The man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, who was a Maryland high school teacher, will not face an additional charge for the death of the fetus, prosecutors announced Friday morning.
Investigators found that the fetus Laura Wallen was carrying was 14 weeks old at the time Wallen was killed, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said. Under state law, suspect Tyler Tessier cannot face an additional murder charge for the fetus' death, McCarthy said.
"Based on medical testimony, the child was not viable independent of Ms. Wallen," McCarthy said. "Based on those medical findings and the law of Maryland, as a result, the defendant is not chargeable with a second count of murder related to the child.”
Tessier, 32, was indicted on one count of murder in the death of Wallen, prosecutors said Thursday.
If he is convicted, a judge may take into consideration the fact that Wallen was pregnant. He faces life in prison.
Wallen's family told News4 they will meet with Gov. Larry Hogan soon to request a change to Maryland state law. Their daughter's killer stopped two heartbeats, not one, and he should be charged for that, the family said.
They sent this statement to News4:
"Our daughter Laura Wallen shared with us that she went to her OBs visit & heard our grandson Reid's heartbeat several weeks before she was murdered, and was overjoyed to have heard & seen Reid's Heart beating as she watched him moving on ultrasound!
Our family will be meeting with the Governor Hogan's office of legislation in the next few weeks to discuss that fact that when Laura was shot in the back of the head, her murder stopped 2 beating hearts- Laura's & Reids. Although we understand the Maryland law, our goal for the future, is to have the legislature examine Fetal Homicide, and revisit neonatal viability (when a fetus can survive, outside the mothers womb) as the parameter for prosecuting a fetal homicide when we know that a fetus's heartbeat is present way before the 23rd to 24th week cut off for when a fetus is considered viable. In many states- 2 heart beats is double murder."
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The family said Laura had wanted to name her child Reid.
Maryland criminal defense attorney Richard Finci, who is not connected to the case, said he does not expect the state's attorney to bring federal charges.
"I think Mr. McCarthy runs a very competent, strong office, and he will be able to prosecute a case like this strongly and to the full extent and power of the law. Federal charges, to me, are unlikely," he said.
Wallen, an Olney, Maryland, resident, had been missing for nine days. A search and rescue team found the 31-year-old's body last month in Damascus, Maryland.
Tessier was arrested hours later and charged with first-degree murder. While she was missing, he spoke at a news conference with Wallen's family, holding his girlfriend's mother's hand.
Police said Tessier was the father of Wallen's baby and asked Wallen's father for permission to marry her despite being engaged to another woman.
"He has been deceiving and lying their entire existence and their relationship was the only thing that Laura and her family ever fought about," Wallen's father, Mark Wallen, said after a judge ordered Tessier held without bond.
Police said both women knew about their past relationships with Tessier, but both believed he was dating them exclusively. According to charging documents, Wallen sent Tessier's fiancee a text message on Aug. 28 asking if the two could meet.
"It's important that some things are cleared up and I would imagine that if you were in my position, you'd want some answers as well. By no means is this an attempt at confrontation, just looking for an explanation," the text message read.
She was reported missing a week later. Tessier told police he last saw Wallen alive Sept. 4, but her family said they hadn't seen her since Sept. 1.
Tessier, of Damascus, pleaded at the news conference for his girlfriend's safe return.
"If somebody has her, please understand that you've taken away a huge person in so many people's life," Tyler Tessier said. "I don't know where she is. I don't know. I pray that she's safe and that she comes back. That's all I care about."
Police had suspected Tessier's "involvement" since the investigation began, and allowed him to speak at the family's news conference as an investigation strategy, Police Chief Tom Manger said.
"He is a monster and he is a liar," Mark Wallen said. "And it was absolutely the hardest thing my wife could do would be to sit next to him and hold his hand."
Wallen was a beloved social studies teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland. Her students and coworkers worried when she failed to show up for the first day of school on Sept. 5.
"She was exemplary," district superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said. "She led with her heart, care and compassion."