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Suspect in Tina Faelz Case Makes First Court Appearance

Steven Carlson is informed of the murder charge against him in a juvenile court hearing Wednesday afternoon.

The man accused of killing his high school classmate 27 years ago made his first appearance Wednesday in a courtroom usually reserved for juveniles who have run afoul of the law.

Steve Carlson, 43, a registered sex offender with a criminal history involving drugs and battery, was arrested Sunday after were tipped off by an FBI analysis of evidence collected at the scene of in 1984.

In the brief hearing, San Leandro Juvenile Justice Center Commissioner Mark Kliszewski set a Sept. 21 court date to further deliberate the legal wranglings of a grown man on trial for a capital offense he's accused of committing as a 16-year-old.

While prosecutors are seeking to try Carlson as an adult, his public defender, Aundrea Brown, argued successfully that the case must abide, for now, by juvenile court protocol.

She also requested Carlson undergo a behavioral assessment that is standard for juveniles being transferred to the adult court system. 

While arguing that her client is entitled to court-mandated protections usually afforded minors, including no cameras in the courtroom, Brown acknowledged this was a first for her. 

 "I have never seen a 43-year-old adult in juvenile court," she said,  speaking to media after the court session.

There to see Carlson were two women who came in support of Faelz, who was a 14-year-old freshman at in Pleasanton when she was stabbed to death walking home from school April 5, 1984.

They weren't surprised to see their former classmate in a courtroom.

"There was something about him from elementary school to junior high to high school," said Lorraine Vener, 42, who lives in San Jose. "People feared him." 

Carlson, a tall, lanky man, was dressed in red prison garb, gray socks and shackled at the hands and waist.

He addressed the court only to give his name and birth date, and address as a transient from Sacramento. He otherwise sat quietly, stared ahead or whispered with his attorney, ignoring the small gaggle of reporters and Faelz' supporters, including her brother Drew Faelz.

Faelz' family members declined to speak with the media. 

No one from Carlson's family was in court. His father, on Tuesday, said he’s never attended his son’s previous court appearances and didn’t intend to now. The two haven’t spoken for more than 20 years. His mother died last year.

The seemingly-safe ambiance of Pleasanton imploded nearly three decades ago after Faelz' murder, which was committed in daylight near a residential neighborhood.

Sunday's arrest of Carlson — whom several individuals reportedly pegged years ago as Faelz' killer — has stirred memories and reignited raw emotions in the community, particularly among former classmates of Faelz and Carlson.

"We feel like we're all back in that day," said Vener, a 1987 graduate of Foothill High.

Vener was in the courtroom with fellow '87 grad, Sandy Bourasa to pay tribute to their friend. 

"I'm just completely filled with emotions," said Bourasa, 42, who lives in Castro Valley.

Both women recall Carlson as odd, abrasive and frightening as far back as .

Vener remembers Carlson hurtling racial and sexual slurs at her from a young age. 

Vener and Bourasa, who reconnected through social media after Carlson's arrest, attended Donlon, Wells Middle School in Dublin and Foothill alongside Faelz and Carlson. 

Both say they named Carlson as a plausible suspect to the police in the days following the killing.

"We all said the same thing, `Steve Carlson,' " Vener said. 

Faelz' body was discovered about 3 p.m., not long after police say she likely was killed. She was found 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 the I-680 freeway to the Valley Trails neighborhood in which Faelz lived.   

Vener and Bourasa recall hearing of a truck driver who notified police after seeing Faelz' body as he drove along the freeway.

The truck driver's account reportedly included seeing a fleeing male wearing a blue jacket and carrying a blue backpack — items that matched what Carlson wore on a daily basis, Vener added. 

Faelz is remembered by her two friends as funny, spunky and a practical joker.

As for any connection between the victim and suspect, Bourasa said it is possible that Carlson wanted to date Faelz.

"We believed he wanted a relationship, but that never happened," she said. 

At the time of the homicide, Carlson lived with his parents and two siblings on Lemonwood Way in a home mere paces from where Faelz' body was found by teens walking home from school.

Although he was 16 in 1984, Carlson was a Foothill freshman. Vener and Bourasa said he attended Foothill his sophomore year but did not graduate with his class.

They recall that he moved away, but according to his father, Carlson left home at 17. He said the family did not leave the area until much later.

Carlson is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Rachael Davila August 18, 2011 at 05:50 PM
it would be great to see a picture of Carlson at the time the crime was committed since myself and many others attended school with him.

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