Suspect in Custody: The Tina Faelz Murder 27 Years Later
On Thursday April 5th, 1984 Tina Faelz was brutally stabbed over twenty times. Her lifeless body was found in a drainage culvert under highway 680 in the city of Pleasanton California, approximately forty five minutes east of San Francisco. She was only fourteen years old. I remember that dreary day in April for another reason, it was my Birthday and I had just turned fifteen years old. We lived in a housing area called Valley Trails. I lived on one side of the tract and the Faelz family lived on the other side. On that day I was a carefree teenager out riding my Redline MXIII dirt bike around the neighborhood. I remember feeling the wind on my face as I rode my bike that day. The spring weather was absolutely gorgeous as usual in Northern California. The year 1984 was a time when we recorded songs on cassette tapes, cell phones had not been invented yet and we could still play in the street for hours without worrying about being abducted. We were kids and we craved the outdoors. Then everything changed. I remember Jay, my friend and neighbor as he approached us kids that Thursday afternoon. We were all hanging out in the neighborhood park when he told us he and another kid found a body while they were walking home from school. He was with the police for over an hour giving them his statement. I remember Jay’s face was ghost white. He was visibly shaken and when he spoke his voice was trembling as he told us the gory details and what he saw. The emotions going through my body were fear, disbelief, anger and an overwhelming sadness. We would find out the next day that the body was a classmate and friend, Tina Faelz. The shock wave that rippled through our school and community was palpable. We were shocked once again when we realized there was a killer at large. This was my first experience with death.
In the beginning the police were focusing on a hitchhiker that was seen in the area at the time of the attack. This lead ran its course and the attention surrounding it died out. In the weeks and months ahead a name began to surface. This name caught the attention of the police and a person of interest was named, though not publicly because of his age. The individual in question was sixteen years old, a classmate. Though I did not see it for myself, there were reports that he showed up the next day at school with scratches all over his face. Another friend told me that he knocked on the suspects door about an hour after the attack and found that the person of interest had just finished showering. He reported that the suspect had scratches on his face and was acting strange. There were a dozen other stories that went along these lines. It is important to keep in mind that these stories were all word of mouth. A month after the murder the general consensus around school was that the person of interest did it, he murdered Tina Faelz.
Cold Case Arrest
As the years passed, memories faded, but technology improved. A DNA match pinpointed Steven John Carlson, a registered sex offender and parolee as the killer. Reports describe Carlson as a troubled sixteen year old who attended Foothill High School, the same school Tina Faelz attended. Carlson lived extremely close to the drainage culvert where Tina Faelz body was found. Pleasanton Police Chief David Spiller was quoted as saying, "the killing notably changed Pleasanton and rocked this community. The best way to discuss reaction to this murder was purely shock. The brutal murder of this 14-year-old freshman made the people of Pleasanton look at the world entirely different that day." Steven John Carlson had originally been charged in juvenile court because he was 16 when he allegedly stabbed Tina Faelz as she walked home from Foothill High School. But at a juvenile court hearing in San Leandro, Judge Rhonda Burgess transferred Carlson's case to adult court, citing the severity of the crime and the fact that it would be impossible to rehabilitate him before he turned 21.
This case has forever scarred this bedroom community I grew up in. Every year on my birthday I say a small prayer for Tina and her family. I often ask myself why such a senseless crime happens. More times than not I am left with questions instead of answers. It is a terrible thing when a family has to sit in court and relive such a heinous crime. I cannot begin to understand what they must be going through. All we can do now is let justice take its course and pray for peace in such a troubled world.