At the Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, there was a somber feel as kids made their way to class. Although the school year will march on, Wild Lake will be doing it without a crucial member.
Wednesday, police announced that 31-year-old Laura Wallen, a teacher of the school, was murdered allegedly by her boyfriend.
"She was exemplary," said Dr. Michael Martirano, the Interim Superintendent for Howard County Schools. "She was one of our teachers of the year. She led with her heart."
The community first became aware that Wallen was missing when she didn't show up to the first day of school.
Monday, her family came forward, making an impassioned plea for her to come home. Now, police said one of the speakers at that press conference was likely her killer.
Police arrested Wallen's boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, just days after he made a seemingly authentic plea for her safety.
"I just pray that she's safe," Tessier said apparently with tears in his eyes. "That she comes back."
Tessier is expected to be in court Thursday afternoon to face murder charges. Police are now telling WUSA9 that they were treating Tessier as a "person of interest," before the press conference even began. They said they let him speak at the press conference because they wanted to hear any inconsistencies with the story.
"We had already identified some inconsistencies from information he had given us," police reported during a press conference Wednesday night. "And again, this was a calculated decision by the detectives to allow him to speak at the press conference."
Wallen's body was found in a wooded area in Damascus, Md. in a shallow grave. Court documents list Tessier's home address as being in Damascus as well.
Police said that Tessier made several visits to the area, where Wallen's body was found. Upon investigating, police found tire tracks that lead to the location of Wallen's body.
Wallen last contacted her family on Sept. 4 via text message. Police said it was later determined that those texts were sent to Wallen's sister by Tessier.
"She represented the very best," said Martirano. "Our children are suffering today. And our teachers are suffering. Our community is suffering through this pain."