A prosecutor told jurors today that they have all the evidence they need to convict a then-teenage boy of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of his 14-year-old high school classmate in Pleasanton 30 years ago.
Prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew said DNA evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Steven Carlson, who was 16 at the time and is now 46, is the person who killed Tina Faelz on April 5, 1984.
Carlson and Faelz, who was stabbed 44 times, both attended Foothill High School in Pleasanton.
Faelz was killed on her way home from school and was found dead in a ditch adjacent to Interstate Highway 680, east of the high school. Carlson lived near the murder scene.
The case remained unsolved for 27 years, but Pettigrew said a 2011 DNA test showed that a small amount of blood that was found on Faelz’s purse hanging on a tree near the murder scene was Carlson’s.
The chances of that blood belonging to someone other than Carlson are only 1 in 5 quadrillion, Pettigrew said.
Carlson, who has a long criminal history including convictions for committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 and assault, was arrested and charged with murdering Faelz in August 2011.
Carlson’s lawyer, Annie Beles, told jurors that they should find Carlson not guilty because the evidence in the case is “flimsy” and there are many unanswered questions.
Beles said among those questions are when the DNA evidence was collected, how it was collected, whether it was contaminated and whether it was improperly transferred.
The defense attorney said there are many innocent reasons to explain why Carlson’s DNA wound up on Faelz’s purse because they went to middle school and high school together and “were in the same proximity with one another.”
Beles said the prosecution also lacks other evidence that might connect Carlson to Faelz’s death, such as a motive, fingerprints or a weapon.
Beles alleged that police and prosecutors are making “a last-ditch shot with this DNA” to convict Carlson but she said, “It is not enough.”
The defense attorney said, “This was an unsolved murder in 1984, in the 1990s and in 2000 and remains an unsolved murder now.”
Beles told jurors, “You do no justice to Tina Faelz and her family if you convict the wrong person.
But Pettigrew said “there’s no doubt” that it’s Carlson’s blood that was on Faelz’s purse and the only reasonable conclusion is that it got there when he stabbed her in what she described as a “brutal, vicious act.”
Pettigrew admitted that police were sloppy in the way they handled the blood evidence in the case but she said the DNA that connects Carlson to Faelz’s death is reliable because “sloppy doesn’t equal contamination.”
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