A man with an extensive criminal history was convicted of first-degree murder today for fatally stabbing a 14-year-old high school classmate in Pleasanton 40 years ago.
Jurors deliberated for only one day before delivering their verdict against Steven Carlson, 46, for the death of Tina Faelz on April 5, 1984.
Carlson, who was 16 at the time, and Faelz, who was stabbed 44 times, both attended Foothill High School in Pleasanton.
Faelz was killed on her way home from school and was found dead in a ditch adjacent to Interstate Highway 680, east of the high school. Carlson lived near the murder scene.
The case remained unsolved for 27 years, but Pettigrew said a 2011 DNA test showed that a small amount of blood found on Faelz's purse hanging on a tree near the murder scene came from Carlson, who has convictions for committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 and assault.
The chances of that blood belonging to someone other than Carlson are only 1 in 5 quadrillion, prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew said.
Carlson was arrested and charged with murdering Faelz in August 2011.
Family members and friends of Faelz cried when the verdict was announced. Carlson, dressed in a white shirt, wearing glasses and sporting a short haircut, looked straight ahead and didn't show any emotion.
Faelz's father, Steve Faelz, said Carlson "got the verdict he deserved and the prosecutor did a bang-up job."
He said, "We all feel good and we give our thanks to all the people who were involved in this 30-year process. This brings closure to us."
Faelz said it was frustrating that the case took so long to solve but said he believes law enforcement officials worked hard on it all along and finally got the break they needed when new technology provided DNA evidence that tied Carlson to the crime.
Pettigrew said in her closing argument on Tuesday that the DNA evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Carlson is the person who killed Faelz.
But Carlson's lawyer, Annie Beles, told jurors that they should find Carlson not guilty because the evidence in the case is "flimsy" and there are many unanswered questions.
Beles said among those questions are when the DNA evidence was collected, how it was collected, whether it was contaminated and whether it was improperly transferred.
The defense attorney said there are many innocent reasons to explain why Carlson's DNA wound up on Faelz's purse because they went to middle school and high school together and "were in the same proximity with one another."
Beles said the prosecution also lacked other evidence that might connect Carlson to Faelz's death, such as a motive, fingerprints or a weapon.
Pettigrew declined to comment on the verdict and Beles, who wasn't present when the verdict was announced, wasn't available for comment.
When Carlson was arrested and charged in August 2011, his case originally was assigned to juvenile court because he was 16 at the time of the crime.
But on Jan. 12, 2012, a judge ruled that he should be prosecuted as an adult because of the degree of criminal sophistication he displayed in the killing, the severity of the crime and previous failed attempts to rehabilitate him.
Carlson faces a term of 26 years to life in state prison when he's sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay on Jan. 9.