Missing Teacher Found in Shallow Grave in Damascus, Boyfriend Charged With Murder
The body of Laura Elizabeth Wallen, the missing woman from Olney, has been found in a shallow grave on a property off Price’s Distillery Road in Damascus. Montgomery County Police have arrested Tyler Tessier, the deceased woman’s boyfriend and charged him with her murder, according to Police Chief Thomas Manger.
The announcement came at a press conference held Wednesday evening at Police Headquarters in Gaithersburg. Manger said, “Today around noon detectives and members of the MCPD search and rescue team were searching a wooded area near Prices Distillery Road. They located a patch of freshly dug ground in a secluded area of a field. Cadaver dogs indicated on the area, and ultimately detectives found the body of Laura Wallace in a shallow grave.”
Wallen was a 31-year-old teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County. She was reported missing to police by her family after they received a “troubling” text message from her on Monday, Sept. 4. Family and friends grew even more concerned when Wallen, who was reportedly four-months pregnant, didn’t show up for work on the first day of school the next morning.
Chief Manger said the course of the investigation led detectives to the property in Damascus and today a search team with a warrant showed up at the Price’s Distillery Road location to search the location.
“The break, in this case, came when it was determined that Tessier made several trips to an acquaintance’s property on Price’s Distillery Road in Damascus,” said Manger. “Investigators showed up there today with a search warrant for the property which was a dwelling along with open fields and woods. During the search, the team observed tire tracks on a nearby property. They observed freshly dug ground on the (nearby) property, which was some distance from the property they were originally searching. Detectives spoke to the owner of the property where the ground had been disturbed, and we were able to recover the victim’s body.”
Manger said the property owner where the body was found has no involvement in the case.
According to Manger, investigators determined that Tessier was the last person known to have seen Wallen. “They were seen together on surveillance video on Sat. Sept. 2 in a grocery store near the victim’s home. It suspected by investigators that she was killed the next day.”
Manger said that the troubling text which first led family members to be concerned for Wallen’s safety was sent sometime Saturday, Sept. 2. According to Manger, “She sent a text message to either her sister or a friend. Saying that Tyler had taken her to an open field up in the Damascus area. She said something like, ‘I am not sure why we are up here, but he has taken me to this place in the middle of nowhere.’ Her friend said to take a picture, and she did.”
Police believe that Wallen was killed sometime on Sunday, Sept. 3. Manger said the texts which led the family to eventually call police were sent on Monday, Sept. 4. Police say those texts were sent by Tessier.
“Since this investigation began Mr. Tessier has provided information to detectives which led them to suspect his involvement in this case,” said Manager.
According to police, Tessier sent a text message to a friend asking for a ride to Baltimore late Sunday night, Sept. 3, saying asking for help and that he needed help to “clean up a mess.” The acquaintance declined to assist him, said Manger.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, MCPD investigators located Wallen’s black 2011 Ford Escape parked in an apartment complex in the 10600 block of Gramercy Place in Columbia, near the school where Wallen worked.
Investigators determined that it was Tessier who had driven the victim’s car to the Columbia area. According to Manger, Tessier admitted to removing the front license plate on the Ford Escape and disposing of it. He also admitted to disposing of the victim’s drivers’ license and her iPhone.
Manger said that members of the public allowed investigators to confirm some locations where Tessier had been as the investigation was ongoing. “This was a very complicated investigation,” said Manger. “We were helped by alert residents both here and in Howard County. We were able to confirm some locations where the suspect was based on information that the public gave us.” One of those locations was the property on Price’s Distillery Road.
“We had been able to determine over the past week, that he had made several visits to that area. We also determined that he would occasionally, during some periods of time would stay there, so we got a search warrant for that dwelling and a large part of the fields. The search team did a search of the perimeter of those entire woods. At some point, they noticed tire tracks that went into an area of the woods and followed them, and that is what led them to the body,” said Manger.
On Monday, Montgomery County Police held a press conference regarding the case. Tessier spoke to the press. At Wednesday’s press conference to announce the arrest of Tessier, Chief Manger said it was a “calculated decision made by the detectives in this case with the express purpose of hearing what he had to say. It was done with the approval and knowledge of his family.”
Tessier addressed the press on Monday saying, “If somebody has her, please understand that you have taken away a huge person in so many people’s lives. Her friends and family, and the students that she has. I know what she means to me, and I know what she means to everybody else. I just want her back.”
FOX 5 is reporting that Tessier had been living in Damascus with another woman and was in a relationship with her for years. Fox 5 claims their source said Wallen had recently found out about the situation and that may have had something to do with her disappearance.
Manger said that as of now Tessier is the only suspect in this case. “But as with any case, the arrest doesn’t end the investigation. We will continue to investigate this case.”
Manger said a determination of how Wallen was murdered would have to be made by the Chief Medical Examiner. He said, “There was no evidence on the body that would indicate how she was killed. We will have to wait until the autopsy.”
“This is just one of those tragic cases when you have an absolutely innocent victim,” said Manger. “It is just a senseless killing. These are the kinds of cases that so often have a significant impact on the community where they occurred. That is certainly the case here. We had a real sense of dread with where this would end up. We were sad that we found a body to confirm our fears.”
Tessier is being held in Montgomery County jail ahead of a bond hearing which is expected to be held on Thursday.
Top: Murder suspect Tyler Tessier, is charged with first-degree murder.
Next: The victim, Laura Wallen. The 31-year-old high school teacher was four-months pregnant. She had been missing for nine days.
Next: Tessier addresses the media at Monday’s press conference regarding the disappearance of his girlfriend Laura Wallen. Tessier has been arrested and charged with the murder of Laura Wallen.
Next: Tessier can be holding the hand of the mother of the woman he is now accused of killing and burying in a shallow grave as her father addresses the media on Monday, Sept. 11. According to police, Laura Wallen's parents were aware that Tessier was a person of interest in the case at the time of the press conference.
Photos courtesy MCPD via screen grab of the Periscope broadcast.