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What you need to know for 10/22/2017

Man who pleaded for help finding pregnant girlfriend indicted in her death

Man who pleaded for help finding pregnant girlfriend indicted in her death

Tyler Tessier, 33, allegedly shot high school teacher Laura Wallen in the back of the head
Man who pleaded for help finding pregnant girlfriend indicted in her death
Laura Wallen, left, and Tyler Tessier
Photographer: Courtesy of Montgomery County, Maryland, police

A 33-year-old Maryland man accused of luring his pregnant girlfriend to a field, shooting her in the back of the head and then making a dramatic public plea for help finding her was indicted Thursday on one count of murder, according to Montgomery County Circuit Court records.

The grand jury indictment against Tyler Tessier was not unexpected. On Sept. 13, he was charged with murder in the case by Montgomery County, Maryland, police. He has been held in jail since. The legal action Thursday was part of a regular process of moving cases from Montgomery's District Court to Circuit Court, where felony cases are handled.

No trial date has been set.

Allen Wolf, the public defender representing Tessier, said his client is innocent of the charges against him. "Although he has made mistakes in his personal life, he cared deeply about Laura Wallen and never would have physically hurt her," Wolf said.

On Sept. 4, a family member of Wallen reported her missing. The popular 31-year-old high school teacher, who lived in Montgomery County, hadn't been seen for days by family members. And they couldn't reach her on her phone.

Police conducted an intense search for Wallen, all the while talking to her longtime on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tessier. They learned that he had another girlfriend to whom he was engaged, but neither she nor Wallen knew about Tessier's dual relationships.

On Sept. 11, police officials held a news conference appealing for help finding Wallen. They invited Tessier to attend, even as their suspicions of him deepened. When asked questions by reporters, Tessier answered in front of a bank of TV cameras.

"Laura, if you're listening," he said, "it doesn't matter what's happened. It doesn't matter what type of trouble. There's nothing we can't fix together."

Two days later, police charged him with her murder. They alleged that he led her to a field in the Damascus, Maryland, area, shot her in the back of the head and buried her body. Police found the body, which was taken to the state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy.

Court records filed Thursday did not include a charge related to Wallen's unborn child. In Maryland, it is possible to charge someone with murder or manslaughter of a fetus. In such cases, however, the fetus must be viable, meaning potentially able to live outside the womb, according to Maryland law and several attorneys.

Law enforcement officials have said Wallen was between 14 and 16 weeks pregnant.

Hal Lawrence, a doctor who is chief executive of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said Thursday said a 14-week fetus would not be viable.

"At 14 weeks' gestation, there is no possibility that the fetus will survive outside the womb," Lawrence said. "In fact, before 23 weeks, it is extremely rare for a fetus to survive, and those that do survive have significant impairments."

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