A Maryland man charged in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend has been found dead in his jail cell, mere hours before opening arguments in his trial were due to begin.
Tyler Tessier, 33, was accused of fatally shooting teacher Laura Wallen in the head in September 2017. Wallen was first reported missing when she didn't show up for the first day of school. For days, officials searched for her, and Tessier even stood hand-in-hand with Wallen's parents to plead for her safe return.
"We are just looking or praying that you are safe," he said at the time.
It was later revealed that authorities had suspected Tessier all along and police had asked Wallen's parents to play along while they watched Tessier's reaction in front of the camera.
Wallen's remains were later found in a shallow grave and Tessier was charged with her murder.
Tessier was found hanging in his jail cell early Thursday, dead of an apparent suicide. Opening arguments were scheduled to take place just hours later.
“There is no easy way to tell you this, but the defendant was found dead in his cell,” Judge Michael Mason told jurors.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Tessier was alone when he died. Letters found in the jail cell indicate he took his own life as well.
Wallen and Tessier had been dating on and off for seven years when the teacher learned she was pregnant.
On the surface, they seemed happy. Tessier had asked Wallen’s father for permission to marry his daughter and, by all accounts, had been very supportive of the pregnancy. For her part, Wallen was very excited to become a mom.
But police said that just before her death, Wallen had learned Tessier was dating another woman, whom he was engaged to, and reached out to her to meet.
Investigators found Wallen texted the other woman on Aug. 28, 2017, writing: “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 ... woman to woman.”
On Thursday, Wallen's parents appeared emotional as Tessier's death was announced at a press conference.