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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
The community is reeling over the news that the body of Olney resident Laura Wallen was found in a shallow grave the afternoon of Sept. 13 and that her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, was charged with first-degree murder in connection to her death.
Montgomery County Police reported that the autopsy revealed Wallen was shot in the back of the head.
Tessier, 32, of Holsey Road in Damascus, was ordered held without bail at his bond hearing Sept. 14. He is expected to appear in court again next month.
He also was charged with altering evidence, according to Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
McCarthy said first-degree murder carries the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Wallen, 31, of Rolling Meadow Way, was a teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. She was four months pregnant and Tessier is believed to be the father, according to county police.
She was reported missing on Sept. 5. Her family became concerned when they had not heard from her and she did not report for the first day of school.
At a press conference Sept. 13, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said Wallen’s body was located at about noon that day near Prices Distillery Road in Damascus.
Police determined that the last known transaction on Wallen’s financial accounts was a debit card purchase at the Safeway store in Olney on Sept. 2 between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. A review of store surveillance by detectives showed Wallen and Tessier making a purchase together, police said. This was the last known sighting of Wallen, police said.
Investigators believe she was killed the following day.
Wallen had sent a text to either her sister saying Tyler had taken her to an open field in the Damascus area and she was not sure why. The sister told her to take a photo and she did, police said.
The last known message from Wallen’s phone was to her sister on the morning of Sept. 4, but police said Tessier admitted during question to sending the text.
Manager said since the investigation began, Tessier provided information to detectives that led them to suspect his involvement in this case.
Between Sept. 5 and 11, detectives interviewed Tessier multiple times. In each interview, he provided conflicting statements regarding Wallen’s disappearance, police reported.
Police said Tessier admitted that he is engaged to another woman. Police said he also told investigators that he drove Wallen’s vehicle to the apartment complex in Columbia where it was found Sept. 7, that he disposed of her phone and driver’s license in a dumpster, and that he had removed her license plate from her vehicle.
The break in the case came when it was determined that Tessier had made several visits to an acquaintance’s property in Damascus, Manger said.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for the property, which included a dwelling area, woods and fields.
During the search, investigators saw tire tracks that led them to freshly dug ground, some distance from the property that they had initially searched. Wallen’s body was discovered in a shallow grave.
At about 5:30 p.m. Sept. 13, Tessier was taken into custody and charged with murder.
Wallen’s father, Mark Wallen, addressed the media after the bond hearing.
“I was praying for a good old-fashioned miracle,” he said. “God did not give us the miracle that I asked for, but he did give us a miracle nonetheless — we have our daughter back.”
He added that his daughter “was a woman of faith and right now she’s in the arm of God.”
He called Tessier “a monster and a liar” and said that Tessier’s relationship with his daughter was the only thing that Laura and her family ever fought about.
“It defies description the awfulness and horror we have been put through on this,” Mark Wallen said.
At The Greater Olney News press time, Manger had said the cause of death was not obvious and would be determined by an autopsy.
He had said Tessier is the only suspect in this case, although the investigation is continuing.
During a press conference on Sept. 11, Tessier had pleaded for Wallen’s return.
“Laura, if you are listening, it doesn’t matter what’s happened, it doesn’t matter what type of trouble, there’s nothing we can’t fix together,” he said. “There are so many people that miss you. We haven’t slept, we haven’t eaten, we’re just looking … we’re praying that you are safe. I’m asking to just let us know that you’re safe.”
Manger said the decision to allow Tessier to participate in the conference was a calculated one and he was considered a person of interest at that time.
“We had already identified a couple of inconsistences in the information he had given us,” Manger said.
Manger called the case “senseless violence.”
“This is just one of those tragic cases where you have an absolutely innocent victim and just a senseless killing,” he said. “These are the kinds of cases so often have a significant impact on the communities where they occur, and this was certainly the case with this investigation. We had a real sense of dread that this was the way it was going to end up.”
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