A classmate of a 14-year-old Foothill High School freshman Tina Faelz, killed 27 years ago, was charged yesterday with murder in connection with her death.
Steven Carlson, 43, was arrested in Santa Cruz on Sunday and transported to Santa Rita Jail on a single count of murder. He was ordered held without bond pending a court hearing set for later this week.
Because Carlson was a juvenile at the time of the crime -- a freshman in the same class as the victim, Tina Faelz, when she was killed -- police, when they arrested him Sunday, were legally prohibited from releasing the name pending a court ruling that would allow him to be treated and prosecuted as an adult.
Police did, however, confirm that their suspect, like Carlson, had "an extensive criminal history," according to Pleasanton police Chief David Spiller.
Spiller said in a news conference Monday morning that their "unnamed" suspect was taken into custody Sunday in Santa Cruz, where he was being held on unrelated drug charges.
"The suspect in this case was a student at Foothill High School at the time and lived near the high school," Spiller said.
Spiller also said that he "personally brought this information to Tina's mother."
"This arrest brought to a close an investigation spanning nearly three decades," Spiller added.
Carlson has served time, including a felony count of lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14 years of age and he is on the state's Megan's Law list of sex offenders. Police have previously said Faelz did not appear to have been sexually molested.
At the news conference, Lt. Jim Knox said new technology helped crack the case.
"We went back and re-examined evidence abandoned originally," Knox said, adding, "We frequently go back and look at cold cases."
Faelz's body was discovered in a drainage ditch on April 5, 1984. She was last seen alive about an hour earlier, at 2:35 p.m. that same day. While the freshman girl often took the bus home from school, she had recently started walking home to avoid being teased by other students riding the bus, her mother, Shirley Orosco, said in a previous interview with the Pleasanton Weekly.
Fellow high school students who walked the same path found Faelz's body at about 3:25 p.m., only 10 to 15 minutes after investigators believe she was killed, Lt. Darrin Davis said in a 2008 interview. Police also received a call from a trucker who reported seeing her body from the freeway just minutes prior to the students who discovered her.
Like many of her classmates, Faelz took a back route from the high school, walking on a path that connected through Aster Court to Lemonwood Way and under Interstate 680 to her home in Valley Trails. That day, she only made it part way when police believe she was approached and subsequently stabbed to death.
The route was a popular one, shared by students who lived in the Valley Trails neighborhood. The shortcut was often discouraged by high school administration. The tunnel and the culvert have since been built over by homes.
While Carlson's name is being withheld by authorities for legal reasons, Annie Saadi, Alameda County deputy district attorney, expects charges will be filed shortly.
"In anticipation of this arrest, our office has reviewed countless documents," Saadi said.
Faelz's death has long been the subject of local speculation, but neither the Foothill freshman's family nor local police ever gave up hopes of solving the case.
Police confirmed that they've regularly revisited the case, including DNA testing performed in 2007. Last October, however, police were notified by the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., that they'd received a DNA match, leading to the months of paperwork that resulted in Carlson's arrest Sunday.
It is one of three Pleasanton homicides that remained unsolved. Forty-year-old Alfred Gutierrez was found dead with major head injuries after an apparent struggle in his Santa Rita Road apartment in 1977. Gutierrez was known as "Fat Freddy," and was associated with a biker gang.
An infant child, known only as "Baby Doe" was dumped in a garbage bin and discovered at Pleasanton Garbage Service's headquarters on Busch Road in 1995. Police tested DNA on the baby but couldn't locate any suspects.