PLEASANTON (KPIX 5) -- A man convicted of killing his 14-year-old Pleasanton classmate has written a confession letter to the girls' family - 36 years after her death.
On April 5th 1984, a young freshman named Tina Faelz left Foothill High School in Pleasanton to go home. Some kids had been picking on her so she avoided the bus and walked instead. Her family never saw her again. She was found dead in a drainage culvert along Hwy 680, stabbed 44 times with a knife. The memories are still vivid for her kid brother, Drew.
"I remember that day like it was yesterday," Drew Faelz said. "Having my mom sit outside my bedroom door for me to fall asleep as an 8-yr old because we didn't know who it was. And I didn't know if I was next."
Police couldn't find a solid suspect and the case went unsolved until 2011 when DNA from the scene pointed to a man already in jail named Steven Carlson, who was 16 at the time of the killing and also attended Foothill. He was convicted in 2014 but had always declared his innocence, until now.
As he approached his first parole hearing Carlson wrote three letters, admitting guilt, saying, "I want you to know you and your family did absolutely nothing to deserve what I did to you." The letters, shared with the San Francisco Chronicle and published last week, go on to explain that he was acting out of rage from having been bullied as well.
"Steve got bullied but also Steve was a major bully himself. So, like, what came first?" said Joshua Suchon a multimedia journalist who wrote a book about the killing entitled "Murder in Pleasanton." He also attended Foothill High shortly after the murder and says kids in the area always suspected the boy they called "Creepy Carlson" and they were not surprised when he was finally arrested. Suchon says he doesn't want to guess why Carlson may have admitted it now.
"He spent 36 years denying it," Suchon said. "There's a number of reasons why he penned these letters. It might be because he wants to get released earlier, wants to suck up to the parole board. It might be that he's maybe trying to clear his conscience. I'm not going to pretend like I know."
After writing the letters, Carlson actually canceled his own parole hearing. No one is sure why, but Tina's brother, Drew, believes it's all part of a plan to influence future attempts at release.
"Definitely a strategy," he said. "There's no remorse. None at all. If that was the case he could have admitted it in the courtroom. He waited until his parole hearing for it to come out. Why did he have to wait 5 ½ years?"
Steven Carlson was originally sentenced to 26 years to life for the murder. But an appeals court reduced that to 16 years to life. He is currently at the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi where his next parole hearing will be in three years.
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