‘We had a real sense of dread’ says chief after missing, pregnant teacher found in shallow grave

Laura Elizabeth Wallen (Montgomery County Police Department)

COLUMBIA, Md. (WNCN/CBS NEWS) — Investigators on Wednesday charged the boyfriend of a missing, pregnant teacher with murder, after finding her body buried in a Maryland field, police said.

“This is just one of those tragic cases where you have an absolutely innocent victim, and it’s just a senseless killing. … We had a real sense of dread that this was the way it was going to end up, and we were sad when we found the body that confirmed our fears,” Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said.

Laura Wallen’s body was found by search and rescue team members and detectives scouring the area near a rural property where the missing woman’s boyfriend sometimes spent time, the chief said.

“They located a patch of freshly dug ground in a secluded area of a field,” Manger said. “Cadaver dogs indicated on the area, and ultimately detectives found the body of Laura Wallen in a shallow grave.”

EARLIER: Police search for pregnant teacher who vanished

Wallen, 31, had never shown up for the start of school on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Police believe she was killed Sunday, Sept. 3, Manger said.

On Monday, Wallen’s boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, had spoken at a press conference along with Wallen’s family. He begged for her return.

“Laura, if you’re listening, it doesn’t matter what’s happened, doesn’t matter what type of trouble – there’s nothing we can’t fix together, myself and your family,” said Tessier, reported to be the father of her unborn child. “There’s so many people, so many people that miss you.”

Tessier also said at the Monday press conference, “If somebody has her – please understand you’ve taken away a huge person in so many people’s lives.”

Wednesday, the police chief revealed that Tessier’s inclusion in the press conference had been a ruse.

EARLIER: ‘She is still alive somewhere’: Family pleads for pregnant teacher’s safe return

“The decision to allow him to participate in that news conference was a calculated decision made by the detectives in this case for the express purpose of hearing what he had to say,” Manger said. “It was done with the approval and knowledge of the victim’s family.”

Manger also revealed a telling message Wallen sent the day before police believe she was murdered.

“She sent a text messsage to — and I cant’ remember if it was her sister or her friend — saying that Tyler had taken her to an open field, up in the Damascus area,” Manger said. “And she says ‘I’m not sure why we’re up here, but he’s taken me to this place in the middle of nowhere.’— Something to that effect. The friend said take a picture, and she did.”

There was no activity from her phone the next day, but the day after — a Monday — her phone sent a text message to her sister, Manger said. Police believe Tessier sent the text.

CBS Baltimore is reporting that the text said that Tessier was not the father of the child.

Manger said any statement about motive would only be speculation at this point. The chief did confirm that Tessier was living with other people, including at least one woman, and that Wallen knew.

“She had known that for some time,” he said.

There was no obvious indication of how she died on her body, and police will await the results of an autopsy, the chief said.

The chief said other factors pointed to Tessier, too, including that investigators believe he drove the victim’s car to the Columbia area and that he admitted to disposing of her Wallen’s car’s front license plate, her driver’s license and her iPhone.

“Tessier also texted an acquaintance asking for a ride to Baltimore late Sunday night. He said that he needed help … ‘to clean up a mess,'” Manger said. “The acquaintance declined to assist him.”


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