If Tina Faelz were alive today she would be 44-years-old. 30 years after her brutal murder Faelz' family reflects back on her life so abruptly cut short and the life of Faelz' mother, Shirley Faelz Orosco, who died unexpectedly on Feb. 13, 2014— the same day the murder trial was scheduled to begin.
An Ordinary Day 30 Years Ago
On April 5, 1984, Tina Faelz, a 14-year-old freshman at Foothill High School, was stabbed to death in a culvert that once crossed beneath Interstate 680, while she was walking home from school. The path was a popular shortcut that passed east of the school underneath the freeway to the Valley Trails neighborhood.
Fellow students discovered her body around 3 p.m. near the creekbed. Faelz had been stabbed 44 times. For a map showing the area, click here.
DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest 27 Years Later
Steven J. Carlson, 45, was arrested in August of 2011, charged with the killing of Faelz after new DNA technology helped law enforcement identify blood on a purse found hanging from a tree at the homicide scene as being from Carlson.
Pleasanton Police said Carlson, a student at Foothill High in 1984, lived on Lemonwood Way near the trail where Faelz' body was found. Carlson was 16-years-old at the time.
Carlson, a registered sex offender with a criminal history involving drugs and battery, was arrested after police were tipped off by an FBI analysis from the Quantico, Va. lab of the evidence collected at the crime scene in 1984.
Carlson remains in custody at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. After being continued several times, Carlson's trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 22 at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, according to court records.
Faelz' Family Reflects Back at the Life of Faelz and Her Mother After the Murder
Soon after Orosco's death earlier this year, her sister, Karin Reiff, discovered family photographs of Faelz with her mother, along with a poem written by Orosco in 1985— one year after Faelz was murdered.
Reiff believes Orosco finally succumbed to the sadness of her daughter's death.
"My sister went through almost 30 years of hell after Tina's death and I think she finally died of a broken heart," Reiff said. "The photos of Shirley with Tina show how happy she [Shirley] was before someone came and ruined her life. I looked at them and thought, 'How dare someone come and take a person from their mother, brother and family and kill them?' I mean, how dare they! Shirley's poem was so meaningful, I thought I'd share it. I wish no other family in the world ever have to go through this. I truly do feel that if Tina had not been murdered, Shirley would be alive now. 30 years of the stress and pain finally killed her. The murderer should be up for two murders as far as I'm concerned."
Reiff says Orosco was never the same after Faelz' death.
"After Tina was murdered, it all fell apart for Shirley," Reiff said. "She couldn't take it anymore. Who could? And she never got resolution! At least Shirley and Tina are together now in heaven and pain-free. You will always be in our hearts and memories and always loved."
Reiff fondly remembers her niece's spunky personality.
"I remember my sweet niece, Tina, as being a typical teenager," Reiff said. "She loved hanging out with her friends, playing jokes and trying on makeup. She was a spunky little one. She spoke up for herself and for her friends. Her friends remembered her as being funny. Tina also loved to tease her brother Drew. Drew said his mom and Tina were always together and always kidding and teasing him. Drew was only 8-years-old when his sister was tragically and violently murdered. Good Bless you, Shirley and Tina. Rest in peace."
Reiff discovered a heartbreaking poem called "I Had a Dream" written by Orosco. In the poem, Orosco says she dreamt that her daughter had come home.
Reiff shared the poem because she believed it was representative of her sister's everlasting grief after the loss of her daughter.
The Faelz Followers
The Remembering Tina Faelz Facebook page, created by Patch editors in August of 2011, garnered more than 160 "likes" in 24 hours. The page now has 520 followers who keep track of the case. Faelz' friends and former classmates post regularly on the page.
In a previous Patch article, we shared some of the most poignant Facebook comments made by Faelz' supporters.
On the 30th anniversary of her death, we share them again, in no particular order:
Ryan Howard: This has absorbed my entire day and all i can think is I knew one day the truth would come forward. My prayers to former classmate (Tina's brother) Drew and his mother. R.I.P. Tina
Stacy Coleman LaMorgese: You made me laugh when I was in pain. I saw you pick up an old man's wallet and hand it to him just so he wouldn't have to bend over. You tried to find your own way when the usual way was blocked. I still have every note you ever wrote me. I think of you so often. I tell my children about you. I'm going to tell my grandchildren about you. I am trying to make the world a better place because of the things you taught me. You still come to me in dreams and I still listen.
Gary Carman: Poor baby, you won't be forgotten. I was a senior at Foothill when this happened and looking at her picture is even harder now knowing how much life was missed that the rest of us have been lucky enough to be blessed with. As a parent I can't imagine having this happen to one of my little ones.
Rochelle Bernard: She lived in the same tract of homes that I did at the time. I didn't know her, but I remember this very well. Very sad day that was. I am happy that justice is finally served, and I hope his arrest provides her family at least a little more comfort and closure.
Valerie Gray Nelson: I remember my brother commenting on her a couple times. We had seen her walking thru the trails & being new to the neighborhood, I asked who's that? Oh, that's Tina, she seems nice but the other kids pick on her a lot. She always seemed sad the few times I saw her.
Nancy Driskill Owens: I think we are all affected in so many ways, just knowing she was taken away at such a young age by a senseless killing and by someone we all knew brings up so many feelings. I can't get it off my mind.
Ida Tateo May: I remember this so well.. I was only 10 I believe but my sister I believe was in her class. It rocked our community. I'm just so glad that she is finally getting justice!! May u RIP Tina! God bless you and your family.
Past Pleasanton Patch coverage of Tina Faelz murder case:
- Mother of Murder Victim Dies Same Day as Murder Trial Was to Begin
- Steven Carlson Ordered to Stand Trial for the Murder of Tina Faelz
- Suspect in Tina Faelz Slaying Will be Tried as Adult
- Witness: Carlson Made Incriminating Comment The Day After…
- Friends, Relatives Leave Heartfelt Messages For Murder Victim Tina Faelz on Facebook
- Friends of Slaying Victim Tina Faelz Remember Her as Kind…
- Steven Carlson Pleads Not Guilty to 1984 Slaying of Tina Faelz
- Slaying Suspect Steven Carlson May Face Contempt Charges For Granting Jailhouse Interview
- Slaying Suspect Steven Carlson Gets New Attorney, Will Remain in Juvenile Court Until After the New Year
- Pleasanton Police Keeping DNA Evidence Quiet For Now
- Suspect in Tina Faelz Case Makes First Court Appearance
- Trial Continued for Suspect Accused in 1984 Murder of Tina Faelz
Patch editors Kari Hulac, Susan Schena and Tanya Rose contributed to this report.