Portraits emerged this week of both the victim and the suspect in this homicide case as classmates and friends remembered 14-year-old Tina Faelz and fellow Foothill freshman Steve Carlson, the man now charged with her murder.
Both were members of the class of 1987, and both were victims of school bullying and teasing: Faelz because she'd left most of her younger friends behind in middle school when she moved on to high school, and Carlson because he was different and disliked by his peers.
Faelz's friends remembered her as a shy girl, especially around people she didn't know. Denise O'Sullivan-Delamain remembered her friend as someone with "a fun spirit."
"She had an easy smile and a fun personality," O'Sullivan-Delamain recalled. "We spent time together when we where little girls."
Jackie Carleton-Picton said Faelz's mother was once her babysitter, and she got to know the girl well.
"My parents live on that street, so not only was Tina my friend and her mother my babysitter, we were all friends. Tina was a really playful girl, shy with those that she didn't know, but she wasn't shy when she was among friends," Carleton-Picton said. "I would have a lot of one-on-one time with Tina. She was always close with her mother -- Tina was someone who never had a bad word to say."
Although Faelz was labeled a loner by some of the kids at school Carleton-Picton said that wasn't the case at all.
"Tina was friends with a huge circle of girls who were all a year younger than her. ... She wasn't a loner, she was just alone at Foothill High," she said, adding that Faelz was just another kid out playing with everyone else, bike riding in the streets in the days before Pleasanton had a mall and when Hopyard Road still had cows grazing on either side of it.
Voelm said Faelz was rude to him during one encounter and he didn't particularly like her at the time but has since come to an understanding.
"She was picked on a lot, you know how kids that age are pretty cruel. She seemed to me like an introvert because of being picked on," he said, adding, "I know she had a small group of friends."
While it took 27 years for charges to be filed, it was often inferred around the school and even at the Police Department that Carlson may have been responsible for Faelz's death, say former classmates.
"Everyone assumed it was him, yeah. They called him 'creepy Carlson,' that was his nickname," said Voelm.
Voelm, who has since moved away from the area, said there are a number of things that stand out from that day regarding Carlson.
He said two of his friends caught up with him in the smoking lounge -- this was before the days of zero tolerance for smoking in schools -- and said they'd skipped part of school to accompany Carlson to go drinking. Voelm said the three had raided a liquor cabinet during lunch. When the two teased Carlson that he'd get in trouble with his parents, Voelm said Carlson replied, "This isn't even my house."
Classmates who posted on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square forum following the announcement of Carlson's arrest said they would routinely abandon him.
"He wasn't really part of any crowd, rather he would forcibly attach himself to the plans of different crowds and participate uninvited and unwanted. He was aggressive, loud, and rigidly opinionated, which made him extremely abrasive," said a Town Square poster who identified himself as "1984 Creekrat."
"He was ostracized, criticized, treated as unwelcome wherever he went, had no real friends, spent a tremendous amount of time by himself, endured the valley-wide moniker of 'Creepy Carlson' which his unusual appearance seemed to support, and basically woke up to a world of hate everyday. I personally participated in all of those actions toward him at one time or another," the anonymous poster added. "We punished this guy to the highest level."
He also poses the question of whether Carlson was ostracized because of his actions or if his actions were because he was shunned.
"Did we build this?" 1984 Creekrat asked. "Could we have saved this girl by treating a troubled kid like a human?"
He said it was "fashionable" to hurt Carlson and called the group's actions toward him as "the systematic dismantling of the soul of another human being."
Voelm, however, remembers things a bit differently, recalling a local restaurant that employed some of the young women who attended Foothill, where Carlson would come and unnerve them.
"He just said weird things and did weird things. He was creepy, hence the nickname creepy Carlson," he said, adding that one of his friends told him Carlson once asked if he'd ever wondered "what it would feel like to stab somebody over and over repeatedly."
Carlson's arrest has been a long time coming for all three. Voelm said he'd even contacted the Police Department on the 25th anniversary of Faelz's death to tell them about the man they were all convinced had killed Tina; he said when he mentioned Carlson's name, the officer said, "Creepy Carlson? We already know about him."
O'Sullivan-Delamain called the arrest "long overdue" and said she's glad that Faelz's mother, Shirley Orosco," can finally witness justice for her daughter.