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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 (The area has since been replaced by a housing development.)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.

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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