Retired photographer found guilty of four California murders

SAN RAFAEL, California Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:10pm EDT

Joseph Naso is pictured in this undated file booking photograph released to Reuters on April 14, 2011 by the Washoe County Sheriff's office. REUTERS/Washoe County Sheriff's office/Handout/Files

Joseph Naso is pictured in this undated file booking photograph released to Reuters on April 14, 2011 by the Washoe County Sheriff's office.

Credit: Reuters/Washoe County Sheriff's office/Handout/Files

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SAN RAFAEL, California (Reuters) - A retired photographer was found guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder in the serial slayings of four northern California prostitutes dating back to the 1970s, capping a two-month trial in which he acted as his own attorney.

Joseph Naso, 79, now faces the possibility of the death penalty for the "alphabet murders," so called because of the matching letters of the first and last names of each of his victims.

The balding, stooped-shouldered killer insisted on defending himself at his trial, during which he admitted taking pictures of women in nylons and high heels, and boastfully displayed some of the photos in court while maintaining he never killed anyone.

After weeks in which prosecutors presented the testimony of roughly 70 witnesses, Naso called only a handful of individuals to the stand, including a woman who once posed for him as a model and an artist whom he asked to vouch for his work.

Naso declined to testify in his own defense and told the jury he wanted to explain why, although the judge would not allow him to offer a reason.

The prosecution contended that Naso drugged his victims, sexually assaulted them and then strangled them before dumping their bodies in remote places.

A jury of six men and six women began its deliberations on Monday and returned its guilty verdicts on Tuesday afternoon in the Marin County courtroom, north of San Francisco.

(Reporting by Ronnie Cohen; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)

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