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
Born Joseph Naso
Other names The Double Initial Killer
Victims 3
Span of killings
November 16, 1971–November 26, 1973
Country United States
State(s) Callifornia

The alphabet murders (also known as the "double initial murders") occurred in the 1970s in the Rochester, New York, area and possibly in Los Angeles, California.

New York alphabet murders[edit]

Three young girls were raped and strangled in the Rochester, New York area.

The case received its name from the fact that each of the girls' first and last names started with the same letter. Furthermore, each body was found in a town that had a name starting with the same letter as the victim's name:

Investigators have theorized that a series of murders with similar circumstances in California, in the late 1970s, is connected to these three murders.

Although hundreds of people were questioned, the killer was never caught. One man, considered to be a person of interest (he committed suicide six weeks after the last of the murders) was cleared in 2007 by DNA profiling.[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, New York, 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 of suspicion. However, there is circumstantial evidence that his car was seen at two of the murder scenes.


  • Carmen Colon, 10, disappeared November 16, 1971. She was found two days later in Riga, New York, near Churchville, 12 miles from where she was last seen.[4]
  • Michelle Maenza, 11, disappeared November 26, 1973. She was found two days later in Macedon, New York, 15 miles from Rochester.
  • Wanda Walkowicz, 11, disappeared April 2, 1973. She was found the next day at a rest area off State Route 104 in Webster, New York, 7 miles from Rochester.

California alphabet murders[edit]

On April 11, 2011, 77-year-old Joseph Naso, a New York native who lived in Rochester, New York, during the 1970s, was arrested in Reno, Nevada, for four murders in California (in 1977, 1978, 1993, and 1994). He was a professional photographer who had traveled between New York and California extensively for decades.[5][6][7][8][9]

All four of the murdered women were described by authorities as prostitutes.[5][6]

Naso was a person of interest in the Rochester, New York, alphabet murders, but his DNA did not 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.[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]


The California murder victims, like the New York victims, had double initials.

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

In the media[edit]

  • In 2001, the Discovery Channel aired a program revisiting the murders.[13]
  • A 2008 film titled The Alphabet Killer was very loosely based on the murders.[14]
  • In 2010, a book titled Alphabet Killer: The True Story of the Double Initial Murders was released by author Cheri Farnsworth.[15][16]
  • On April 1, 2011, the AMC network aired a short documentary 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. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ CNN Wire Staff (12 April 2011). "77-year-old man charged in four slayings dating to 1977". CNN Justice. CNN. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Dearen, Jason; Scott Sonner. "Eerie similarites [sic] noted in NY, Calif. cold cases". Crime & Courts on A.P. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Dillon, Nancy (12 January 2012). "Joseph Naso, suspected serial killer, kept rape diary: authorities". New York Times. 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]