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Friends of Slaying Victim Tina Faelz Remember Her as Kind Little Girl

Friends say she wouldn't have harmed a fly and recall the aftermath of her 1984 killing.

When members of 's Class of 1987 think of Tina Faelz, they recall the eerie culvert off Lemonwood Way where students walking home from school found her body one day in April 1984.

They think of the bullying their 14-year-old classmate apparently endured before she was stabbed to death, and they lived the next 27 years wondering who did it.

Jackie Carleton Picton remembers those things too, yes.

But she also remembers a freckle-faced 14-year-old. A smiling girl who loved soccer and sleepovers — a tomboy who liked to ham it up and would sometimes pretend to take pictures with a filmless camera.

"I have this picture of her that I put in a scrapbook, and she's beaming," said Carleton Picton.

"She's got her arms around the other girls at this slumber party. I love it, because it's so her. She was so kind. Everyone says she's shy, but she was only that way with people she didn't know."

Shirley Orosco, Tina's mom, watched Carleton Picton for a few years starting in fifth grade, and the girls spent every afternoon together.

Back then, Pleasanton was a small town of about 42,000 where everyone knew everyone. All the kids in the Valley Trails neighborhood, where Tina and Carleton Picton lived, would get together at Valley Trails Park near Faelz's house on Virgin Island Court and ride their bikes.

Carleton Picton was a year younger than Tina, as were many of Tina's friends.

"That meant a lot of her friends weren't at the high school with her — she was a year ahead, so we weren't there with her..." Carleton Picton says, trailing off. She means to say they weren't there to protect her. Tina was a freshman at Foothill when she died, and the other girls were at Wells Junior High in Dublin.

Police believe Tina was stabbed to death around 2:30 p.m. April 5, 1984, in a culvert that once crossed underneath Interstate 680. (The area has since been replaced by a housing development.) Fellow students discovered her body just minutes afterward, according to police.

Every few years, the local media would write about the case — how it remained unsolved, and it stuck in the craw of local residents. Pleasanton is a safe town, they said. How could this city have such a grisly murder in its history, let alone an unsolved one? (According to city stats, for example, there were only three homicides between 1999 and 2009.)

But then in the case Monday morning. The suspect, now a registered sex offender, was a classmate of Tina's — he was 16 at the time.

"I'm so happy about this," said Pam Carleton, Jackie's mom. She had been good friends with Tina's mom, who still lives in the same house. On Monday after hearing the news, she planned to go put flowers on Orosco's front porch.

Authorities Monday said they wouldn't release the suspect's name because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

However, friends of Tina's who kept up with the case over the years said they felt like they knew who did it — a specific classmate of theirs. They would name him in online chat forums and ask why the police hadn't picked him up.

The same man they suspected, 43-year-old Steven J. Carlson, was in fact arrested in Santa Cruz Sunday thanks to new technology that led to the discovery of DNA evidence, according to Alameda County jail records that match the Faelz case number in Pleasanton.

Police aren't commenting yet about his motive, but they do say that he allegedly targeted Tina — that this attack was not random. (Click to read more about his arrest.)

Carlson at the time lived in a house on Lemonwood Way and Ashwood Drive, mere feet away from where Tina's body was found. His parents moved several years later, and people in the neighborhood either don't remember where they went, or are too new to remember them at all. But they heard the stories over the years.

"My kids would always say, 'Ah, nothing happens in Pleasanton,'" said Linda Randall, who moved to her home on Lemonwood Way in 1985, the year after Tina was killed. "But we would say that's not true, things do happen. And we would remind them about Tina."

She said her two boys, now 17 and 19, weren't allowed to play in the neighborhood without someone watching them — but that could also have been because she and her husband moved to Pleasanton from Oakland.

Sandy Valladon moved to Lemonwood Way in 1988 and said her kids used to wonder why the gate across the street was locked. That's where Tina's body was found; since then, the freeway configuration has changed, and the tunnel and culvert are gone. But the locked gate serves as a reminder, she said.

"I'm glad that even though it took so many years, there's finally been an arrest," she said. "Maybe Tina's parents will get a little bit of peace and be able to move on. We can't say we'll ever know the whole truth, but we'll get glimpses."

Patch did attempt to talk to Orosco, but when she came to her front door, she said, 'Not today.'"

Dan Carleton, Jackie Charleton Picton's dad and Pam's husband, said he didn't know Tina well, but he liked her.

"When I heard she'd died, I thought, 'How could anyone have wanted to kill this sweet girl? She couldn't have had any enemies,'" he said.

Tina had been taking the bus, but then started walking home to escape the teasing of other kids, according to reports. She started taking a back route from the high school, walking along Aster Court to Lemonwood Way and through the Interstate 680 underpass to her home on Virgin Islands Court.

"I remember my parents telling me that on this particular day, she'd gone through the culvert to avoid something," Carleton Picton said. She said she thinks it was some sort of bullying, but she couldn't be sure. Again, she was a year younger, and still in junior high.

"She wouldn't have harmed a fly," Carleton Picton said. "If she were walking home, she's the type of girl who wouldn't have stopped to talk to anyone but would have kept going," she said.

Pam Carleton said she was at the supermarket when she heard about Tina's death the day after it happened.

"I heard a lady talking to the cashier and didn't want to interrupt, but then I did ask who it was and they said 'Tina,' and I got all shakey," she said.

Carleton Picton remembers, too. She was at her locker at school.

"And I heard some kids saying, 'Did you hear that girl Tina Faelz was murdered,' and I hadn't heard. I just burst into tears and I remember my math teacher came and escorted me to the office and my mom came and picked me up and took me home for the day."

She did go to the funeral, but she doesn't remember much about it.

On Monday, Tina's classmates were connecting via phone and e-mail to share the news of Carlson's arrest, Carleton Picton said.

"But we don't want people to remember Tina because of her murder," she said.

"She was just a little girl growing up in Pleasanton like the rest of us."

That said, when Carlson goes on trial, Carleton Picton will fly in from her home in Tucson, Ariz., to be there.

"I owe it to my friend," she said.

To reach reporter Tanya Rose, e-mail tanya.rose@patch.com, or call 925-212-4518. Follow @PleasantonPatch on Twitter and Facebook.

Douglas Linman August 09, 2011 at 03:30 PM
While horribly tragic, it is just another "truth" reminder within our actual state of the overall union. We advertise, game, video and text more violence and less responsibility in our current culture than ever before. Parents are ultimately responsible for not recognizing poor choices in their own children, lack of respect for people, property and authority, caffeine and sugar addictions from poor diets and "energy" drinks, little or low moral value, and an unchecked lack of self esteem. Mix all this with falsely "created" education pressures to succeed in unattainable numbers only to drive funding, and unmanaged fears with no reality grounding, and this new age volatile mixer is now openly available for the next tragedy. We need to take a large mature Parenting step in a much better direction. We have become our own poorly managed problem. As a parent also, I can easily imagine this incredible loss and how I would wish that others would never have to live with such pain through some life altering example. We need to take back control of our homes, stop living in fear, take full responsibility for our children, instill full responsibility within them, and reinstitute dress codes and disciplinary actions in the schools. The signs are all there, that more of the same...has not worked.
K August 09, 2011 at 04:03 PM
I'd like to hear about the bullies, and if knowing they actually had a hand in how/why/where and when this child was murdered, did they deal with it ever after. Anybody up for their confessions now?
Mars55 August 09, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Yes and most of those sex offender crimes are commited by men.So the sugar and caffien and energy drink are affecting more of the male gender. So maybe we should teach young boys and men respect for women and anger management.
Renee Ostrander August 09, 2011 at 04:09 PM
This is a horrible event and I am glad that they have caught the person responsible for Tina's death. With that being said, I highly doubt that Douglas Linman can easily imagine this incredible loss. What does a dress code have to do with a child being murdered? What poor choices is he referring to? Diet? There were signs that Tina was going to be stabbed to death on her way home from school by a murderer and diet, video games and a dress code would have stopped that? Although I agree that parenting has changed in the last few decades, for the worse, (thank you to our society that butts in where they do not belong) I do not understand what that has to do with a child walking home from school and being killed has to do with parenting? Douglas-are you talking about the boy that killed Tina? I do not think that had anything to do with diet, dress code, video games, self esteem-the boy was and is unbalanced.
Joan Bogorae August 09, 2011 at 04:10 PM
He got away with this for 27 years and now he is going to be tried as a juvenile and get what?A slap on the wrist.I think crimes of this nature should be tried for what they are not how old the criminal was at the time it happened.
Lisa Huffman Webber August 09, 2011 at 04:37 PM
The fact is some people are sociopaths and a sociopath with anger issues and self control issues unfortunately will snap and the unfortunate victims suffer the consequences. Pretty simple. Bad people do bad things (sometimes good people do bad things). This guy according to all sources has been a loser from the time he was very young, has been in and out of trouble and with new technology, who knows, there may be other victims. Hopefully not. Sociopaths have been around from the beginning of time and always will be, nothing you can do about it, regardless of how you "clean up" society. Jack the Ripper, Atilla the Hun......
John Smith August 09, 2011 at 05:25 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with this. Being a student in Pleasanton, everyday I see the effects of bad parenting and violent video games on them. These people can't seem to separate fantasy from reality, and that is a huge problem for the future. In addition, the parents also set overly low standards, seeing as many people don't work hard to get a B or an A, because at home, all they need is a C. As a response to Renee, it all could be related, one way or another. The murderer could have been badly influenced by inappropriate clothing, depicting death and the like while at school. For poor choices, he might have been lead into the life of crime and illegal pharmaceuticals. Yes, there were signs, but remember that if the parents possibly paid more attention and taught their child better morals, perhaps the murder would have never occurred. What i'm trying to say is that the murderer was influenced one way or the other by things that parents could have stopped. This can be reapplied in history, i.e the Columbine massacre. It was a fact that the two killers played violent video games as well.
miss burdines@aol.com August 09, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Thank YOU GOD!....For closure for Tina's Family, Friends and Community. I can not imagine the heartache of "Losing A Child."
Lynn August 09, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Thank God for our advancements in DNA evidence, and for police officers working to find answers to old unsolved cases. That in itself is amazing. I know that Tina's mother will be somewhat relieved to know her daughter's killer has been found, but it still won't bring back her beautiful daughter.
timothy August 09, 2011 at 06:16 PM
If it appears this guy is going to get a slap on the wrist....the people will need to rise up ala the Casey Anthony case. Let's not become a national embarassment and hope the courts make the correct moves.
Kari Hulac (Editor) August 09, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Pleasanton Patch created a Facebook Page called Remembering Tina Faelz. We hope the community can use the page as a spot to share stories, photos and to help one another cope with all the issues this news story brings up for our town.
Earl August 09, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Man (and/or Wo-man) left unchecked has the capacity to commit untold violence. As Douglas was so intellectually alluding to is our responsibility as parents as the days grow long, has to increase toward our children and the kids we come in contact with. The increase in media violence, media sex coupled with poor dieting and the lack of a list of school, and parent driven motivates that could help in a child's growth is what is in store for our kids.Though honest truthful parenting doesn't promise a socially competent child it does say that I as a parent am responsible for my child. With that being said, the parents moving and leaving their plague on the community has far more implications and thus they should be found and held also responsible.
Renee Ostrander August 09, 2011 at 06:47 PM
So how someone dresses or is allowed to dress can lead to murder...sorry, I do not buy it. At 16, people know right from wrong and know that a video game is just that-a video game. We are not talking about a four year old who may not know the consequences of his actions. Yes, parents have a responsibility to raise their children right. I have no idea what type of parenting took place with this boy but I doubt video game censorship or a dress code would have stopped him from becoming a murderer. There are many children who grow up in unsuitable households and don not become murderers.
John Morse August 09, 2011 at 07:48 PM
I am so glad that after so many years that Tina has gotten some form of justice. Her family lived daily with the idea that their daughters killer was still walking the street. There are so many families that deal with this everyday. We have dozens of unsolved cases on our website www.morsepi.com; maybe someone reading this article can help solve one of these cold case files.
John Morse August 09, 2011 at 07:52 PM
The murderer will find justice for what he did to Tina. Why start pointing the finger at his parents, or video games? Be grateful the science is there to link this guy to the crime. There are bad, mentally ill, individuals in this world. We have a dozen unsolved murders on our website at www.morsepi.com, take a moment to see if maybe you can help solve one of these cases.
KristieMaureen August 09, 2011 at 08:46 PM
While I agree that the cumulative effect of years of video game, movie, and other media violence has on the developing brain are significant and are a factor in real world violence, I just need to point out one glaring hole in pointing to video games as a factor in this case: The murder happened in 1984. Less than 10% of households had home computers at this time and the types of games being played on the Commodore 64 were primarily arcade-style games, not the violent personal combat style games that we see today and began to become the rage in the late 80's/early 90's. So the PhD needs to do a little more thinking before assessing this murder case as being the cause of violent video games and caffeine (also much less of an issue in 1984 than it is today).
sara August 09, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Has Steven Carlson been tried in court and found guilty? Is this America? FACT: Apparently, Steven Carlson was one of the many students that used that area as a party spot... He chewed tobacco, smoked cigarettes drank alcohol perhaps even earlier that very day....whatever else??? Some say he may even have slept there on occasion. So, in fact his DNA would be all over that place! I am waiting to hear where the DNA was found exactly. What new evidence? The 16 year old troubled youth of 1984, the police investigated back then. He was not the hardened 43 year old drug addict that he appears to be today. I hope that since everyone has already tried and convicted him, and that family’s old wounds have all been ripped open, that the evidence is better than just having his DNA at the crime scene. The Police want this crime solved...who better than a “creepy” transient, drug addict, that nobody likes or cares about anyway? I want HONEST justice for Tina’s family. My heart can only imagine the pain and suffering her family has endured. All of the hateful messages, blame and name calling got me thinking: Hate and name calling is what sent Tina from the bus that day. I hope that we are all better than that 27 years later.
Douglas Linman August 10, 2011 at 06:32 AM
Sorry, the note was not a list of things to take out of context. It is unfortunately a list that harshly exists for us, as parents to fix for the safety, security and mental health of our children. I am certain no one truly believes everything is just fine! Tina Faelz and all the current Tina's, and potential Tina's should feel from our involved and visible parenting that these deaths and the commission and planning of them will not go unnoticed and that we will be renewed and diligent in our commitment to change the course of senseless loss of life because of Tina. Poor parenting and home life grew a bully into killer. This is the real context we have to address.
Jan August 10, 2011 at 06:36 AM
I have to agree with sara. As much as we wish for closure for Tina's family, we do still have a system of "innocent until proven guilty". Has everyone forgotten that?? And...um...we didn't have violent video games in 1984 >.>, so you can rule that out as a problem. I hardly think "Pong" from Atari caused violence. And, no, you can't hold the parents responsible. Kids at 16 know right from wrong, unless totally unbalanced, and will make their own choices no matter how well they're taught. I hope that they have the right guy and not a scapegoat.
Douglas Linman August 10, 2011 at 06:53 AM
Kristie/Renee, assuming you are picking on me...you both remain removing single items from a overall effect list of well know influences on low self-esteem children and calling a much more in depth view at parenting "details" not parenting "aftermath" into a ... "prove to me a video game caused this?".. That was obviously not the conclusion you should have gleaned. No one was assessing a murder... that would be trite and disrespectful. The issue remains "the home, the parents, the environment, the observation, the management, the course correction, the diligence. Children are not generally birthed killers. Their environment greatly influences such a proclivity.
Douglas Linman August 10, 2011 at 07:00 AM
Earl, you are perfectly right. This is what I hoped someone would understand. Its not a silly PhD thing, its a being able to clearly view the bigger picture of what goes on inside a home and its cumulative affect, once you choose to have a "family".
Douglas Linman August 10, 2011 at 07:19 AM
Thank you Kari, this is a great idea for many and will certainly advance, hopefully, some new action in truly understanding the awesome responsibility of Parenting details versus Parenting the aftermath.
Jeff Hill August 10, 2011 at 06:01 PM
well said. I do think there is much more than the single piece of DNA. I'm guessing there is a confession.
Desdinova August 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM
I wish they had Doom for the Colecovision back then! LULz!
J March 22, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Tina was not on the bus that day due to staying after for detension. The tunnel was a well know way home.
Julie bailey September 21, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I went to school with Tina and the suspect. In 1984 I was also 16 and bullied on a daily basis by the same suspect. I'm glad he will be brought to justice. Although looks like the life he led was not a good one. Is that karma?
Douglas Linman September 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Julie, I was a nerd in the 1950's, so being pushed, kicked, name called and sporting bruises was common place. These days however I see as much worse than ever. I wrote a Patch Blog Article here on "Bulllying- Sticks and Stones and Names will hurt You" digging into the details. However, with the addition of social media, (pictures, text, pervasive hate mail, videos) and too many latch key and poorly attended angry children, the subject of bullying is so far over the top to ignore any further. I have witnessed young (11-16) girls and boys attack each other for "designer clothes", Ipods, Cell Phones, Cigarettes, horrible speaking habits and terribly immature/misguided social jealousies, while hyped up on high energy caffeine and sugar drinks. We need to review where change is working in these areas and place those best practices and rules, both in the home and in all schools, in place now, or we are left with breeding only more dangerous destructive behavior.
Rachael Davila November 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I went to school with both Tina Faelz and Steve Carlson. One of my best friends lived across the street from her and the day she was killed myself and my friend teased her coming back from lunch. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't regret that day. I definately learned from it and I'm glad schools today recognize how harmful "bullying" is and make it a point to address it the moment it arises. Knowing the Pleasanton Police Dept., I doubt very much they would charge anyone without strong DNA evidence. I pray Carlson's DNA is linked directly to the 17 times she was stabbed, but of course he is innocent until proven guilty. If he is proven guilty I hope he it punished according to the crime by losing his life or rotting in prison.
Douglas Linman November 15, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Rachael, very brave and thank you. Any crime is horrible, but crimes against our children and eventually your own, never leave you. We need to clean up our parenting and our schools against the environment which breeds these results.
Jamie Schultz February 28, 2013 at 07:15 AM
This was long ago before the video games and caffeinated drinks. This can only be blamed on fact.... This kid was and is a monster. I can not say but there had to of been a serious imbalance. I pray for her family and friends..... And that she is at peace.

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