Laura Wallen, Wilde Lake High School’s 2016 “Teacher of the Year,” never showed up for the first day of school. It was odd, considering her stunning reputation as a dedicated educator. Aside from the start of the school year, there was a lot for Laura to look forward to. She was engaged to the love of her life and she was four months pregnant.
So, where did she go?
Laura was last seen three days earlier, September 2, at a grocery store near her house with her fiance, Tyler Tessier. The two were captured on surveillance video.
Laura had been texting with her sister, Jennifer Kadi, this day: “Tyler has me on an adventure in the country… don’t know why I’m here but it’s for something.”
Then later: “I’m waiting in a field.”
“Take a picture,” Laura’s sister responds.
It would be the last time Laura’s family would hear from her.
Two days later, some strange texts come from Laura’s phone: “I am like 95 sure Tyler is not the father.
“I am going to try and get a hold of Antwan.”
Antwan, which is apparently spelled wrong in the text, was Laura’s ex who hadn’t spoken to her in over two years. These two texts drew a red flag for Laura’s family. They knew something was up.
One week later, Laura’s family, joined by Tessier, held a press conference where they pleaded for Laura to come home.
Tessier spoke at the podium, saying: “Laura, if you’re listening, it doesn’t matter what’s happened. It doesn’t matter what type of trouble. There’s nothing we can’t fix together.”
He weeped as he held Laura’s mother’s hand. It was a brief but emotional press conference. Laura’s closest and dearest got in front of reporters and cameras and begged for the return of their daughter and fiance. They offered a $25,000 reward.
Except the whole thing was a setup.
From the start of the investigation, Tessier was a suspect. The text messages from Laura’s phone on September 4 were too odd for anyone to believe that they’d be sent by Laura. Police believe that Tessier sent these texts as a means to push police off of his path.
The press conference was a deliberate calculation on the part of the police. The idea was to see what kind of behavior Tessier would exhibit. What would he say? How would what he said relate to what he’s told police? Will he feign emotion? There were a lot of questions that the press conference might reveal.
Oh, and Laura’s parents were in on it.
Detectives had been in constant contact with Tessier. They reported that while he stuck to his story, that he last saw her on September 4, his story kept changing as to where he saw her, what he said to her, where he thought she was going, etc.
It was during all this questioning that police learned that Tessier had been seeing another woman. In fact, he was also engaged to this other woman. And Laura knew about it.
A few days before she went missing, Laura sent a text message to this other woman: “I would imagine if you were in my position, you’d want some answers as well … just looking for an explanation … woman to woman.”
On September 7, police were contacted by a property manager of an apartment complex in Columbia. He reported finding Laura’s driver’s license three days prior by one of his dumpsters in the complex’s parking lot.
Later that day, police found Laura’s car, a 2011 Ford Escape in that very same parking lot. The front plate was missing.
Tessier, under surveillance by police, had been making several unexplained trips to a field in the northern part of the country. Police decided to learn for themselves whether this was the field Laura mentioned in her text to her sister.
Two days after the press conference, police scoured the area with a search team and cadaver-sniffing dogs. Chances were, they weren’t going to find Laura alive.
When police came across tire tracks, they followed them to a shallow grave. Inside was Laura Wallen. She had been shot in the back of the head
On September 13, Tessier was charged with the first degree murder of Laura. There is still debate as to whether Laura’s baby was viable. If so, Tessier will also be charged with the killing of the unborn baby.
If found guilty, Tessier could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. A preliminary court hearing is set for October 13. The case is still open.