Anti-abortion Group Pushes for Federal Charges in Death of Slain Md. Teacher's Fetus

WASHINGTON — An advocacy group that opposes abortion rights is asking Maryland’s U.S. attorney to prosecute Tyler Tessier “for the murder of Laura Wallen’s unborn child.”

Tessier, 33, was charged in September with murder in the death of his girlfriend, 31-year-old Wallen, who was four months pregnant when she was killed.

Wallen was last heard from on Sept. 4. Her body was discovered on Sept. 13 in a shallow grave in Damascus.

Shortly after Tessier’s arrest, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said it was unlikely that Tessier would be charged with state charges of fetal homicide.

Under Maryland law, fetal homicide charges hinge on whether the fetus would be able to survive outside the womb. In addition, prosecutors would have to prove that Tessier intended to kill or seriously injure the fetus, as well as Wallen.

According to charging documents, Tessier knew about Wallen’s pregnancy.

“Under federal law, the gestational age of the unborn child is not relevant,” writes Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United For Life, in a letter to Maryland’s Acting U.S. Attorney, Stephen Schenning.

“We respectfully urge that your office explore the possibility of asserting federal jurisdiction in this case, and if possible, initiate criminal prosecution of Tyler Tessier under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act for the murder of Laura Wallen’s unborn child,” Foster writes.

The 2004 federal law, which is also known as Laci and Conner’s Law, states “any individual who causes the death of a child in utero by engaging in enumerated criminal conduct, including murder or kidnapping, is guilty of a separate offense.”

The law specifies a “child in utero means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Laci and Conner’s Law was passed after Laci Peterson and her 8-month-old, unborn child were killed by her husband, Scott Peterson, in California. Peterson was convicted of first- and second-degree murder for the deaths of his wife and unborn son. He remains in prison after being sentenced to the death penalty.

Ramon Korionoff, the spokesman for McCarthy, said investigators have not made a final decision on whether to prosecute Tessier for the murder of Wallen’s child.

“We are working with our law enforcement partners and considering all our options at this point,” Korionoff said. “We will make a decision in the coming weeks based on the law and the evidence.”

Elizabeth Morse, the spokesperson for Schenning, the U.S. attorney, declined to comment.

Tessier was being held without bond. His next court appearance was scheduled for Oct. 13.

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