OAKLAND -- A man accused of fatally stabbing a 14-year-old Pleasanton high school girl almost three decades ago must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Steven John Carlson is now scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 31, as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry J. Goodman ruled that a prosecutor had presented enough evidence during a preliminary hearing to move the case against him before a jury.
Gripping details about the April 4, 1984, killing of Tina Faelz were revealed in court this week during the two-day preliminary hearing against Carlson, her 16-year-old schoolmate at the time of her death.
Graphic descriptions of how Faelz died, stabbed 44 times and left face down in a ditch covered in blood, and incriminating actions Carlson is believed to have made, took up most of the first day of the hearing on Tuesday.
Carlson, who has a long criminal history, including being a registered sex offender, is accused of killing Faelz in a case that puzzled Pleasanton police until last year. Then, officials said, advances in testing allowed investigators to match DNA found on Faelz's purse to Carlson.
On Wednesday, testimony revealed that police found the maroon purse hanging in a tree above Faelz's body. It was then placed into evidence. In 1986, police checked it for fingerprints. No match was found.
FBI forensic scientist Shane Hoffmann testified the purse was submitted to a lab for DNA testing in 2008 at the request of Pleasanton police.
Hoffman said the DNA was later dropped into a nationwide FBI database that eventually linked it to Carlson.
On July 26, 2011, Detective Keith Batt testified he traveled to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, where he met with Carlson and took a swab of DNA from Carlson's cheek and mailed it via FedEx to an FBI laboratory.
Hoffmann testified he retested the DNA found on the purse. Again it matched.
"I can say with scientific certainty that Steven Carlson is the source for that DNA," Hoffmann testified.
Carlson, who police had always suspected in the killing, has denied any involvement in Faelz's death. In testimony Tuesday, Carlson's childhood friend, Todd Smith, said Carlson made incriminating statements a day after the killing and acted strangely the day it occurred.
Smith, also an initial suspect in the case, said he can clearly remember the day after Faelz's body was found when he was riding his bicycle with his younger brother in front of Carlson's house.
Smith said Carlson saw the pair, ran from his garage and approached Smith's brother.
"He said, 'Come here little boy, let me kill you like I killed her,'" Smith said as he recalled the incident. "I punched Steve, and we drove home on our bikes."
Smith said he was friends with Carlson and that Carlson always seemed to have a violent sense of humor; he recalled two incidents in which Carlson tortured animals.
Smith's credibility, however, was attacked by Carlson's attorney, Cameron Bowman, who aggressively questioned Smith about why he never told police about the statement he claims Carlson made to his brother.
Staff writer Paul T. Rosynsky contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.