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Parents of slain pregnant woman fight to change law

  • Published in State

Wallen Family 2aLaura Wallen's family with Sen. Justin Ready and Del. Trent Kittleman in Annapolis. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIANWhen the father of a slain Olney woman found out the man accused of killing his pregnant daughter would only be charged with one count of murder, instead of two, he said he was shocked.

“It wasn’t going to count,” Mark Wallen said of his daughter Laura’s unborn child’s death. “Justice was not going to be done for my grandson. The law now says the life of my grandson doesn’t even exist.”

Under current state law, charges of murder or manslaughter for an unborn child can only be brought against a person if a fetus is considered “viable” outside of the mother’s womb. 

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy charged Laura Wallen’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, 33, of Damascus, with one count of murder last October. Wallen was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, according to the state’s chief medical examiner who conducted an autopsy. She was having a boy, whom she planned to name “Reid.”

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Murder suspect won’t face charges for death of victim’s unborn child

  • Published in Local

4K5A4219 1Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy holds a press conference with Assistant State’s Attorneys Donna Fenton (left) and Mary Herdman (right) on the indictment of Tyler Tessier in the murder of Laura Wallen. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIAN  

A grand jury has indicted Tyler Tessier on one count of murder in the homicide of his pregnant girlfriend Laura Wallen, but Tessier cannot be charged for the death of her unborn child due to Maryland law, according to State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

After finding the body of Laura Wallen in a shallow grave in Damascus, police arrested Tyler Tessier later that same day on Sept. 13 on charges of first-degree murder, altering physical evidence and making a false statement to an officer. While a grand jury indicted Tessier on one count of murder last Thursday, he will not be charged with the death of Wallen’s unborn child due to state law, McCarthy said at a press conference in Rockville on Friday.

“Her child was autopsied,” McCarthy said. “A medical team established at the time of Ms. Wallen’s murder the child was 14 weeks old. Based on medical testimony, the child was not viable independent of Ms. Wallen. Based on those medical findings, and as a matter of law in Maryland, as a result the defendant is not chargeable with a second count of murder related to the child.”

McCarthy confirmed Wallen died from a gunshot wound to the back of her head. Wallen, a 31-year-old high school teacher from Olney, was four months pregnant at the time of her death, according to online court records.

Tessier, 33, could face a maximum penalty of life in prison, but prosecutors will consider the unborn child and could ask the judge to consider life in prison without the possibility of parole, McCarthy said.

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