WASHINGTON — Before her disappearance and death, police said that a pregnant teacher from Montgomery County, Maryland, texted that her boyfriend was taking her to a secluded, open field in Damascus — and she didn’t know why. Now, her boyfriend is charged with first-degree murder.
Laura Wallen, 31, of Olney, Maryland, was last heard from Sept. 4. She was four-months pregnant. Her body was found Wednesday afternoon in a shallow grave after Montgomery County police searched a wooded area near Prices Distillery Road in Damascus.
Wallen’s boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, 32, of Damascus was arrested around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said.
Wallen sent a text Sept. 2 to her sister saying Tessier had taken her to an open field in the Damascus area, investigators said. Wallen wrote she didn’t know why they were there and that it was in the middle of nowhere.
Wallen’s sister suggested that she take a picture of where she was. She did.
That photo helped investigators locate Wallen’s body in a wooded area that investigators said Tessier visited several times over the week after she disappeared.
Manger also confirmed that Tessier was living with another woman and said Tessier regularly stayed in three different locations.
Wallen knew “for some time” that Tessier had been living with another woman.
Everyone Tessier has lived with has been interviewed by police, Manger said.
In addition to murder, police charged Tessier with altering physical evidence in a criminal proceeding and with giving a false statement to an officer. He was arrested three days before his 33rd birthday.
Police do not have a motive at this time. Wallen’s cause of death is still under investigation.
Tessier was “the last person known to have been with the victim,” Manger said. They were seen together on surveillance video on Sept. 2 at a grocery store near the victim’s home.
Investigators suspect she was killed the next day, Manger said.
A family member received a text from Wallen’s phone Sept. 4 and was not able to reach her again. Police later said those texts were sent by Tessier.
Manger said police suspected his involvement early in the investigation.
The decision to let Tessier speak at a Monday news conference was a “calculated” one on the part of detectives “for the express purpose of hearing what he had to say,” the chief said.
The victim’s family knew of this tactic, Manger added.
At this news conference, Tessier said,“There’s so many people that miss you … we haven’t slept, we haven’t eaten, we’re just looking … we’re praying that you’re safe. I’m asking to just let us know that you’re safe.”
When police found Wallen’s car at an apartment complex in the Columbia area last Thursday, Manger said Tessier had driven the car there and admitted to removing and disposing the front tag. He also got rid of her driver’s license and iPhone.
Tessier also texted an acquaintance who he asked for a ride to Baltimore and said he needed help “to clean up a mess,” Manger said. The acquaintance declined to help him.
The break in this case, according to Manger, came when police determined Tessier made several trips to an acquaintance’s property in Damascus. He would occasionally stay there, police said. That’s where police searched for Wallen’s body.
“This is just one of those tragic cases where you have an absolutely innocent victim, and it’s just senseless killing,” Manger said.
“These are the kind of cases that so often have a significant impact on the community where they occur.”
Tessier is the only suspect at this time, but the investigation continues, Manger said.
Wallen did not show up for the first day of classes at Howard County’s Wilde Lake High School in Columbia after spending two weeks preparing her classroom. She did not request a substitute teacher that day, which worried her father, Mark Wallen said Monday.
A mobile crisis team was at the school Thursday to “support every student and staff member that need somebody to talk to,” said Principal Rick Wilson. The team was there Wednesday evening “to provide support to the entire Wilde Lake community.”
The “Gathering of Hope” event scheduled for Wednesday evening was canceled.
WTOP’s William Vitka, Neal Augenstein and Colleen Kelleher contributed to this report.