It was the kind of tragic story we see on the news all the time: a missing woman's family asking for her safe return at a press conference.
The woman's name was Laura Wallen, and she was a 31-year-old social studies teacher from Olney, Maryland who was four months pregnant when she disappeared. While she had been buying supplies and was excited to meet her new class, Wallen didn't show up for the first day of school. Soon, she was listed as a Missing Person.
To help bring Wallen home safely, the local police department arranged for her parents and her boyfriend Tyler Tessier, 32, to make an emotional appeal at a live press conference. On stage, Tyler told his missing girlfriend “There is nothing we can’t fix together — myself and your family. We are just looking or praying that you are safe."
But what happened next puzzled people watching the conference on live TV. A reporter asked Tessier what his last conversation with Wallen before her disappearance was about. He simply replied “I don’t know where she is, that’s all.”
His strange answer made the people of Olney suspicious, and many suspected that Tessier knew more than he was letting on. But in a surprising twist, police actually suspected the boyfriend from the start, and the press conference was actually a sting.
So what happened to Laura Wallen?
From the very beginning of this case, all the evidence pointed towards Tessier.
The day she disappeared, Wallen sent a text message to her sister saying that Tessier had driven her to a remote clearing with no explanation of what they were doing there. "I’m not sure why we’re up here, but he’s taken me to this place in the middle of nowhere," it read.
She also sent her sister a photo of the location, and police spotted Tessier returning there a number of times. Later, they would return to the spot to find Wallen buried in a shallow grave. Tessier also admitted to destroying crucial evidence, like Wallen's license plate and cell phone. He even asked a friend to help him "clean up a mess," but the friend declined.
Montgomery County Police Chief tom Manger says detectives made a "calculated decision" with the press conference.
To trap Tessier into admitting his guilt, police arranged for the press conference with Wallen's family. Detectives warned Wallen's parents that their daughter's boyfriend was a prime suspect, and they agreed to help catch him. "It was absolutely the hardest thing that my wife could do would be to sit next to him and hold his hand," Wallen's father Mark told CBS. He also called Tessier "a monster and a liar."
Tessier has since been charged with first degree murder. And his motive? Court records reveal he was secretly engaged to another woman, and Wallen found out the truth a week before her murder. A state's attorney said he was "not honest with either woman," but that's no surprise.
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