Tina Faelz was 14 years old when she was found dead in Pleasanton, California, in April 1984 — her body bleeding from 44 stab wounds in a drainage culvert by the freeway.
Her slaying, as police describe in an exclusive clip from Monday night’s Cold Case Files, was a shock to the community.
“I was in my office when I learned of the homicide. I always dreaded getting a notification call like that,” Bill Eastman, Pleasanton’s retired police chief, recalls in the clip.
“Somebody killed a little girl,” Eastman says. “Nothing like that ever happened to such a young person in Pleasanton’s history.”
Unfortunately the location of Tina’s body was also “a very cold crime scene,” with no weapons and no fingerprints or footprints, Eastman says in the clip.
But there was one crucial discovery nearby, he says: “a purse suspended in a tree above [Tina’s] body.”
On that purse was the DNA that would convict Tina’s killer, her former classmate, more than 30 years later.
“Not only is it every parent’s nightmare to lose a child, but it’s heartbreaking that this case goes unsolved for 27 years, denying the family closure and peace for all that time,” A+E Networks Senior Vice President Laura Fleury told PEOPLE in a statement.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Steven Carlson, reportedly a registered sex offender with a criminal history, was arrested in 2011 and convicted of Tina’s first-degree murder in 2014. That charge was later reduced by an appeals court to second-degree murder.
Carlson was 16 when Tina was killed and had long been a suspect in her death, according to local reports. But authorities said DNA testing proved to be the key piece of evidence leading to his capture.
(He has always claimed he was innocent and once said police were homing in on him unjustly to close the case.)
• Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.
At Carlson’s sentencing after his conviction, Tina’s relatives described her as a “great kid” and confronted the man who took her from them, according to CBS San Francisco.
Her father told Carlson, “I hope that every second of every minute of every day you will feel the pain that Tina did in the last 30 seconds of her life.”
Cold Case Files airs Monday (9 p.m. ET) on A&E.