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Still Professing Innocence, Man Gets 26 Years To Life For 1984 Murder Of His High School Classmate

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A man with an extensive criminal history was sentenced at an intense and emotional hearing Friday to 26 years to life in state prison for fatally stabbing a 14-year-old high school classmate in Pleasanton more than 30 years ago.

Steven Carlson, 46, was convicted on Oct. 30 of first-degree murder for the death of Tina Faelz on April 5, 1984, but he claimed in court Friday that he's innocent and his attorney, Annie Beles, said he had "an unfair trial from beginning to end."

Faelz, who was stabbed 44 times, and Carlson, who was 16 at the time she was killed, 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 prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew said a 2011 DNA test showed that a small amount of blood found on Faelz's purse hanging on a tree near the murder scene came from Carlson, who has convictions for committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 and assault.

The chances of that blood belonging to someone other than Carlson are only 1 in 5 quadrillion, prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew said.

Carlson was arrested and charged with murdering Faelz in August 2011.

Pettigrew said in her closing argument in October that the DNA evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Carlson is the person who killed Faelz.

But Beles told jurors that they should find Carlson not guilty because the evidence in the case is "flimsy" and there are many unanswered questions, such as when the DNA evidence was collected, how it was collected, whether it was contaminated and whether it was improperly transferred.

Beles said the prosecution also lacked other evidence that might connect Carlson to Faelz's death, such as a motive, fingerprints or a weapon.

At Friday's hearing, Beles asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay to throw out the jury's verdict and grant Carlson a new trial, arguing that the DNA evidence shouldn't have been allowed in the trial and alleging that Pettigrew engaged in misconduct by "diluting the standard of proof" for guilt.

"Let me tell you, it wasn't fair," Beles said.

But Pettigrew said Beles engaged in "a gross mischaracterization" of what she told jurors in her closing argument and "the jury got it right" by convicting Carlson after only one day of deliberations.

Clay denied Beles' motion for a new trial and pronounced his sentence against Carlson.

Faelz's stepfather, Steve Faelz, said, "Tina was a great kid" but "all of a sudden she was taken away from us and it was devastating and hurt our family tremendously."

Ron Penix, Faelz's biological father, told Carlson, "What's not fair is that this little girl never reached her full potential and you've been able to breathe for the last 30 years."

Penix said, "I hope that every second of every minute of every day you will feel the pain that Tina did in the last 30 seconds of her life."

Beles objected to Penix's comments, calling them "an insult," and Carlson said, "I didn't do it."

Faelz's brother, Drew Faelz, said he was only 8 years old when she died and he was so upset about it that, "I couldn't sleep for months and years" and was "scared all the time."

Referring to Carlson, Faelz said, "It's time for me to pass the hurt on to him for the next 25 to 30 years" while he's in prison.

Tina Faelz's aunt, Karin Reiff, the sister of Tina's mother, Shirley Faelz Orosco, said that when Carlson killed Tina he also killed her mother because she never recovered from Tina's death.

Faelz Orosco died last February on the original date that Carlson's trial was to begin, although it wound up being delayed until the fall.

Beles said Carlson has had drug problems, led a troubled life and committed crimes but she doesn't think he's a killer.

"Fundamentally he was a screw-up more than he was an evil man," Beles said.

When Carlson was arrested and charged in August 2011, his case originally was assigned to juvenile court because he was 16 at the time of the crime.

But on Jan. 12, 2012, a judge ruled that he should be prosecuted as an adult because of the degree of criminal sophistication he displayed in the killing, the severity of the crime and previous failed attempts to rehabilitate him.


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