Boyfriend Indicted in Connection With Death of Pregnant Teacher
Olney woman was killed Labor Day weekend and left in a shallow grave, authorities say
MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE
This story was updated at 11:40 a.m.: A month after a search effort for a missing pregnant teacher ended in the discovery of her body and the arrest of her boyfriend, a Damascus man who made a public plea for her safe return has been indicted and charged with her murder.
Tyler Tessier, 32, was indicted Thursday in connection with the killing of Laura Wallen, a 31-year-old Olney resident who taught at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County. After Montgomery County police searched for her for more than a week, her body was found in a shallow grave in Damascus on Sept. 13.
After her body was found, police arrested Tessier in connection with her death.
The indictment charges him with one count of first-degree murder. It does not charge him with the death of Wallen's unborn child.
Tessier faces a maximum life sentence of life in prison. In a press conference Friday morning, State's Attorney John McCarthy said prosecutors might pursue a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
McCarthy did not answer questions about a possible motive for the killing and said he could not address anything about "testings and findings" until the case goes to trial.
According to charging documents, Wallen and Tessier were in an on-and-off relationship for several years.
Tessier was reportedly engaged to another woman at the time of Wallen's death, and he split his time between both women, according to charging documents. Wallen had not been aware of the other woman. Days before her death, Wallen texted the other woman, asking to meet, the documents say.
Medical examiners conducted an autopsy on the fetus and found "the child was not viable independent of Ms. Wallen," McCarthy said. The fetus was 14 weeks old.
"Based on those medical findings and as a matter of law in Maryland, as a result, the defendant is not chargeable on a second count of murder related to the child," McCarthy said.
Tessier is believed to be the father, according to officials.
Wallen's family reported to police on Sept. 4 that she was missing. She did not show up for the first week of school.
Publicly, Tessier appeared to assist authorities with the search, but police in charging documents wrote that he told a series of lies and conflicting stories about the days following her death.
He initially claimed to have last seen Wallen on the morning of Sept. 4, when, he said, they had fought. He said he gave her his keys to the house, but a neighbor later reported seeing him that week walking Wallen's dog, which was locked in her home.
Police had Tessier speak at a press conference on Sept. 11, in which her family offered a reward for information. After Wallen's father, Mark, spoke, Tessier pleaded for Wallen to come home.
After the press conference, police again interviewed Tessier. According to charging documents, he admitted to moving Wallen's car and getting rid of her phone and driver's license.
He also admitted to using Wallen's phone and posing as her in text messages to her sister after her death, charging documents say. In the texts, Tessier, acting as Wallen, says a former boyfriend is the father of the child and "Tyler is never going to forgive me."
Tessier allegedly took Wallen to a field in Damascus and shot her in the back of the head on Sept. 3, according to charging documents.
A scheduling hearing will be held on Oct. 20 in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville. McCarthy said a trial likely will take place in about four months and could last about two weeks.