The man charged with the murder of his high school classmate almost three decades ago may face a contempt of court charge for granting a jailhouse interview on Aug. 11 — one day after the court issued a gag order.
Steven J. Carlson, 43, a registered sex offender with a criminal history involving drugs and battery, was on suspicion of stabbing 14-year-old Tina Faelz to death as she walked home from school one April day in 1984. Carlson was 16 at the time, and a classmate of Tina's at
Police said that in the 27 years since the murder, they never gave up looking for Tina's killer. They said at a press conference Aug. 8 that the arrest was made possible because of strides in DNA testing technology.
Carlson appeared inside a courtroom at the San Leandro Juvenile Justice Center on Wednesday, calm and stoic in red prison garb. He did not say a word during the brief hearing.
Carlson's attorney, Richard Foxall, the second person to represent him so far, reiterated the importance of the gag order and said he understood why his client could face contempt charges.
During Carlson's jailhouse interview with Contra Costa Times reporter Eric Louie, he insisted that he's innocent.
"I may be a dirtbag," he said in the interview. "But I didn't hurt nobody."
Foxall said Louie should have to answer for his actions. Thompson said it is up to Carlson's lawyers to make sure he understands that he is not allowed to speak — not the media. Other parties, including any law enforcement, are also bound by the gag order, she said.
The court will discuss the possible contempt charges at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 at the San Leandro court.
Judge Trina Thompson also set an Oct. 27 court date to further deliberate the legal issues surrounding putting an adult on trial in juvenile court for a capital offense he's accused of committing as a 16-year-old. At that hearing, the court will have the results of a behavioral assessment that is standard for juveniles being considered for transfer to the adult court system.
While prosecutors are seeking to try Carlson as an adult, in August his public defender, Aundrea Brown, argued successfully that the case must abide, for now, by juvenile court protocol. At the Oct. 27 hearing, the court could decide to move the case to adult court.
So far, Carlson has been granted all the court-mandated protections usually afforded minors — including no cameras in the courtroom.
One of Tina's family members attended on Wednesday, as did one of Tina's friends.
No one from Carlson's family was in court. His father, right after Carlson's arrest, said he doesn't believe his son committed this crime. His mother died last year.
The Faelz murder shook the Pleasanton community because of the grisly nature of the crime, and also because the killing happened in broad daylight, right after school let out. Classmates found Tina's body around 3 p.m. alongside a creekbed and tunnel that was a popular shortcut for kids walking to and from Foothill.
The concrete tunnel, which no longer exists, ran from Lemonwood Way behind the high school and passed under Interstate 680 to the Valley Trails neighborhood in which Faelz lived.
The arrest of Carlson — whom several individuals reportedly pegged years ago as Faelz' killer — stirred memories and re-ignited raw emotions in the community.
Faelz's friends as sweet and quiet with strangers, but quite fun and outgoing when she was with people she knew.
At the time of Tina's death, Carlson lived with his parents and two siblings on Lemonwood Way in a home mere paces from where Faelz' body was found.
Although he was 16 in 1984, Carlson was a Foothill freshman. He did not graduate, and his father that he left home at 17. He struggled with drugs afterward — in fact, he was being held on an unrelated drug charge in Santa Cruz when police arrested him in the Faelz case.
Carlson is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Patch writer Susan Schena contributed to this report.