Double-initial theory applies to fifth victim of serial killer |

Double-initial theory applies to fifth victim of serial killer

Nicole Baptista
Special to The Union

Unrooted and devoted, Renee Shapiro was known to travel the world fueled by the rhythm of a Bob Dylan song.

She reportedly declined rides with friends, hitchhiking her way along desolate highways on her way to Dylan's shows.

The diehard fan legally changed her name to mimic Bob Dylan's wife — but friends knew her simply as Sara Shapiro, the girl seen at nearly every Dylan concert from 1976 until her disappearance in 1992.

Shapiro is believed to be a victim of alleged serial killer Joseph Naso, who is charged with the murders of four other California women who also had names with double initials.

“It’s still sinking in. It’s a shock, a horror, a nightmare. But at the same time, I’m kind of relieved.”
Keith Gubitz
Friend of Sara Sharpiro

"She fit his pattern, basically," friend Keith Gubitz said. "In his mind, it's a double initial."

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Gubitz testified Aug. 5 at Marin County Superior Court and told the jury that he was supposed to meet Shapiro in Seattle at the end of Dylan's tour in 1992. But she never showed up.

"I knew she was dead right then because nothing but death would have kept her from being there," said Gubitz, who met Shapiro at a Dylan concert in 1990. "She was a nice girl. She wasn't crazy. She didn't do drugs; she just loved Bob."

Dropping out of college six months before graduation, Shapiro moved in with her parents and worked and saved money before heading on the road for months at a time.

"She didn't have a lot of money so she hitchhiked show to show, all around the world," Gubitz said. "She was the only one that hitchhiked. We all had cars and bus tickets. To the best of my knowledge, she did it alone."

Gubitz remembered meeting Shapiro for the first time on his first Dylan tour.

"Somebody pointed her out, saying who she was and what she did," he said. "She always pulled out her ticket and told people of her 100 Bob shows a year since 1986."

Questioned in the San Rafael courtroom, Gubitz identified items found in Naso's possession as belonging to Shapiro — a pin, passport and business cards.

Gubitz recalled ending his 17-show stint in 1992. Once home, he looked up the Shapiro family in the phone book, found her father's scrap metal business and made the call.

"Their first reaction wasn't bad because she had gone missing before," he said. "'She'll turn up,' is what they said."

Five years later, with no sign of Shapiro, Gubitz called again.

"I don't know why I did," he said. "Maybe because I lost my mom at that time. Her mother started crying immediately."

For years, Gubitz asked if anyone had seen the missing woman pictured in the photos he pinned at concerts. A man recognized her image as recently as 2006 when Gubitz posted her photo at the gas station where he worked, about one mile from Dylan's home. It was the last time a stranger ever recognized her face.

"Sara was a storyteller more than anything," Gubitz said.

"She'd get a ride and do just that … people helped her out. People would give her a room and a little cash."

Six years after Shapiro disappeared, a logger working along Zeibright Road near the Tahoe National Forest in Nevada County found a sun-stained skull, which was missing its lower jaw.

Sheriff's investigators concluded the victim had been dumped from a turnout on Highway 20, down a steep ravine.

After police searched Naso's Reno home and safety deposit box in 2010, they found Shapiro's personal items. It wasn't until then that investigators linked the unidentified skull to Shapiro.

Through the help of her biological mother's DNA, police were able to match her DNA to the skull found in Nevada County. Naso, however, isn't being charged with Shapiro's murder.

Doing so would mean enduring another preliminary hearing, which would push back the trial, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors believe Shapiro is the No. 8 entry "girl in Woodland, Nevada County" from Naso's "List of 10," a handwritten note listing descriptions relating to the victims.

"It's still sinking in," Gubitz said. "It's a shock, a horror, a nightmare. But at the same time, I'm kind of relieved."

The revelations, sadly, came only months after both of Shapiro's adopted parents died.

"I'm sorry that her parents didn't get to find out," he said. "But her brother testified."

Nicole Baptista is the editor of the Novato Advance; contact her at

The case

The Nevada Department of Public Safety charged Naso with four counts of murder, crimes of sexual assault, rape, violation of parole, possession of firearms and identification theft after two searches of his Nevada home in April and May of 2010.

Police seized more than $152,000 in cash, weapons, women’s clothing, newspaper clippings, mannequin legs, bullets, a $30,000 coin collection, knives, 5,000 photographs — and what Richard Brown, lead investigator with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, called a “rape journal.”

Many of the photographs found in Naso’s possession are believed to be of unconscious or deceased women.

Naso, who is representing himself in the death penalty case, called seven witnesses, including one of his former models, a photographer, a former Marin County sheriff’s detective, a man he knew from a Berkeley flea market in the 1980s and a Novato artist.

Naso, 79, elected not to testify at his trial Aug. 9 and rested his case.

None of the defense’s testimony discussed the DNA evidence the prosecution claims links Naso to the murder of 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch of Oakland, whose body was found on Jan. 11, 1977, off the side of a road near Fairfax.

The other three victims are Carmen Colon, 22, an East Bay resident whose body was found in Contra Costa County on Aug. 15, 1978; Pamela Parsons, 38, of Yuba County, whose body was found on Sept. 19, 1993 in Yuba County; and Tracey Tafoya, 31, whose body was found on Aug. 14, 1994 in Yuba County. The prosecution believes the women were strangled.

Jurors returned for instructions and closing arguments by the prosecution Wednesday. Naso’s closing statement will likely be today.

Seventy witnesses were called since the trial started in June. If Naso is convicted, the jury will then decide after a separate trial whether he should be sentenced to death.

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