Pleasanton high school student Tina Faelz, who was murdered at age 14 in 1984, died of 44 stab wounds, a pathologist testified today in the preliminary hearing for the man accused of killing her. The crime remained unsolved for 27 years until Pleasanton police announced in August 2011 that DNA evidence had linked Steven Carlson, who was 16 at the time of the murder and is now 44, to Faelz’s death. Faelz and Carlson were classmates at Foothill High School in Pleasanton.
Her body was discovered the afternoon of April 5, 1984, in a drainage area adjacent to Interstate Highway 680, east of the high school. She had been stabbed numerous times. The spot where Faelz was found was undeveloped at the time of the murder, and students would frequently pass through there on their way to and from school. Dr. Thomas Rogers, a pathologist, testified in an Oakland courtroom today that he believes Faelz was attacked with something “sharp and cutting,” most likely a blade up to 1 inch wide and 4 inches long.
Carlson could have been prosecuted as a juvenile because he was under 18 when Faelz was murdered, but in January Alameda County Superior Court Judge Rhonda Burgess ruled that he should be prosecuted as an adult. Burgess said factors that played into her decision included the severity of the crime and previous unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate Carlson, whose criminal history includes convictions for committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 and assault.
The cold case began to crack open in late 2007 when police re-examined the evidence using scientific analyses that weren’t available in 1984. Evidence was submitted to two different laboratories for analysis. In October 2010, information passed along to Pleasanton police by the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., led them to identify Carlson as a suspect in the murder.
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