
  • Wanda Walkowicz, 11, disappeared April 2, 1973. She was found the next day at a rest area off State Route 104 in Webster, seven miles from Rochester.
  • Michelle Maenza, 11, disappeared November 26, 1973. She was found two days later in Macedon, 15 miles from Rochester.

California alphabet murders[edit]

On April 11, 2011, 77-year-old Joseph Naso, a New York native and former photographer who lived in Rochester in the 1970s, was arrested in Reno, Nevada, for four murders in California dating back to 1977. The California murder victims, like the New York victims, had double initials: Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons, Tracy Tofoya, and Carmen Colon (a different woman from the Rochester, New York, victim). All four women are described by authorities as prostitutes.[5][6] Naso is also considered a "person of interest" in the New York Alphabet Murders, but his DNA was not found to match samples taken from those victims.

On January 12, 2012, in his preliminary hearing in Marin County, California, his alleged "rape diary" was entered into evidence. It mentioned the death of a girl in the "Buffalo woods," a possible allusion to Upstate New York.[7] Naso was a professional photographer who traveled between New York and California extensively for decades.[5][6][8][9][10]

On June 18, 2013, Naso was tried for the murder of the four California alphabet murder victims.[11]
On August 20, 2013, Naso was convicted by a Marin County jury of the murders.
On November 22, 2013, Naso was sentenced to death for the murders.[12]

California victims[edit]

  • Roxene Roggasch, 18, was found slain on January 11, 1977, off the side of a road near Fairfax, California.
  • Pamela Parsons
  • Tracy Tofoya
  • Carmen Colon (not the Rochester victim of the same name)

In the media[edit]

  • In 2001, the Discovery Channel aired a program revisiting the murders.[13]
  • A 2008 film called The Alphabet Killer was very loosely based on the murders.[14]
  • In 2010, a book called Alphabet Killer: The True Story of the Double Initial Murders was released by author Cheri Farnsworth, detailing the actual events, from the time they occurred through to the present.[15][16]
  • On April 1, 2011, the AMC network aired a short-form documentary regarding the murders titled Countdown to The Killing: The Alphabet Murders.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Double Initial DNA Test Clears Man, R News, February 21, 2007.[dead link]
  2. ^ Cawthorne, Nigel (2007). The Mammoth Book of Killers at Large. UK: Robinson. p. 209. ISBN 978-1-84529-631-5. 
  3. ^ Craig, Gary (March 2, 2009). "Serial killer Bianchi denies he is 'double initial' slayer". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester: Gannett). p. 6A. Retrieved March 2, 2009. Bianchi was a suspect in the double initial killings because he lived in Rochester in the early 1970s and was a security guard. 
  4. ^ Craig, Gary (March 1, 2009). "'Double initial' murders remain mystery after 35 years". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester: Gannett). pp. 1A, 8A. Retrieved March 2, 2009. Two days later, her crumpled body was found in a gully, lying against a rock, along an infrequently traveled road in the town of Riga, near the Chili border. 
  5. ^ a b Justin Berton (July 7, 2011). "Joseph Naso now wants an attorney for murder trial". Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Henry K. Lee (June 17, 2011). "Slaying suspect Joseph Naso kept notes on victims". Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  7. ^ Dillon, Nancy (12 January 2012). "Joseph Naso, suspected serial killer, kept rape diary: authorities". (New York Times). Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Dearen, Jason; Scott Sonner (13 April 2011). "What's in a name? It may link Calif, NY cold cases". The Salem News. A.P. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  9. ^ CNN Wire Staff (12 April 2011). "77-year-old man charged in four slayings dating to 1977". CNN Justice (CNN). Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Dearen, Jason; Scott Sonner. "Eerie similarites [sic] noted in NY, Calif. cold cases". Crime & Courts on A.P. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "Accused 'Double Initial' serial killer Joseph Naso, on trial for killing four prostitutes, claims he is not the 'monster' prosecutors say he is". Daily News (New York) (Mortimer Zuckerman). 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2014-09-13. 
  12. ^ Klein, Gary (2013-11-22). "Marin judge sentences Joseph Naso to death row for murders of six women". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2014-09-13. 
  13. ^ Murder Reopened—The Alphabet Killer @ Yahoo! TV
  14. ^ The Alphabet Killer at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Gary, Craig. "New book delves deeper into Rochester unsolved Double Initial murders". Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  16. ^ Cheri, Farnsworth (2010). Alphabet Killer: The True Story of the Double Initial Murders. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-0632-2. 
  17. ^ Countdown to The Killing: Alphabet Murders @ AMC (TV channel) TV

External links[edit]