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Classmates recall homicide victim and suspect

Both were bullied and teased by their peers

Portraits emerged this week of both the victim and the suspect in this homicide case as classmates and friends remembered 14-year-old Tina Faelz and fellow Foothill freshman Steve Carlson, the man now charged with her murder.

Both were members of the class of 1987, and both were victims of school bullying and teasing: Faelz because she'd left most of her younger friends behind in middle school when she moved on to high school, and Carlson because he was different and disliked by his peers.

Faelz's friends remembered her as a shy girl, especially around people she didn't know. Denise O'Sullivan-Delamain remembered her friend as someone with "a fun spirit."

"She had an easy smile and a fun personality," O'Sullivan-Delamain recalled. "We spent time together when we where little girls."

Jackie Carleton-Picton said Faelz's mother was once her babysitter, and she got to know the girl well.

"My parents live on that street, so not only was Tina my friend and her mother my babysitter, we were all friends. Tina was a really playful girl, shy with those that she didn't know, but she wasn't shy when she was among friends," Carleton-Picton said. "I would have a lot of one-on-one time with Tina. She was always close with her mother -- Tina was someone who never had a bad word to say."

Although Faelz was labeled a loner by some of the kids at school Carleton-Picton said that wasn't the case at all.

"Tina was friends with a huge circle of girls who were all a year younger than her. ... She wasn't a loner, she was just alone at Foothill High," she said, adding that Faelz was just another kid out playing with everyone else, bike riding in the streets in the days before Pleasanton had a mall and when Hopyard Road still had cows grazing on either side of it.

Voelm said Faelz was rude to him during one encounter and he didn't particularly like her at the time but has since come to an understanding.

"She was picked on a lot, you know how kids that age are pretty cruel. She seemed to me like an introvert because of being picked on," he said, adding, "I know she had a small group of friends."

While it took 27 years for charges to be filed, it was often inferred around the school and even at the Police Department that Carlson may have been responsible for Faelz's death, say former classmates.

"Everyone assumed it was him, yeah. They called him 'creepy Carlson,' that was his nickname," said Voelm.

Voelm, who has since moved away from the area, said there are a number of things that stand out from that day regarding Carlson.

He said two of his friends caught up with him in the smoking lounge -- this was before the days of zero tolerance for smoking in schools -- and said they'd skipped part of school to accompany Carlson to go drinking. Voelm said the three had raided a liquor cabinet during lunch. When the two teased Carlson that he'd get in trouble with his parents, Voelm said Carlson replied, "This isn't even my house."

Classmates who posted on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square forum following the announcement of Carlson's arrest said they would routinely abandon him.

"He wasn't really part of any crowd, rather he would forcibly attach himself to the plans of different crowds and participate uninvited and unwanted. He was aggressive, loud, and rigidly opinionated, which made him extremely abrasive," said a Town Square poster who identified himself as "1984 Creekrat."

"He was ostracized, criticized, treated as unwelcome wherever he went, had no real friends, spent a tremendous amount of time by himself, endured the valley-wide moniker of 'Creepy Carlson' which his unusual appearance seemed to support, and basically woke up to a world of hate everyday. I personally participated in all of those actions toward him at one time or another," the anonymous poster added. "We punished this guy to the highest level."

He also poses the question of whether Carlson was ostracized because of his actions or if his actions were because he was shunned.

"Did we build this?" 1984 Creekrat asked. "Could we have saved this girl by treating a troubled kid like a human?"

He said it was "fashionable" to hurt Carlson and called the group's actions toward him as "the systematic dismantling of the soul of another human being."

Voelm, however, remembers things a bit differently, recalling a local restaurant that employed some of the young women who attended Foothill, where Carlson would come and unnerve them.

"He just said weird things and did weird things. He was creepy, hence the nickname creepy Carlson," he said, adding that one of his friends told him Carlson once asked if he'd ever wondered "what it would feel like to stab somebody over and over repeatedly."

Carlson's arrest has been a long time coming for all three. Voelm said he'd even contacted the Police Department on the 25th anniversary of Faelz's death to tell them about the man they were all convinced had killed Tina; he said when he mentioned Carlson's name, the officer said, "Creepy Carlson? We already know about him."

O'Sullivan-Delamain called the arrest "long overdue" and said she's glad that Faelz's mother, Shirley Orosco," can finally witness justice for her daughter.

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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

It's so sad that all the Pleasanton forums are filled with negative comments from the one crowd that had those opinions about Steven. The one crowd that treated everyone like crap in school.

All of them doing exactly what the FBI had hoped for. painting a perfect picture for the guy who was bullied and just snapped. It's sad, you put your opinion out there - already convicting the guy in your head when no one was there.

Why put "I wonder what it would feel like to stab someone?" that is a completely false statement. I went to school with Steven as well. I wasn't in the crowd that keeps pointing fingers. I do know that that crowd has said steven was the boy in a blue jacket and blue backpack a trucker said he saw that day. I know for a fact Steven never had a blue backpack! Steven was odd, yes..but violent? No! Steven was bullied and would fight back but angry is not the word I would use to describe him,

If anyone wants to actually stand up and correct all the false Rumors being spread about steven, he could really use it now.

I want Tina's family to get justice but not by convicting the wrong person. It's been 27 years people - do the right thing.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The American system of justice is what we have. Hopefully, the attorneys will do their best to represent their clients. It's not a perfect system but it's what we have and I respect it. I remain hopeful that justice will be served.

It's tragic that Tina is no longer alive. Who knows how she might have contributed to making this world a better place.

I am hopeful that the jurors will be able to work through the hype and reach a just verdict.

it's all so sad...

Like this comment
Posted by FH graduate
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Jerry from Valley Trails~

You are right that we shouldn't ALL wrongfully convict him now, BUT the facts are the facts that DNA evidence doesn't lie. I too went to Foothill, but didn't personally know Steve. I did hear rumors and always chalked it up to that-- just rumors. However I have faith that our justice system will work, and Tina's family can have some closure. If the Pleasanton PD was just out to get anyone (him), then why wait 27 years? This shows me that they diligently did their job and waited for the right evidence that could prove what so many people already knew. Lets face it... he hasn't shown himself to be a very stellar guy since. I am sad for both families... it's a tragedy. The truth will prevail.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I guess DNA evidence rules, the headline says Cold Case CLOSED. Is there a reason for a trial then? And if the trial ends in no verdict is the case closed? Would not it have been better to have the headline read, DNA EVIDENCE FOUND IN COLD CASE, SUSPECT IN CUSTODY?

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Posted by Clarence Darrow
a resident of Civic Square
on Aug 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I'm all for that 'innocent until proven guilty' thingy, but facts don't lie, and people don't get facts wrong, and I've never seen a fact that hasn't been correctly interpreted as the fact it is, and I've never seen a fact misused by anyone, especially prosecuting attorneys. Fact is, he's guilty. I know it. I've never been wrong about anything in my life, and it's not about to start now. Did you see the tattoos on the guy? How could he be innocent with THAT???

Like this comment
Posted by Desdinova
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Right now, only the law even knows what this DNA evidence is! It's so far undisclosed. People leaping to conclusions because obviously some P-Town people never grew up from being bored surburban youth with nothing better to do but start drama. I grew up in Ptown around the same time myself and P-Town is just like any other typical small to medium sized Americana town... people formed cliques and spread BS rumors about everyone else. Knowing that firsthand, I'd want to see a lot more evidence than just a bunch of hearsay before I judge the guy on Tina's death.

Like this comment
Posted by hummmm
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:00 am

If Jerry is right and there was a lot of bullying, THEN we should all learn that violence begets violence. They key is to stop the bullying in the first place. It will prevent other violent crimes. Now, that doesn't excuse killing. But, if we take a more encompassing view of the cause and effect of violence, we can help turn the tide of the domino impact that destroys many lives along the way.

Please don't say I'm soft on crime or excuse killing. But, in turn you can't excuse the bullying that triggers the whole mess to begin with.

Like this comment
Posted by Nameless Blank
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:42 am

Pleasanton police say they MAY have solved a murder dating back 27 years.. Don't judge a Book by it's Cover (Clarence). We have a Long ways to go yet and remember 'Eye for an Eye makes Everyone Blind' So don't jump to conclusions. We saw what happen w/ OJ & Casey so just wait and see where the case and jury go w/ this. Tina, Hope you are resting in Peace and Hope your Family will finally get the answers and perhaps closure they deserve.

Like this comment
Posted by Chloe
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Jerry-- They have DNA evidence to link him to the crime. Do you think the FBI pulled his name out of a hat? Don't be naive to think that Steven Carlson is any different from Ted Bundy's or other serial killers in the world. People like Carlson are born not made.

Like this comment
Posted by lifetime Ptowner
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

I went to Amador, so I did not know either Tina or Steven. I remember the shock and horror that this had happened in this town. I remember rumors that it had been a classmate. If Steven was bullied at Foothill that is truly sad. Did he "snap" and kill as Jerry says. I don't know. I am waiting for the trial to see the evidence. If he is guilty, his being bullied will not excuse his actions and he must pay the price. But, I hope at the very least this will shed more light on the effects of bullying which is reaching new levels or cruelty in our society.
My heart goes out to both families.

Like this comment
Posted by Ptown Native
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jun 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

Does anyone know what the status of the trial is? It took two years to bring it to the courthouse and now continues to just drag on. It's very sad that Tina's mother passed away and will not be able to see justice served.

1 person likes this
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm

i knew Steve after he had left the Pleasonton area, in fact I married the mother of his son. I knew Steve reasonably well and I do not feel that he is or was capable of the crime he is accused of. He is a loudmouth, a goofball, and he later developed into what most would call an undesirable individual, but a murderer? I don't think so. He seems to be a convenient scapegoat for a bunch of folks trying to find a place for their anger and accusations. The item with the DNA evidence on it was unaccounted for for a long period of time, would you like to be convicted by a piece of evidence that nobody was in charge of for so long? No. Steve was and is mostly a result of a less than perfect childhood (made worse by some of you it seems) and a victim of his own subsequent drug and alcohol addiction and various other poor choices throughout his life, but I again say, he is no murderer. And his son has grown to be a reasonably well adjusted and fine looking lad, the spitting image of his father.

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Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Oct 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm

@James :"I knew Steve reasonably well and I do not feel that he is or was capable of the crime he is accused of. "

Thanks for the character testimonial but, seriously, Isn't it fairly common for friends and acquaintances of someone who is eventually found guilty of murder to say "I've known him all my life! I can't believe that he is capable of doing that!". If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that...

You yourself admitted that this is a person with a record of making "poor life choices", including drug addiction. No, that doesn't automatically make him a murderer, but it certainly doesn't help your case to try to convince us that he's not guilty, either.

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Posted by And Justice For All
a resident of California Somerset
on Oct 8, 2014 at 1:44 am

James: "And his son has grown to be a reasonably well adjusted and fine looking lad, the spitting image of his father."

let's hope not...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.