Pleasanton Murder: Man Confesses to Killing Classmate 36 Years After Her Death

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Pleasanton experienced one of its most gruesome murders in 1984 when an unknown assailant stabbed a 14-year-old girl 44 times and threw her body beside a drainage ditch, leaving no witnesses and few clues for authorities to work with.

On April 5, 1984, Tina Faelz, a freshman from Foothill High, walked home from school and never seen again. When the case went cold, the mystery of Faelz’s killer deepened and set its roots inside the city’s population.

Investigators turned their eyes to adults involved with Faelz, and eventually, they focused on serial killers. Students of the victim’s school quietly talked about a peculiar young boy from Lemonwood Way, in a home found across where the young girl lived. He would sometimes brag that he was the one who killed Faelz.

Several years passed with the victim’s family grieved with no suspect being found. The Pleasanton’s Police Department continued to investigate the crime despite several detectives quitting. Their efforts paid off in 2011 when the scientific revolution brought technology that could identify DNA from samples such as blood. Authorities discovered the blood found on the victim’s purse matched a jail inmate from Santa Cruz.

The prisoner’s name was Steven Carlson, and he had been in jail for nearly half his life with charges of statutory rape, drug possession, and parole violations. The suspect was also the boy that Faelz’s schoolmates talked about, where he had the nickname “Creepy Carlson,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

And after nearly 36 years, Carlson recently admitted to killing Faelz in three handwritten letters

after years of denying the crime. He addressed the letter to a parole board, the victim’s family, and Faelz herself. The documents come contrary to his innocent plea during his trial of the crime.

Within the letters, the murderer confessed that he spent most of his life in denial but eventually asserted that he was, in fact, Faelz’s killer. In one of the letters, he expressed his deepest apologies and said he could not believe he brutally killed the young girl in 1984. He told the girl’s family that they had done nothing to deserve the suffering that he inflicted on them.

Carlson described his emotions when he killed Faelz as being in a state of rage. He held on to a butcher knife and violently stabbed the girl 44 times. The murderer revealed how, before the crime, he had tried to throw a house-party at his parents’ residence but was bullied.

The inmate recalled his anger at his classmates who laughed at him and his fears that his father would be riled after seeing the condition of their home. Carlson said he grabbed the knife from the kitchen and went over to the field where he saw Faelz, Oxygen reported.

Alameda County District Attorney prosecutor Jill Klinge said that Carlson was scheduled for a parole hearing last month. However, the inmate requested the hearing be canceled while Klinge asked that the convicted’s letters be distributed to Faelz’s family.

The postponed hearing would have been Carlson’s first attendance, which would have sentenced him from anywhere between 16 years to life in prison in 2017. But in 2014, he was convicted of murder and given 26 years of imprisonment. He was initially charged with first-degree murder, but a state appellate court, finding insufficient evidence supporting premeditation and deliberation, lowered his sentence to second-degree murder.

The victim’s brother, Drew Faelz, said Carlson’s letters were an attempt to get him a higher chance of being released in the future. He noted it was a strategy the murdered was using for his own gain, and that Carlson had no remorse for his cruel deed, waiting for more than five years to confess to his crimes when he could have easily pleaded guilty during his trial, CBS Local reported.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.