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Woman buried in Manteca yard died from asphyxiation

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POSTED October 30, 2013 1:00 a.m.

A Stockton missing person whose remains were located buried in a Manteca yard May 28 died of homicidal asphyxiation, almost 23 years ago, according to a Stockton Police coroner’s report Tuesday evening. 

Police spokesman Joseph Silva said Karen Michelle Sterzl, 36 years old when she went missing from a houseboat she shared in Stockton with Manteca resident Billie Faulkner, had been the focus of a missing person’s investigation since 1990.  Her identity had been first confirmed June 6 by the Coroner’s Office from forensic testing and from her dental records.

She and Faulkner, a longtime Manteca business owner, reportedly shared living quarters on a boat berthed along the Waterfront in downtown Stockton.  It was an anonymous tip on May 23 of this year that led Stockton officers and Sheriff’s deputies to a vacant home in the 400 block of Park Street in Manteca.   That residence and an adjacent home had previously been owned by Faulkner who passed away in July of 2012.

Faulkner reportedly had told investigators that the woman had left to visit her mother in Montana for Christmas, but her mother said she had never arrived. 

Sterzyl’s remains had been found buried in a four-foot-wide section of dirt between the side of a garage and a neighbor’s fence where the ground had been covered by a carpet, decorative wood lathing, and a concrete foundation block. 

Officers concluded that since Faulkner is no long alive to answer charges, the missing person’s case is being closed. 

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