BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The day after a Maryland teacher’s boyfriend was arrested and charged with her killing, police are releasing new details about why they came to suspect him.
Laura Wallen, who was four months pregnant when she disappeared, was missing for more than a week. The 31-year-old lived in Olney and taught at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County. Her body was found in a shallow grave on Wednesday. An autopsy revealed that she was shot in the back of her head.
Wallen’s sister reported her missing on the evening of Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4. Wallen did not show up for the first day of school on Sept. 5.
Wallen’s sister told police at that time that she had last seen her sister on Friday, Sept. 1, and had been unable to contact her since having a conversation via text message on Sept. 2.
Police say the last known transaction on Wallen’s financial accounts was a debit card purchase at the Safeway store in Olney that night, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Store surveillance footage apparently shows Wallen and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Tyler Tessier of Damascus, making a purchase together.
WHERE HER BODY WAS FOUND
Investigators say the last text message conversation between Wallen and her sister included mention that Tessier was taking Wallen on an “adventure” in the country.
During that conversation, Wallen texted her sister a photo of a field that appears to be the same field where her body was located Wednesday.
Tessier allegedly told investigators he had taken Wallen to a property in the Clarksburg area because he was trying to buy land to build a house on for them and the baby.
Officers found Wallen’s remains Wednesday during a search of a property located in the 12400 block of Prices Distillery Road in Damascus. The property, which a friend of Tessier’s owns, includes a farm surrounded by acres of open fields and woods.
Police say that Wallen was shot in the back of her head according to the autopsy. Police are now looking for a weapon.
Court documents say Tessier had been spending a lot of time at the property after Wallen’s disappearance, including at a meat processing plant housed on it.
The owner of the property told police he was out of town for Labor Day weekend, which investigators say would have allowed Tessier access to the property without his knowledge.
A SUSPECT ALL ALONG
Wallen’s parents spoke at a news conference Monday, Sept. 11, and announced a $25,000 reward for information about her disappearance. Tessier, already a person of interest at that time, sat with the parents, holding their hands, and cried through a brief statement.
“It was a calculated decision made by detectives to have Tessier attend the event and speak,” Montgomery County police Chief Thomas Manger said. “It was done with the approval and knowledge of the victim’s family.”
Police believe Wallen had already been dead for more than a week by the time the press conference was held.
Since Tessier’s arrest, Wallen’s father has said publicly that it was all the family could do to act like a unified family with Tessier during that press conference, and that the horror his family has been put through defies description.
The family told police that Wallen and Tessier had been together on and off for seven years, and that Tessier had asked for Wallen’s father’s blessing to marry her after she found out she was pregnant.
At a Thursday press conference following Tessier’s bond hearing, Wallen’s dad called Tessier a monster and a liar.
Between when Wallen was reported missing and the time of the press conference, detectives say they interviewed Tessier multiple times.
“In each interview, he provided conflicting statements regarding Wallen’s disappearance,” police said Thursday in a release.
THE OTHER WOMAN
Investigators say Tessier made some admissions throughout the course of several interviews, including that he is engaged to another woman.
The Montgomery County State’s Attorney said Thursday that both women believed their relationship with Tessier was exclusive. Prosecutors say Tessier was essentially homeless, bouncing around between both women’s homes and the friend’s property where Wallen’s body was found.
Court documents show that Wallen sent a text message to the other woman on Aug. 28.
It stated: “It’s important that some things are cleared up and I would imagine that if you were in my position, you’d want some answers as well. by no means it this an attempt at confrontation, just looking for an explanation… woman to woman.”
According to court documents, investigators believe Wallen’s attempt to contact Tessier’s fiancé may have been his motive for killing her.
THE ABANDONED CAR
Investigators also say Tessier admitted to driving Wallen’s vehicle to the apartment complex on Gramercy Place in Columbia where it was found the evening of Sept. 7, and to disposing of her phone and driver’s license in a nearby dumpster.
According to detectives, an acquaintance of Tessier’s told them Tessier called her to give him a ride from the apartment complex where Wallen’s vehicle was located. Tessier allegedly asked the friend to lie if the police ever asked her about picking him up there.
Police say another acquaintance of Tessier’s that they spoke to told them Tessier had asked him for a ride on the evening of Sept. 3. The acquaintance allegedly told police that after he declined to help Tessier, he got follow up text messages from him saying he didn’t mean to put him in a bad spot, and he was “just trying to clean up a mess.”
According to investigators, Tessier told them he had dumped the car and trashed Wallen’s belongings because Wallen told him he was not the father of the baby, and that she needed to go tell the real father about her pregnancy. Tessier allegedly said Wallen told him she needed a day to sort things out, so he hid her car and disposed of her things “to buy her time” to figure out what she was going to do.
Police say Tessier also told them that the last time he saw Wallen alive was the morning of Monday, Sept. 4 at her home on Rolling Meadow Way in Olney.
He allegedly said that they argued, and that Wallen was “hysterically crying” and demanded her house key back.
He also said, according to police, that he asked Wallen to meet him at the Nordstrom’s cafe at Columbia Mall to have a less emotional conversation, but he waited for her there for two hours and she never arrived. Police note that the Columbia Mall is very close to the area where Wallen’s car was later found.
Investigators say Tessier told them he drove back to her condo after she didn’t show up but never entered the home, as he had already returned Wallen’s key.
However, police say they spoke to a neighbor of Wallen’s who says he saw Tessier walking Wallen’s dog around 2:30 p.m. that day. Family members say they found the dog inside the locked home later that evening.
THE EX-BOYFRIEND AND THE BABY
Tessier has also admitted, police say, that the last known messages sent from Wallen’s phone to her sister on the morning of Monday, Sept. 4, were actually written by him, which investigators had already suspected.
The text message said an ex-boyfriend of Wallen’s was potentially the father of her baby. But the man’s name in the text was spelled “Antwan,” when it is actually spelled “Antoine.”
“I am like 95 percent sure Tyler is not the father,” one of texts read. “I am going to try and get a hold of Antwan,” said another.
Wallen’s sister told police about the inconsistencies of the spelling and writing style, and also noted that she does not believe Wallen had seen the ex-boyfriend in two years.
Tessier was arrested and charged with first degree murder on Wednesday. He appeared in court Thursday and was ordered held without bond. He faces life without parole.
WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren reports that the State’s Attorney is researching whether there should be an additional murder charge for Wallen’s unborn child, but believes that is highly unlikely.