The 27 Year Cold Case

By Hailey Abdilla

The trek home after school is a common occurrence for millions of high school students, but for 14 year old Tina Faelz, a simple walk home from school turned out to be fatal. In 1984, Tina was a Freshman at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California. Tina routinely took the bus home from school but started walking instead to avoid a group of girls on the bus who bullied  her. On April 5, 1984, Tina fatefully decided to skip the bus and took her normal route home which included a shortcut through a drainage culvert adjacent to Interstate 680. Unfortunately, this culvert would be where Tina’s body would eventually be found after she was attacked while walking home and stabbed 44 times. Tina’s body was discovered fairly quickly and the Police went right to work in order to identify the person responsible for such a heinous crime. With essentially zero physical evidence at the scene and no murder weapon, the police had little to go on. The first suspect they identified was a fellow student named Jeff Michaelson who had a reputation as a bully and a predator at Foothill High School, he was known to terrorize Tina. He was brought in for questioning and had unexplainable cuts on his hands that he gave the police contradicting stories for, but ultimately, there was zero physical evidence to connect him to the crime. The second major suspect was a man named Walter Nyman who had a history of other crimes in the area. He had just recently been caught and accused of an attempted assault of a 17 year old girl in Felton, California and this allowed the police to obtain a search warrant for his home due to the fact that Nyman had lived in Pleasanton at the time of Tina’s murder. The police found two bloody knives in this search, but unfortunately these both came back as animal blood, instead of Tina’s. The third and final major suspect in the investigation was Tina’s mom’s boyfriend, Keith Fitzwater. Fitzwater was an alcoholic who had a history of emotional outbursts and was prone to violence. However, there was still zero evidence to connect Fitzwater to the murder of Tina Faelz. Despite the Pleasanton Police Departments unrelenting efforts, the case quickly went cold as the leads dried up and the physical evidence was essentially nonexistent. Soon, Tina’s murder was classified as a cold case, meaning Tina’s case would remain open, but was no longer actively being investigated. Tina’s case remained unsolved for more than 25 years until a new investigator in the Pleasanton Police department decided to reevaluate the case. The police reexamined all of the physical evidence at the scene, including Tina’s purse which was found hung up in a tree next to Tina’s body. This purse was sent in for new DNA analysis and trace amounts of blood that wasn’t Tina’s was discovered. This blood belonged to Steven Carlson. Carlson was a 16 year old junior at Foothill High School while Tina was a freshman, but he had never been a person of interest in the investigation. Carlson was quickly arrested and eventually convicted of the murder of Tina Faelz in 2014. Carlson was sentenced to 26 years to life and has since confessed to the murder of Tina. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Pleasanton Police Department and new DNA technology, the Faelz family was finally granted some much needed answers, and Tina Faelz was finally given the justice she deserves.