The father of homicide suspect Steven J. Carlson shared his story with Patch on the condition that his name not be published. He no longer lives in California and was concerned about the privacy of family members who live in the Bay Area.
Homicide suspect Steven Carlson's dad says his son didn't stab high school freshman to death that spring day in 1984.
"He was a lot of things, but a murderer? I don't think he is," he said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
on suspicion of killing Faelz as she was walking home from school 27 years ago, when they were students at . She was 14, Carlson was 16.
"He got into trouble like a lot of kids, but he was never in fights, was never mean, was never violent.
"All these folks say he's creepy, and yeah maybe he was," Carlson's dad added. "But he wasn't a murderer."
Police interviewed Carlson, who lived with his family in a house feet away from the culvert in which Faelz' body was found, right after the April 5 killing, along with many other people. No arrests were made.
The case went cold, but authorities said they never gave up on it, chasing leads over the years and submitting new evidence samples for DNA testing in 2007.
Then shocked the community Monday by announcing, almost three decades after the crime, that they had arrested someone based on new analysis of the evidence coupled with new information from a round of fresh witness interviews.
They say this wasn't a random attack — that the suspect, who will be arraigned in juvenile court Wednesday, targeted Faelz. Why? They won't say.
Suspect's troubled life
According to his father, Steven has led a troubled life.
He started using drugs as a teen and stopped speaking to his parents in his early 20s. He married, had two children and ended up in prison.
When Pleasanton police arrested him, he was being held on a drug charge and probation violation in Santa Cruz, and his records show he was arrested a handful of times last year for nonviolent crimes.
In 1989 in Yolo County, at age 21, he was convicted of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 and was required to register as a sex offender. He served three years in prison. In 2008, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and went back to jail.
"His brain is so burned from drugs, and I could see the police looking at him and thinking, 'This isn't a very good person in society, so let's just get him,'" said his dad.
"Maybe he had some mental problems, I don't know. You look at him and you see that he's all tattooed up and hardly knows where he is, so he looks good for this."
His father, who lives out of state, asked not to be named in this story. He said he realizes that there are people in Pleasanton who know his identity, but people elsewhere might not.
His father said Steven was brought up in a house where kids admitted when they did something wrong and had to stand up and accept the punishment.
He has a brother and a sister, both of whom are working, well-functioning people, he said. His brother served in the Army, and his sister is a wife and mother.
As a child, Steven Carlson played baseball and football, was friends with neighbor kids and was a charmer, his dad said.
Then, he started lying, smoking pot and stealing from the liquor cabinet.
When he was 17, he stole some checks from his parents, along with his brother's coin collection, and soon left the family home at Ashwood Court and Lemonwood Way, not far from Foothill High and Interstate 680.
His dad said he hasn't seen his son since he was 21 or 22, about the time he got married.
"He never tried to contact me, but he did talk to my sister for awhile," his father said. "But then she quit hearing from him."
In 1995, Steven's father said he retired, and he and his wife, Steven's mother, moved out of state. She died in March.
"I'm glad she's not here to see this," Carlson's dad said. "She would be going crazy."
Now, he lives alone with his dogs. He learned of his son's arrest Monday from the media, along with the rest of the community.
Carlson and his late wife, Justine, who had liver problems, both used drugs, his father said. They had a daughter who would be a teenager by now and may be living with Justine's parents. Carlson's dad said he doesn't know if his son has had contact with her in recent years. He also had a son with a different woman.
"As for me, I doubt he even knows what state I live in," he said.
April 5, 1984
The afternoon Faelz was killed, Carlson's parents were out of town, his father said.
When they got home later that day, police were "all over" the Carlson house, he said.
He said the police drove his son and another friend around in a police cruiser, asking them questions.
He said the two boys said they'd seen Faelz' body lying in the culvert that day, in an area that was a popular walking path for kids coming home from school. He said Steven told him he'd run home and called his grandma to tell her about it.
"I can't imagine he could have done it, or he would have had blood all over him," he said.
He said he figured police were trying to find out from his son how he and his friend found Faelz.
The police searched the house, even asking the Carlsons if they could go into the attic, Steven's dad said.
"I said go ahead," he said. "They crawled up there, probably looking for a weapon or something."
Police say no weapon has been found.
"I never saw him with a knife, that day or ever, and my wife looked all over his clothes and didn't find anything. I guess that's why they eliminated Steven as a suspect.
"I just don't want to see him get railroaded," he said.
He said he doesn't know whether his son knew Tina.
But he does remember his son telling people that he had killed her, something his high school classmates and acquaintances have been talking about for years.
"That was him trying to make everyone think he was cool or something," Carlson's dad said.
"Kids say all kinds of things. I think he thought people would think he was a big man, and I don't think a lot of people believed him. I don't know why he would say that. What was he thinking?"
Visit our Facebook community page, www.facebook.com/Remembering TinaFaelz. To reach reporter Tanya Rose, e-mail email@example.com or call 925-212-4518. Follow @PleasantonPatch on Twitter and Facebook.