The family of a teacher who was murdered while she was pregnant is renewing a proposal to change Maryland's fetal homicide law.
Laura Wallen, 31, was found dead after going missing for nine days in September 2017. Her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child, 32-year-old Tyler Tessier, was arrested and accused of shooting her in the back of her head and burying her body in a shallow grave in Damascus.
Tessier later took his life in his jail cell just hours before his murder trial was set to start in September 2018.
Wallen was 13 weeks pregnant when she was killed. Her family said she was excited to be a mom and had already named her son Reid.
But Tessier was only charged in her death and not the death of the fetus. Under Maryland law, a woman must be at least 24 weeks pregnant for prosecutors to charge a suspect with two counts of murder.
"When we first found out that Laura was murdered, the first thing that I asked was, 'It’s double murder right?'" Wallen's father, Mark Wallen, said.
On Thursday, Mark Wallen renewed his fight for “Laura and Reid’s Law” which would allow prosecutors to charge for fetal homicide starting at eight weeks of pregnancy. If the suspect knew the woman was expecting, he or she could be charged with double murder and convicted of two life sentences.
Mark Wallen, Sen. Justin Ready (R-District 5) and other lawmakers pushed for the bill again in Annapolis on Thursday. They first presented and discussed the bill in the Maryland House and Senate last year, but it didn't pass.
"We’re trying to be sure that cases like what happened to Laura and Reid, that the state's attorneys can go after people for murdering two lives, really," Ready said.
But opponents of the bill say it could lead to a fight to ban abortions in the state by stating that life starts at eight weeks.
Mark Wallen says the bill would make husbands and boyfriends think twice before killing their pregnant spouses.
"She would be very proud. She is proud of us already for what we’re doing," he said of Laura.